County property assessment chief fired

Fitzgerald seeking new direction

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Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald fired Michael Suley on Friday as manager of the county's Office of Property Assessments.

Although Mr. Suley's office has been at the center of a firestorm as the county is completing the final stages of a court-ordered reassessment, he himself has maintained a low profile.

Almost all information on the progress of property revaluation and the more than 100,000 appeals that followed has come from county manager William McKain and solicitor Andrew Szefi.

Mr. Fitzgerald, who took office in January, wanted a change in leadership and the direction of the property assessments office, spokeswoman Amie Downs said. Mr. Suley's duties are being taken over temporarily by Tim Johnson, the county's director of administrative services.

Mr. Fitzgerald declined to comment further.

Mr. Suley had two stints working for the county. He was first hired on July 24, 1997, as an assessment board member and terminated during the administration of then-county Executive Jim Roddey on Dec. 29, 2000. He was rehired by then-county Executive Dan Onorato on April 3, 2006, as manager of the assessment office. His annual salary was $85,000.

Robert Strauss, a professor of economics and public policy at Carnegie Mellon University, described Mr. Suley as knowledgeable and respected for his real estate expertise.

The timing appears bad for making an administrative change in the assessment office, Mr. Strauss said. The county is up against a Dec. 17 deadline for resolving challenges to new values for residential real estate. That is the date by which the county is to provide a "final and revised roll" of property values that other government agencies will use as the basis for their 2013 property taxes.

The county remains on track to meet that deadline, Ms. Downs said.

"Mike's dismissal comes as a surprise and a disappointment," Mr. Strauss said.

Mr. Fitzgerald's decision to let Mr. Suley go is the second major personnel change in county government in the past 10 days. He discharged Joseph Olczak as public works director on Oct. 31. Mr. Olczak had been with the county since 1980.

region - reassessment

Len Barcousky: or 412-263-1159.


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