Ousted politicians land on their feet at city hall

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Dislodged by elections, four politically involved employees of Pittsburgh City Council or the controller's office have found posts within Mayor Luke Ravenstahl's administration.

Former Councilman Jeff Koch, defeated in the May Democratic primary by Bruce Kraus, is now a special streets program supervisor in the Public Works Department. New to the Parks Department is Ron Deutsch, an ex-aide to defeated Councilman Len Bodack.

Audit Manager John R. Morgan and accountant C. Michael Turpin left posts in the controller's office, now run by Michael Lamb after decades under Tom Flaherty and his deputy, Tony Pokora. Mr. Morgan started Monday as a financial analyst with the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority, and Mr. Turpin joined the Finance Department.

"These people were working for the city," said administration spokeswoman Alecia Sirk. "They're qualified and they do good work. They've got an institutional memory that complements the skills they have.

"You've got people that are leaving offices and asking if there are other places they can be used in the system," she said, adding that all of the posts are exempt from civil service requirements.

"They've worked in government. Presuming they're competent, maybe there's a place for them," said Morton Coleman, former director of the University of Pittsburgh's Institute of Politics and a top city aide in the 1960s.

"Everybody's getting ready for the next election," he added. "If Luke feels he's in a fight, he wants to build political support if he can, and maybe he has helped them find positions."

Mr. Ravenstahl faces the voters again in 2009. Mr. Koch, Mr. Bodack and Mr. Pokora left office last week.

Mr. Koch will earn $47,307, less than the $55,029 he made last year. The 45-year-old Arlington resident worked in the Public Works Department from 1980 until his 2006 election to council, and is also a member of the Allegheny County Democratic Committee. He could not be reached for comment.

Mr. Morgan, 48, left a $51,400 job in the controller's office for a $57,500 post at the water authority.

"It was a position that was in the budget, and he applied for it," Ms. Sirk said. The boost in pay reflects the fact that he became a certified public accountant, she said.

He volunteered for Mr. Ravenstahl's campaign last year.

Asked whether political involvement had any role in the transfers, Ms. Sirk said, "Absolutely not." She said that many people in the city's 3,300-person work force, from council aides to rank-and-file employees, have political roles, because people who are interested in government often get involved in elections.

Mr. Deutsch, 73, will earn $29,899 working as a full-time administrative aide to Assistant Parks Director Dick Skrinjar, who was himself bumped into that department from the mayor's office in April after 16 months as the administration spokesman. Mr. Deutsch is expected to do outreach to senior citizens.

He is the chairman of the 9th Ward Democratic Committee.

"Dick's been doing great things with the seniors in the Parks and Recreation Department," Ms. Sirk said. "Here's an opportunity to use other skill sets and talents to continue to grow service in it."

Mr. Deutsch's official salary as a council aide was $36,000, but he made less than that because he worked part-time.

Mr. Turpin, 55, becomes a finance administrator in the Finance Department. His salary remains $39,951.

"He's an accountant," said Ms. Sirk. "For finance administration, he was a natural fit."

He ran for school board in 2005.

Rich Lord can be reached at rlord@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1542.


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