Spokeswoman for Pittsburgh police returns vehicle seven days after firing

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A recently terminated Pittsburgh police spokeswoman kept her city-issued take-home vehicle for a week past her last day working for the city, underscoring problems with tracking municipal take-home cars, officials said.

City officials could not explain Monday why Diane Richard kept the car past her last day, March 3, or who was responsible for ensuring that she returned it.

"It's up in the air right now. That's why we're going through these policies and reviewing them," said Tim McNulty, spokesman for Mayor Bill Peduto.

Ms. Richard, 60, returned the unmarked SUV Monday, days after the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette began asking about her status with the bureau and a Ford Explorer that had been assigned to her. She did not respond to voice mails or a note left Monday at her house.

The car was parked outside Ms. Richard's Crafton Heights home Thursday and Friday afternoons. Monday morning, it sat in the "public information officer" parking spot at the police bureau's North Side headquarters.

"After a meeting with the chief, her car was turned in," said Guy Costa, chief operations officer for the city. "It should have been turned in last week."

Asked who was responsible for ensuring the car's return, Mr. Costa said, "I don't know." He added that the lack of oversight was among the issues he hopes to address when he meets with the mayor in the next day or two.

Currently, Mr. Costa said, different city departments have different policies regarding take-home cars. He said he hopes to work with the mayor to implement a "universal" policy that covers all city departments and allows for fewer take-home vehicles.

After the new administration took office, Mr. Costa conducted an inventory to create a master list of city-issued cars.

The current count, he said, is 56 vehicles, 18 of which are used by members of the police bureau's command staff. That number does not include the 27 motorcycles Pittsburgh police officers store at their homes or the leased cars used by the bureau's undercover narcotics and vice detectives.

"The mayor doesn't have a take-home vehicle, and we're just justifying who should have take-home vehicles," Mr. Costa said.

He said the cars should be given to people who are on-call 24-7, such as public works supervisors, police bureau command staff and fire chiefs.

The SUV previously used by Ms. Richard is "going to be used elsewhere in the police department, but it will not be a take-home vehicle. The police chief will figure out where it is best used," Mr. Costa said.

Acting police Chief Regina McDonald declined to comment.

Ms. Richard, the sister of assistant police chief Maurita Bryant, was appointed spokeswoman of the Pittsburgh police bureau by former Chief Nate Harper.

During her roughly seven years on the job, Ms. Richard acted as the face of the police bureau during numerous trying times, including the slayings of three officers and a federal investigation into some in the bureau's top echelons.

During that time, her salary rose from $63,842.23 in 2007 to $84,714.36 in 2012.

Shortly after Mr. Peduto took over as mayor, on Feb. 20, he announced that he was replacing Ms. Richard with Sonya Toler, who previously worked as a journalist at various local publications and served as spokeswoman for Mr. Peduto during his campaign.

Mr. McNulty said Ms. Richard was "terminated" March 3 but could not say Monday whether she might continue to receive money from accrued comp time or vacation time or whether she might receive an early buyout as part of an initiative proposed by the mayor's office.

Liz Navratil: lnavratil@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1438 or on Twitter @LizNavratil. Jonathan D. Silver contributed.

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