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County executive Fitzgerald’s proposal for take-home vehicles meets resistance

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Andrew Russell | Tribune-Review
Allegheny County employees with take-home cars can use them to commute to and from work, and for small personal errands, according to legislation county Executive Rich Fitzgerald proposed Tuesday.

Allegheny County employees with take-home cars can use them to commute to and from work, and for small personal errands, according to legislation county Executive Rich Fitzgerald proposed Tuesday.

Adding one sentence to the county ethics code should clear up a conflict between the ethics code and the county’s take-home vehicle policy, said county solicitor Andrew Szefi.

The policy allows commuting. The ethics code prohibits all use of county resources, including vehicles, except for county business.

“The amendment would provide consistency with the take-home vehicle policy by actually permitting employees to use vehicles for commuting,” Szefi wrote in an email.

Fitzgerald’s critics disagree with the change.

“That’s not going to work,” said county Councilwoman Heather Heidelbaugh, R-Mt. Lebanon, who is working on legislation to amend the county ethics code to ban using take-home vehicles to attend political events. “It doesn’t sound like it’s going to fix the problem.”

The proposed change emerges two weeks after county Controller Chelsa Wagner accused Fitzgerald of using his county-owned Jeep for political and personal purposes, and demanded he reimburse the county for miles logged attending those events.

Fitzgerald claimed he did nothing wrong and dismissed the controller’s accusations as politically motivated. A week later, Fitzgerald turned over the keys to the Jeep and wrote a personal check for about $42,700 to pay for the miles he logged since taking office in 2012.

Wagner, whose office is auditing the county’s vehicle fleet and take-home policy, said Fitzgerald’s amendment is not needed.

“The current language is very clear,” said Ira Weiss, the controller’s solicitor. “The language that has been proposed could lead to certain disputes over interpretation.”

Szefi said the added language is clear and simple.

Council President John DeFazio, D-Shaler, sent the legislation to the Government Reform Committee for further debate.

Aaron Aupperlee is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.

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