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Firings cost county more than $320,000 |

Firings cost county more than $320,000

| Friday, October 19, 2001 12:00 p.m

Four politically tinged firings by Allegheny County Clerk of Courts George Matta have ended up costing the county about $320,000.

County officials earlier this month settled with two of the workers – Kathy Williamson and Glad Knock, who were both finance assistants in the office – after losing a federal trial this spring involving the two other fired workers, said Sam Cordes, a Downtown lawyer representing the four former employees.

The four all claimed Matta fired them after he took office in January 2000 for supporting his Democratic opponent, former Clerk Joyce Lee Itkin, in a bitter primary election contest the previous spring.

In a settlement in which Matta admitted no wrongdoing, according to his lawyer, Jack Cambest, Williamson got $50,000 and Knock – a former assistant finance director – got $35,000.

This spring, two other former workers won jury trials in U.S. District Court. Reid Stewart and Ron Venturella, who also were assistant finance officers, claimed they were fired for supporting Itkin. Venturella got a $69,000 award and Stewart got a $46,000 award.

Cordes also was awarded about $117,000 in attorney’s fees in those two cases.

County Manager Robert Webb said the county will pay $150,000 of total costs from the four cases, with the rest to be covered by insurance.

None will be paid by Matta, who could not be reached for comment.

‘This case sends a message that you can’t fire workers anymore to make room for your political supporters,’ Cordes said.’Patronage is a part of old-time politics, but it has been against the last now for about 15 years.’

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