Equity dominates Fitzgerald/B-PEP county meeting

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TIM STEVENS

Though County Executive Rich Fitzgerald has pledged continued support for implementing a corporate Rooney Rule, he said there are limitations on how much the County can use such a plan for its own employment.

According to the minutes of his Aug. 26 closed-door meeting with members of the Black Political Empowerment Project in the Hill District, Fitzgerald noted Home Rule Charter merit-hiring rules, collective bargaining for unionized employees and civil service requirements for police and fire personnel are out of his hands, but said he would be willing to work with union bargaining units on improving diversity, inclusion and equity.

He told B-PEP President Tim Stevens and about 20 others that the county has roughly 7,000 employees, 17 percent of which are African-American, or 2 percent more than the county population. He also noted his hiring of African-Americans to head the public defenders’ office and the county jail.

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RICH FITZGERALD

 

However, Fitzgerald admitted diversity among the county police, about 5 percent, is not where it should be and he’s “not happy about it.” But he added that the Community College of Allegheny County now has a test preparation course for the county police exam.

He also said he is currently working with the county’s human resources department to implement the same “ban the box” initiative pushed through in Pittsburgh by city Councilman Rev. Ricky Burgess. Stevens applauded the move as a way to potentially improve employment in the African-American community by eliminating the requirement for county job applicants to acknowledge past criminal convictions.

As for hiring another Black director for the Shuman Juvenile Detention Center after firing William “Jack” Simmons, Fitzgerald said he would follow the Rooney Rule in the interview process.

He also said the county is doing a good job with respect to issue contracts to Minority Business Enterprises.

The Public Works Department awarded $1.5 million, or 20 percent, of a total $7.3 million to MBEs.  The county’s largest department, Human Services, issued $127 million in MBE contracts to MBEs out of almost $500 million, more than 25 percent. However, of the $37 million in general purchases made by the county last year, only $5.3 million, or 14 percent, went to MBEs. Fitzgerald made no mention of professional service contracts.

Fitzgerald was also asked about possible county assistance with reclaiming blighted homes and properties in the city, and about helping elderly African-Americans who are being forced from their homes by rising rents and taxes.

He said only that the county is involved in a new housing project in Rankin, and that he supports projects that increase property values.

Asked if he could do anything to stop the push from Pittsburgh’s Fraternal Order of Police to overturn the city’s residency requirement, Fitzgerald said he would talk to Democratic mayoral candidate Bill Peduto about the issue.    

He also said he would continue working to make sure state Voter ID Law is never enacted. Fitzgerald said he would again host the second annual session on the corporate Rooney Rule initiative in May.

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