Friday, April 27, 2007

Mayor's Office Shakeup

"...will allow us to reshuffle

and maybe rethink how

we do business..."

UPDATE: The post-Skrinjar era at the mayor's office got off to a bit of a rocky start this evening.

Prior to our 6 o'clock news, the mayor's temporary media contact Joanna Doven returned my call with an update I'd requested.

She told me "Anna Dobkin has not accepted the job, so she is no longer with the city", and that the mayor granted Marlene Cassidy's request for an extension of time to decide on her job offer. I reported both items on the air.

Minutes later, Anna Dobkin herself telephoned me to say the mayor's office was incorrect. Dobkin says she notified both Economic Development Director Pat Ford and Planning Director Noor Ismael that she's accepted the transfer to Planning. Asked for a quote, Dobkin said " I'm happy to continue working for the city". I told her I'd get the correction on the air and notify the mayor's office. I quickly e-mailed a correction to the producer in the control room, as I phoned the mayor's staffer Doven.

Doven told me she "know(s) what I'm talking about", but suggested that I "hold off". She said the information she'd provided earlier came directly from the mayor as of 5:30. She promised an update when one becomes available. I phoned the control room again to stop the correction from airing until the city's position is resolved.

UPDATE TWO: At 9 o'clock, Doven of the mayor's office confirmed that Dobkin had accepted the position and said that the earlier announcement had been the result of a miscommunication. Word from the mayor's office on Marlene Cassidy's decision is expected early next week.

You can see the raw video of my Q&A with Mayor Ravenstahl on the Pittsburgh Channel website.

The following is based on my Channel 4 Action News report on the shakeup in the mayor's office:

Mayor Ravenstahl himself calls two of the three members he's removed from his administration "close confidants" of the late Bob O'Connor--and he says there's no bad blood.

He met one-by-one this morning with all three:
--letting each know this is their last day at the highest levels of pittsburgh government,
-offering them lower-ranking city jobs,
-and giving them until the close of the business day to accept or reject them.

Luke Ravenstahl's big shakeup makes his mark on the mayor's office by removing three key figures closely tied to the late Mayor Bob O'Connor.

Chief among them: Dick Skrinjar who is ousted as the mayor's spokesman. Skrinjar's O'Connor ties date back to the last campaign. Skrinjar has accepted a city parks job, running senior citizens activities.

Mayor Ravenstahl admits "it can be perceived as a demotion, but I want to reiterate that by no means do I have any ill feelings or any bad words to say about any of the three of the employees."

Also out: the mayor's Executive Secretary Marlene Cassidy, whose ties to O'Connor date back decades. She's been offered a job at a city authority. She shares a home with Dennis Regan, the controversial O'Connor confidant who resigned as Ravenstahl's operations director months ago.

The mayor hints he's not done, saying there could be "perhaps a reshuffling of the entire fifth floor. but we will be soliciting and looking for qualified candidates for both positions immediately."

Out as well is the O'Connor campaign official who planned the late mayor's inauguration as well as O'Connor's funeral. Anna Dobkin is out as Director of Intergovernmental Affairs, but was offered a job in City Planning.

Some see this as Chief of Staff Yarone Zober flexing muscle, but Council President Doug Shields says it's Ravenstahl shaping his team.

Said Shields: "I think Yarone Zober as the Chief of Staff has the strong role. He's the mayor's right hand man and as such he's going to be a key player in the Ravenstahl administration."

Mayor Ravenstahl said "we'll know by Monday if they have accepted the positions."

"So, they're still on the city payroll but they're not holding those jobs?"
I asked.

Mayor Ravenstahl paused, then responded "...through today, correct."


Matt H said...

Good work Bob

Anonymous said...

It's funny, Doug Shields, Yarone Zober and Denny Regan didn't view Chief of Staff BJ Leber as Mayor O'Connor's "right-hand man" in July, '06.