The day after Phyllis Copeland-Mitchell received the Allegheny County Democratic Committee’s endorsement for the District 9 City Council seat, she also lost her job. For the past 15 years, Copeland-Mitchell has worked for The Program for Offenders Inc., a government funded residential treatment facility.
“After winning the Democratic Endorsement on Sunday, March 6, over the incumbent Ricky Burgess, Phyllis Copeland-Mitchell became the strongest candidate to beat the incumbent. Phyllis was fired from her job for no cause,” said 12th Ward Democratic Committee Chair Jacque Fielder. “This is a travesty that such a dedicated community worker for more than 25 years would lose her job during these tough economic times just because she exercised her right to run for City Council. Obviously the Democratic Party thinks enough of her to endorse her for City Council District 9.”
According to an email from The Program’s Executive Director Carol Hertz, which was distributed at a press conference on March 7, Copeland-Mitchell was given the choice between her job as residential correction facility manager and her candidacy for city council. Hertz did not respond to request for comment made by the Courier.
“If you decide to continue the campaign for City Council after March 6, 2011, we will consider this decision as your resignation,” said Hertz in the letter.
Copeland-Mitchell, said she was forced to take a leave of absence from her job Feb. 23 because of her campaign for city council. She is suing The Program for wrongful termination and is being represented by attorney Chuck McCullough, who is running for county executive.”
“Ms. Copeland-Mitchell will be unable to effectively carry out her duties and responsibilities for The Program,” said The Program’s attorney James Urban in another email. “Her situation is no different from an individual who would endeavor to work two full-time jobs at the same time.”
However, Jeff Koch, a candidate for the District 3 city council seat is currently a city employee as the street program supervisor for Pittsburgh’s Department of Public Works. He also received the endorsement over the incumbent Councilman Bruce Krauss.
Copeland-Mitchell beat out incumbent Councilman Rev. Ricky Burgess with 101 votes to his 58 votes.
Hertz also said another employee’s medical leave “significantly impacts our ability to hold your position of manager of The Program Center open beyond March 6.”
There is some confusion as to if she was fired strictly because she’s running for public office, or because the program simply can’t afford to have two key people out at the same time.