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Pittsburgh mayor’s former aide weighs demotion

Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl’s former executive secretary has up to two weeks of paid employment to decide if she wants to accept a demotion, the mayor’s chief of staff said Monday.

Marlene Cassidy is still being paid $72,091 a year — the salary she made as Ravenstahl’s executive secretary — and will be offered a job with the Pittsburgh Parking Authority, said Yarone Zober, Ravenstahl’s chief of staff.

“She effectively got the equivalent of two weeks’ notice,” Zober said yesterday, three days after Ravenstahl announced the demotions of Cassidy, Director of Communications Dick Skrinjar and Director of Intergovernmental Affairs Anne Dobkin.

David Onorato, the parking authority’s executive director, met with Cassidy yesterday afternoon, but he did not offer her a job.

“There was nothing for her to accept or reject,” Onorato said. “We just had a discussion about future opportunities.”

Onorato characterized Cassidy as “well qualified” given her experience in the Mayor’s Office.

He was unaware that Joanna Doven, a spokeswoman for Ravenstahl, said in a news release yesterday morning that Cassidy “has not accepted the position with the Parking Authority and will no longer be working with the city of Pittsburgh.”

Asked about the contradiction, Doven said she released the announcement about Cassidy because the Mayor’s Office was unable to contact Cassidy over the weekend.

“We couldn’t reach her. So we assumed that she was not accepting the position,” Doven said. “The administration has spoken to (Cassidy) today, and the mayor decided to give her some more time to make her decision.”

Cassidy was a longtime campaign worker and executive secretary to former Mayor Bob O’Connor, who died of brain cancer Sept. 1.

Ravenstahl, 27, of Summer Hill, ascended to the Mayor’s Office from his post as City Council president and kept Cassidy in place.

Cassidy, 51, shares a Point Breeze home with former Director of Operations Dennis Regan, a close O’Connor friend. Regan resigned Dec. 1 after Ravenstahl suspended him in October amid accusations that he interfered in a disciplinary matter involving Cassidy’s brother, Frank Rende, a city police officer.

O’Connor’s son, Corey, 22, of Squirrel Hill, said his family still supports Ravenstahl and doesn’t object to the demotions.

“He wants his own people in there, and that’s OK with us,” Corey O’Connor said. “He’s the mayor, and he’s doing a good job.”

Skrinjar, 56, of Highland Park, has accepted a position as assistant director of city parks and senior interests in the Department of Parks and Recreation, Doven said yesterday.

Skrinjar’s new salary is $66,740. As the mayor’s communications director, he was paid $71,750 a year.

Dobkin, 31, of Shadyside, has accepted a job in the city Planning Department, Doven said. Her salary and title were not available.

“It’s the mayor’s prerogative (to make changes),” Zober said. “He just wants to make sure he has who he wants. Most mayors get to do this kind of transition before taking office.”


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