City aide's cosmetics sales pitch rebuffed

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A day after waiving her right to a preliminary hearing on corruption charges, Sheryl Pinson-Smith, an aide to Pittsburgh Councilwoman Twanda Carlisle, started yesterday by trying to sell makeup via city e-mail and the city clerk's office.

That prompted council's leader to initiate procedures to keep staff from using city resources for personal business.

Ms. Smith sent an e-mail using her city address, time-stamped at 8:56 a.m., to all council and clerk's office employees saying she is "selling some Mary Kay products, if you would like to partake the book will be up at the clerk's office. Just put your name, page and product you want and I will contact each and every one of you personally. Thanks in advance. Sheryl Smith."

Later, Ms. Pinson-Smith said she's "not using city resources ... If somebody wants something, they can contact me, I'll talk about it later ... I'm not selling anything through this on city time."

City Clerk Linda Johnson-Wasler said a cosmetics catalog appeared on her office counter this morning. Although it's not unusual for council staff to hawk hoagies or other items to support their children's activities, a for-profit sales pitch is rare.

Alerted to Ms. Smith's activities, Council President Doug Shields said he told Ms. Pinson-Smith to withdraw the e-mail.

He said he'll soon initiate staff orientation so aides know "what's acceptable or what is not acceptable as far as conduct in the course of work ... When there's a for-profit business, the use of the city e-mail is not appropriate."

Ms. Pinson-Smith, who earns $12.50 an hour as an aide to Ms. Carlisle, is one of four people charged in an alleged kickback scheme. She and three consultants did little documented work, received city checks, and gave part of their earnings to the councilwoman, according to a county grand jury report.

Rich Lord can be reached at or 412-263-1542.


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