AMANDA GREEN HAWKINS AND CONNIE PARKER
The day after the New Pittsburgh Courier asked NAACP Pittsburgh Unit President and PennDOT Community Relations Coordinator Connie Parker about her status as a former Port Authority Board director, Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald nominated her again.
“Yeah, that was different,” she said. “I received the letter from him the next day.”
Parker rejoins John Tague of the Pittsburgh/Allegheny County Taskforce on Disabilities and Tom Donatelli of Baker Engineers who Fitzgerald had re-nominated to the board last month, not long after the state general assembly passed legislation changing how board members are appointed.
Fitzgerald also returned United Steelworkers attorney and County Councilwoman Amanda Green Hawkins to the board, even though she voted against ousting former CEO Steve Bland earlier this year. The other three members who voted that way, Mavis Rainey, Eddie Edwards Jr. and Jack Brooks, will not be back unless selected by Governor Tom Corbett or the House Republican leadership.
Fitzgerald’s final two choices were attorney Jeffrey Letwin, the previous board chair, and county Economic Development Department Deputy Director Robert Hurley, who was first appointed in March.
The board changes were necessitated by the state legislature which, citing the amount of funding it provides the authority, proposed legislation in June to give Harrisburg a say in its allocation. Originally, the bill proposed an increase to 11 members from nine, with the county executive picking one. Previously he had chosen all nine.
Within a week, Fitzgerald and legislative allies, state Sen. Jay Costa, D-Forest Hills, and Randy Vulakovich, R-Shaler, engineered a compromise giving him six of the 11 choices. The new board’s first order of business will be hiring a new chief executive officer.
Parker said even though many board members are returning and three candidates had already been interviewed, the search process will have to start again because the board still has to elect officers, and new members will need to interview the CEO candidates.
“There were candidates who would not even talk to us because the boards situation was in flux,” she said. “Now that everything is locked down, things should go fairly quickly. We aren’t dealing with a huge pool of candidates to begin with.”
The change brings the board selection process closer to that of the South Eastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority.
The SEPTA board is comprised of appointments made by the Mayor and Council president of Philadelphia (one each) and two appointments each made by commissioners in the six surrounding counties, which includes parts of Delaware and New Jersey.
Fitzgerald’s nominees will be joined by the state senate Democrat’s nominee, Sen. Jim Brewster, D- McKeesport, and senate Republican choice D. Raja of Mt. Lebanon, who opposed Fitzgerald in the 2011 election, and state House Democrat’s nominee, Rep. Dom Costa, D-Stanton Heights.
The new board’s first meeting is scheduled for Sept. 27.
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