The long-rumored settlement between the City of Pittsburgh and Deven Werling is just about complete. And it's going to cost us at least $200,000. As the Post-Gazette's Rich Lord is reporting this morning, the city has agreed to settle the legal case which formed the centerpiece of Part I in my recent series of posts concerning the Pittsburgh Police Department's secondary employment policies. We commoners are paying $200,000 -- plus countless amounts of money for legal fees -- for something that one of our police officers did on his own time, while he was working under the table and evading the very taxes that will now go to pay for his mistakes. And to think that some of you were wondering why this secondary employment story is such a big deal.
The Post-Gazette story contains an enormous number of things that simply must be examined and commented upon. So let's get started, shall we?
The city of Pittsburgh is paying $200,000 to settle a lawsuit stemming from a police sergeant's actions while working a side job.If anyone ever again wonders why Dennis Regan was such bad news, and why his nomination by Interim Mayor Luke Ravenstahl as Director of Public Safety elicited so much outrage throughout the city, please direct their attention to this particular set of facts. They really say everything that needs to be said. Remember, this is the man whom Master Ravestahl has claimed did "nothing wrong" during his time in city government.
The federal lawsuit was filed by Deven W. Werling of Largo, Fla., who said he was roughed up by Sgt. Mark A. Eggleton at the Original Hot Dog Shop in Oakland in 2004. The city's Office of Municipal Investigations found that Sgt. Eggleton contradicted himself under oath, and he was fired.
In October, the dismissal was reduced to a five-day suspension by then-Operations Director Dennis Regan. Mr. Eggleton continues to work as a Sergeant.
Mayor Luke Ravenstahl said he wasn't familiar with details of the case, and that the Law Department handled the negotiations. Mr. Werling was represented by Timothy P. O'Brien.This one case is going to cost his constituents more than twice Master Ravenstahl's annual salary, and yet he says that he doesn't really know why. Maybe he should make it his freaking business to find out. In fact, I'll make it easy for him. He can just click right here and read an excellent summary of the whole thing. And then, just maybe, it will begin to dawn on him why it was unforgivably stupid of him to eliminate the very cost recovery program that was designed to cover settlements like this one. Instead, his spineless capitulation to the Fraternal Order of Police leadership has left city taxpayers stuck with the bill.
Council received a resolution to approve the settlement yesterday, and could vote next week.If City Councilmember William Peduto doesn't take the opportunity to ask some very pointed questions about this resolution prior to voting on it, then I'm going to begin rapidly losing respect for the man. As one of his constituents, I certainly want to know what the city is doing to make sure that the taxpayers don't get left holding the bag for these kinds of lawsuits in the future. As a voter, I want to know exactly what kind of cost recovery plan would be implemented under his administration if he wins this year's election and becomes our city's next mayor.
The Eggleton case highlights what the city considers to be problems with the way security assignments are handed out.And now that we are no longer collecting that fee, just where will this $200,000 come from?
In November, Mr. Ravenstahl shelved a plan to charge businesses $4 or $5 an hour, on top of the $38 an hour they pay the officers, for the scheduling of side jobs. The fee was supposed to cover costs including those stemming from lawsuits like the one involving Sgt. Eggleton.
Last week, Police Chief Nate Harper said his bureau is still trying to get control of the assignment of side jobs, two years after it started to wrest that duty from entrepreneurial officers who have long handled that role. He said the city hopes it will be scheduling all such assignments by April 9.Classic Ravenstahl maneuver here. A generally positive and agreeable statement, but an absolute refusal to commit to specifics.
Yesterday, the mayor said he saw "no reason why we can't meet that timetable," but would not say exactly what would be achieved by then.
There are two important things to keep in mind as we move forward into the next few months. The first is that the interim mayor has committed -- in his usual, weaselly, non-specific way -- to meet this April 9th deadline for the Special Events Office to take control of all secondary employment. If he hasn't done it by then, we deserve to hear about it, and we deserve an explanation for his failure.
Secondly, this case proves that the FOP-proposed cost recovery fee of just $2 per hour is ludicrously inadequate. It won't bring in enough money to cover everything that stems from just this one settlement, let alone all of the other costs that secondary employment currently passes along to the taxpayers. Whenever the mayor gets around to reimplementing the scheme that he eliminated last November -- that would be by April 9th, right? -- the cost recovery fee had better be high enough to actually cover the taxpayer's costs. We will be watching.