Defensive pattern: Peduto faces questions on another key nominee

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Nobody’s perfect. That’s a truism and it’s also becoming a theme for some of Mayor Bill Peduto’s major hires.

One week after having to tamp down skepticism on city council about the Pittsburgh residency of his solicitor nominee, Lourdes Sanchez-Ridge, the administration is faced with answering questions about the unpaid taxes of Edward Kiely, Mr. Peduto’s choice to lead the new Office of Management and Budget.

Mr. Kiely of Point Breeze runs a business consulting firm, Kiely and Associates, and holds a doctorate in management from the University of Pittsburgh. In 1991 and 1995 he ran for city controller against Tom Flaherty. Bill Peduto was Mr. Kiely’s campaign manager in the first race.

The Post-Gazette endorsed Mr. Kiely both times, praising him for professionalism and a pledge to remove the office from politics. By the mid-’90s, he had been director of the Pennsylvania Economy League for five years and chief auditor for the Allegheny County controller.

As it was with Ms. Sanchez-Ridge, whose appointment was confirmed Tuesday by council, the issue with this nominee is not credentials. Mr. Kiely owes the federal government $83,000 in back taxes, which he is paying through an installment plan. He also paid $4,291 in tax liens to the city and the school district last month and $2,030 in back taxes to the state in November.

Mr. Peduto released a statement Wednesday defending his nominee, saying the tax troubles were due to “a prior business dispute.” The mayor’s staff said Mr. Kiely had a large client who had failed to pay his firm, which in turn created the back taxes problem.

The administration stands behind its nominee, saying it was Mr. Kiely who divulged the situation during an interview and that the unpaid taxes are not part of any enforcement action. Even so, Pittsburghers who find a way to pay their taxes in full and on time may need more convincing that Mr. Kiely is the best pick for the job.

It’s not good for a mayor, particularly one who is new to the job, to have to publicly defend a nominee when the ink is scarcely dry on the nomination. Although Mr. Kiely has been meeting privately with council members, their questions should be answered in public. City council must give this pick careful scrutiny.

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