Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald has agreed to destroy every undated resignation letter he's collected from political appointees, ending a controversial practice that sought to extend power over legally independent boards and authorities.
At Tuesday night's county council meeting, council President Charles Martoni said Mr. Fitzgerald had met with the council's political leaders and agreed to surrender the letters.
"I had a full and candid discussion with Council President Martoni and council members [John] DeFazio and [Jan] Rea, as they understand and appreciate the history that council and the executive has had with the boards, agencies and authorities," Mr. Fitzgerald wrote in a prepared statement.
Mr. Fitzgerald had made no secret of the practice, saying he never put a person up for appointment to a county board or authority without requesting a letter of resignation first. He said he believes the authorities, though legally independent, should follow the lead of county council and himself.
Last month, he released the more than 40 resignation letters he had collected, which spanned the boards of the Community College of Allegheny County, the Port Authority and the county Board of Health.
The letters drew criticism last month from council members, with Republican Heather Heidelbaugh, of Mt. Lebanon, joining with Barbara Daly Danko, D-Regent Square, in questioning the policy.
The letters became a liability, said Mr. Defazio, D-Shaler.
"The letters were a good idea to keep the boards from going 'off the rails,' or from the members thinking that they were in charge of everything," Mr. DeFazio said in a news release.
"Now, they are just becoming distractions. Instead of people being asked about their skills, background and experience at the appointment review committee meetings, we talk about these letters."
Andrew McGill: 412-263-1497 or firstname.lastname@example.org