Pittsburgh – Part 5 – 085, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from Cory Cousins’ photostream

To: City of Pittsburgh Employees
From: Mayor William Peduto

May 20, 2014

Many of you read with concern reports in the media that have been perceived by some as an attack on city workers. Nothing could be further from the truth. Despite that, I am responsible for my words and if anything I have said has been perceived as a personal attack, I apologize, and I will work to be more careful with my remarks in the future.

As you know, I have been a city employee for 20 years. I have worked with and know most of you, some of you very well. I know you perform quality work and I’m working hard to put into place changes in city government that will help all of us better serve city residents and create a professional, fair and open workplace.

Many of you have told me that you want to eliminate a corrupt culture of cronyism and favoritism, and to promote a culture of service and accountability. You have asked me to make sure hiring and promotion is done not through politics, but merit.

Below you will find attached the entire interview I did with the Tribune-Review on Thursday. My comments were not directed toward any particular department or group of employees. They reflect my belief that by working together, we will make our city government a model of government ethics, within every city department and all boards and authorities.

The people of Pittsburgh elected me to office because they wanted a break with the past, and every decision I have made since January has been toward improving the outdated culture of city government, and I have assembled a team of highly ethical leaders to help me do so.

I know some of us will differ at times. But please know that no matter how my remarks are represented or considered they were not a personal attack. They are about making a better city government, for its residents and for each of you.





Q: With the public safety director, you said you wanted him to change the culture, Bill. We wanted to know exactly what you meant by “culture.” When you talk about culture changes, what do you mean? I guess it’s kind of obvious, the problems with the police department.

A: No, no, it goes beyond the police department. You start with the police department and you look at the major issues. You have the police chief who is presently in prison. You had a system by which the bureau itself was taking money from special events, public money, and putting it into a police credit union account. You had the issue of police off-duty, which now many officers make more money from than being Pittsburgh police officers. And you have within that almost a protected class of political appointees who have been given promotions that are promulgating a system of cronyism and favoritism that holds the good officers back.

Q: Can you point to any of those?

A: I have conversations almost on a weekly basis with officers who tell me and come up to me and tell me the most crippling part of their job is the old school parochialism that exists within the ranks of the police bureau. They cite examples to me constantly. Sergeants who won’t write up officers, certain officers, for disciplinary because it only comes back to cause them problems. Rank-and-file that serve for a few years then begin to look for employment elsewhere because of systems that were part of an old-school system of policing. And those are the officers that I need to keep, the ones who are trying to create a modern system, the ones who put on that uniform every single day with pride and only want the same rules to be applied to everyone.

But it’s no different than what we saw with the parking authority, with the fiasco that was the almost giveaway of the public assets. It’s no different that what we saw on PWSA when contracts were rigged and had to be thrown out and a director lost his job. It’s no different that what we saw at the URA, as a director had to leave in shame and on his way out called the entire administration a culture of corruption.

So I need a public safety director who can instill value and integrity within a police bureau and put a clarion call out to every other department in this city that the ways of the past are gone forever. That’s what I’m doing.

Q: Are you giving him free rein to do this?

A: In partnership with our city solicitor. In partnership with Lourdes Sanchez Ridge, who was a federal prosecutor in Miami in the 1980s going after the cocaine drug cartels. The combination of special agent Bucar and Solicitor Lourdes Sanchez Ridge brings the city what it most has needed these last eight years — law and order. Yes I’m going to give him rein with her.

Q: You said yesterday that I need a guy to change the culture, and we’ll have your back. So you’re going to back him up in whatever he decides to do?

A: We’ve already begun to expand the department of Public Safety, which had been an office within the mayor’s office with a secretary and Mike Huss, that was it. We now have a floor down on the fourth floor, we’re expanding the operation and scope to be able to do just that. Whether it’s real estate deals that are done at the URA, the Planning Department or the Zoning Department or the operations of the police bureau when it comes to overtime or anything where there is or could be public corruption, the combination between
Special Agent Bucar and Solicitor Sanchez Ridge — their role is to bring law and order to city government.

Q: In terms of the police chief how much input will he have in choosing the new chief?

A: Quite a bit. There will be and what I’ll expect from him . . . And I should also add Deborah Walker from OMI, who we brought in so that there is independence within the Office of Municipal Investigation. She is the former chair of the Citizen Police Review Board. The combination of the three of them, that’s really where this needs to go.

His job will be to come up with the criteria from organizations such as the International Chiefs of Police Association, the FBI, the state police, on what the characteristics of a law enforcement executive are. What type of training do they need to have, what type of education, what type of background, what type of personal profile are we looking for? To put those same metrics in place that we did when we hired Special Agent Bucar. In turn we’ll also go out to the community, through the public safety zone hearings — each of the zones, they have those public safety hearings — and the public safety director, myself and others who’ll be involved in the selection of the chief of police, we’ll listen to the people. And ask them what they want to see in their next police chief. It’s the combination of those two factors that will go into the hiring process.

Q: When you’re talking about culture you’re also talking about the other public safety bureaus? Or is it mainly just the police department?

A: Yeah, we have chiefs in place in fire, acting in EMS and in police. And we have a chief in BBI . . . she has not been approved but we’ve gone through the process.

Q: But I’m talking about the culture, of the problem.

A: Oh, it exists in every department, it’s not just public safety. Even though he’s the public safety director the combination between the new people we brought in — between him, Lourdes Sanchez Ridge and Deborah Walker — their job is to change the culture within city hall. We see it in public safety because of the federal investigation, the grand jury investigation, the indictment and conviction of a police chief, but it exists and it has been in the papers for the past eight years in every department.

Q: You talk to him at all about the living arrangements? He obviously has to live in the city right?

A: Yes. I talked to him in the sense that he realizes being a city resident is a requirement.