Pittsburgh D.A. Starts “Inquiry” into Deal between Mayor and Union

Allegheny County Dist. Attny. Stephen Zappala said on April 20 that his ofc. is looking into an apparent deal between the Mayor of Pittsburgh and the President of the local fire fighters union in which contract concessions by the city were reportedly exchanged for the union’s endorsement.  According to the union chief, Joseph King, mayor Tom Murphy agreed in 2001 to $10 to $12 million in contract concessions — which included no-layoff provisions — in exchange for the union’s endorsement of Murphy in the primary campaign. 


King spilled the beans on the deal in recent letter to the mayor.  In that letter, King recounted that the “only condition was to have the contract awarded by ARBITRATION, so as you stated:  The other unions cannot know that I/you agreed to these economic conditions.”  The bulk of the deal, incl. the no-layoff provision, was ratified by the union just 8 days before the 2001 primary.  Four separate issues were settled later by a 3-member arbitration panel.  After the releasing letter, King claimed to believe Murphy’s denial of interference with the arbitration process.

King’s motivation in going public about the deal stems from a recent finding by the State that Pittsburgh finances are “distressed,” which could lead to staff cuts in the Fire Bureau.  King accused Murphy of poor financial mgmt. by spending the extra $10 to $12 million on fire fighters in 2001.  D.A. Zappala’s ofc. is reviewing whether Murphy and King violated state ethics laws pertaining the seeking of improper influence by public officials and laws dealing with election-related bribery. [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 4/14,16,21/04]