Two county council members challenged county Executive Rick Fitzgerald's policy of requesting pre-signed resignation letters from political appointees Thursday, grilling his latest nominees on the practice.
Heather Heidelbaugh, R-Mt. Lebanon, put the question bluntly to Robert Hurley, Mr. Fitzgerald's pick for the Port Authority board: Have you handed over a resignation letter?
"Yes, I have," Mr. Hurley replied.
As far as she was concerned, that was the wrong answer. Ms. Heidelbaugh voted against considering his appointment, although the council committee agreed to send his name on for formal approval at county council's meeting Tuesday.
On Wednesday, Mr. Fitzgerald released the more than 40 resignation letters he has collected from appointees to boards and authorities, which are legally independent from the county. The executive says the letters are a pact between appointees and county government, an understanding that he and county council sets policy, not authority members.
If a board member goes rogue, he'll pull out the resignation, Mr. Fitzgerald said.
Ms. Heidelbaugh strenuously disagrees and demanded last week that Mr. Fitzgerald destroy the letters. On Thursday, she was joined in her objections by council member Barbara Daly Danko, D-Regent Square, who said the letters undermine the county's natural checks and balances.
"There's only one person who has the letters of resignation in the drawer, and it's the county executive," she said.
Mr. Hurley, who is the county's deputy director of economic development, said he's still willing to vote against Mr. Fitzgerald's wishes. If a conflict came up, he'd discuss the issue with the executive and go with his heart. But then he'd offer his resignation.
Andrew McGill: 412-263-1497 or firstname.lastname@example.org