Retirement leaves county Airport Authority thin on top

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A month after the board removed its top administrator, the Allegheny County Airport Authority is losing to retirement the person who has been in charge of attracting flights to Pittsburgh International Airport.

Lucinda Harshman, director of air service development, is expected to leave her post by the middle of May. It leaves the authority thin in a department that is in charge of trying to attract more flights to the Findlay airport, which lost its US Airways hub in 2004 and has been struggling to add service since then.

Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald and the authority board have made attracting more flights a top priority. The board removed Bradley D. Penrod, the airport's former executive director, last month. Dennis Davin, board treasurer, said at the time the change was made to try to do everything possible to recruit more service.

The board today approved a separation agreement with Mr. Penrod but did not release any details. The agreement includes any severance Mr. Penrod was entitled to under his contract, payments for unused sick and vacation days, health care benefits for a certain period, and any additional money or benefits negotiated above and beyond what his contract required.

Mr. Davin said no details of the agreement can be released until Tuesday, when a seven-day period Mr. Penrod has under federal law to change his mind ends.

Mr. Penrod declined comment when reached after the meeting.

Ms. Harshman's departure in May will leave the authority with only one experienced employee, Brian Dietz, involved in air service development.

JoAnn Jenny, authority spokeswoman, said Ms. Harshman had been contemplating retirement for some time and made it official this week. She said the board and acting executive director James Gill will determine the next steps in filling the position. 

"Providing quality air service to Pittsburghers is our No. 1 priority and we're going to continue advancing those initiatives," she said.

Mr. Davin said the authority is still in the process of hiring a search firm to help find the next CEO. He said it hopes to name the new executive within six months.


Mark Belko: mbelko@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1262.

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