Thursday, June 28, 2007

City Council Hearing Wrap Up

Whew! My fingers are sore ...three hours and nine posts later. But I technically scooped every MSM outlet except the channel that airs the meeting live. So "woo hoo" for me. As for accuracy ... eh, I did the best I could with horrible room dynamics, the Planned Parenthood folks breathing loudly behind me and a lack of familiarity with the speakers.

How did I think it went? It was interesting, especially with the "off the cuff" commenters there to inject both some passion and liveliness into the proceedings. The women's groups made some excellent points about changing/improving procedures. Most were careful when speaking about the Mayor, but it all came down to the fact that domestic violence is a complicated issue with the police department and one that warrants better scrutiny from Council, the Mayor, the "brass", the FOP and the community. I'm curious what the forward movement will entail.

Peduto gave me a copy of the Federal Consent Decree which put the Police Bureau under federal jurisdiction. There is very specific language around the establishment of an "early warning system" which is essentially a statistical database to identify and modify problematic behavior. This includes:

a description of all other civil claims or suits that the officer is a named
party to involving allegations of untruthfulness, physical force, racial bias,
or domestic violence

I'm still ferreting out more information on the relevance of the consent decree, but it is worthwhile to note that domestic violence is specifically ennumerated as a problematic area along with racial bias. That's not insignificant. You'll see more from Peduto on this, I'm sure.

I'm very impressed that so many people turned out for this hearing. That illustrates how strongly the issue resonates across the City.

Most people were very cordial. Lots of thanking going on. I skipped most of that on the blogging.

What's going to happen? I'm skeptical. The FOP are formidable and the Mayor is not strong on admitting mistakes. I'm curious for more information on the relevancy of the consent decree before new procedures are created. If the current laws aren't working, we need to figure out why rather than just layer new ones on top of them.

That's it for me. Look forward to your feedback.


  1. you did a hellava job! congrats and many thanks.

  2. Sherry,

    Thanks for all your comments today. It made me feel better to know that at least one person was reading. And I'm glad it was useful for you.


  3. Sorry Sue; didn't realize we PPWP folk were so loud! ;) Thanks for taking such good notes in spite of us :P.

  4. You did get your spiffy espresso drink after all that, right? Good stuff. thx

  5. Sue, excellent job. I was there too & am sorry I didn’t get the chance to meet you & Bram. A few additional comments:

    For those of you who’ve never been in Council Chambers, there are 12 rows, with 6 seats per row. They were filled = 72 people. Around the room’s perimeter, there is a continuous bench. The bench appeared fully occupied. There were well over 100 people in attendance, probably around 130. Impressive considering this was held in the middle of a work day.

    The media wasn’t sitting with us, so they’ve not been included in the above count

    The majority of attendees were female & they were a diverse bunch, young/old, black/white.

    Seated on the bench, directly to my right, were a number of police officers in plain clothes. From their conversation I gathered that most were retired. Since no news outlet covered their thoughts, and I was able to hear them, below are a few snippets. [They were disgruntled about the fact that the 3 officers & the PD were being questioned.]

    “George’s case was long ago” (as one of the speakers mentioned “1997 is NOT a lifetime ago)

    “Wonder how many of these people served…” (as if questioning PD procedure is only valid if you’ve been a police officer)

    “George’s wife made nice comments in the paper” (referring to Trosky’s wife claiming he broke her nose by accident. This shows just how out of it these guys are. If my abuser was a guy with a gun, who had hundreds of friends who also carried guns, yeah, I’d be afraid too)

    These guys kept talking off & on during the public testimony. At first their chatter was almost whispered and sporadic. At one point they ratcheted it up, making it difficult to hear the speakers. I glared at them & snarled “Be quiet!” I’m happy to report that they shut up for the remainder of the hearing. What arrogant jerks.

    Invited Speakers’ List:
    I grabbed one of these when I entered, they’d only made about 20 copies, (guess Pgh. really is in dire financial straits):

    Heather Arnet, Jeanne Clark, Karen Myres, Florence Gaskill, Yvonne Brown, Laurel Rosenberg, Twyla Sable, Phyllis Wetherby, Harry Liller, Shirl Regan, Stephanie Walsh, Marlo Svidron, Barbara Shore, Kirk Rice, Joanne Witkowski, Michele Cunko, Louis Coles, Janet Scott – who declined to speak, Bill Hileman.

    Who else was there:
    John Denny, Elsie Hillman’s right hand man; Jen Englund, League of Young Voters; Alma Fox, Civil Rights trailblazer; Jodi Hirsh, Planned Parenthood; Bruce Kraus, newly elected councilmember; Ken Wolfe, Bruce Kraus’ staff;

    Poking his head in & out of the room: Ed Gainey, recent State Rep. candidate/challenged Joe Preston, he’s now on the mayor’s staff.

    Special mention:

    Sue - that “Women Lawrenceville United representative” is Jenny Skrinjar. Guess who’s sister she is? Yeah, Dick Skrinjar’s. She stated that she’s on LU’s Safety Task Force. Guess who funds LU? Our soon-to-be-losing his job Council member, Len Bodack, Jr.

    Sue - “Another woman who mumbled her name” is Audrey Glickman.

    Media: Rick Earle (I think that was him), WPXI; Elaine Effort, KQV radio; Marty Griffin, KDKA TV & radio; Bob Mayo, WTAE TV; Chris Potter, Pgh. City Paper; Rich Lord, Pgh. Post-Gazette;
    Probably reporters from the Trib & DUQ were there, but I didn’t recognize them.

    Who was NOT there:
    the mayor who’d been formally invited by Council

    Staff of the Civil Service Commission who Peduto had invited. This is important b/c there’s not a lot of clarity on whether the promotions were valid, if they can be rescinded, etc. Civil Service rules seem to be labyrinthine & inscrutable, necessitating the need of those staffers for explanantion. Speaker Michele Cunko was a former Civil Service staffer. She told Peduto that “rescinding” the promotions was incorrect terminology, rather the officers could be demoted via Civil Service and that there’s precedent for this. (would that precedent protect/prevent the city’s being sued for demoting them?)

    Kinda creepy, Doug Shields, opening the hearing, said something along the lines of “they’re probably watching this live in offices throughout this building”…

    Impressive: The speakers were both passionate and professional. They addressed/recommended needed changes in policy, without name calling. That this didn’t devolve into a shouting, finger pointing match was enough of a surprise that several commented upon it.

    Interesting points:

    Jeanne Clark: District Attorneys call her, tell her they’re routinely pressured to drop charges against police officers. Jeanne also said she found regs in the City Charter which accord Council the power to approve promotions.

    Arnet: don’t pit labor/unions against women’s groups on this issue.

    Several speakers:
    1. made the point that victims of abuse are afraid to contact police, other authorities, and that even the appearance of having & condoning abusive cops would further frighten victims. I hope this point sunk in with the cops sitting near me…

    2. invoked the name of late Cmdr. Gwen Elliott in their remarks.

    Women’s Shelter ED: Have a real thorough background check before making promotions, Zappala promised her that his office would do this.

    Louis Cole – apologist for the officers, used to work for DA’s office, makes me wonder how good the promises Zappala made are. Several speakers asked for “zero tolerance”, Cole dismissed the term as a political slogan. I want to know who signs his paycheck.

    Whaaaat? Who is Kirk Rice/the self proclaimed Rooster? He said that when he returned to Pgh. from a stint in DC in the Federal Accounting Office, he was working on forming the Pubic Safety Bureau. He said an officer named Gaudelli (not sure of spelling) went to federal prison b/c he somehow misreported the domestic violence call he made to the McNeilly’s home. According to the Rooster, Officer Gaudelli found a badly beaten woman, (I think he was referring to Cmdr. Cathy McNeilly), at the home. Is this true?

    RE Peduto’s remarks:

    Lt. Dixon, who Peduto said was passed over for promotion in favor of the 3 officers is a woman.

    As soon as Peduto began to speak, Len Bodack, Jr. left the room. I find this curious, as he’s the Chair of the Public Safety Cmte. He chose to leave precisely when the hearing was opened for councilmembers to ask questions, make remarks & discuss options for the next course of action.

    Next step will be a “Post Agenda Meeting” to which they’ll invite the Civil Service people. Shields said they need to schedule with Bodack, (good luck finding him Doug). Darlene Harris piped up only to request that the meeting be televised.

  6. Gloria,

    RE: Gaudelli/McNeilly

    From a P-G article:

    A federal jury yesterday found former Pittsburgh police Officer Edmond Gaudelli Jr. guilty of lying when he said he responded to a domestic violence call at the home of Chief Robert W. McNeilly Jr. in 1996.


    Gaudelli said he responded to a domestic at the chief's house on Sept. 28, 1996, and was told to leave by Sgt. Dennis McQuaide. The McNeillys denied they have ever had a domestic fight and produced records indicating they were on vacation in Florida on that day. McQuaide also denied the claim.

    The only time police had ever responded to the McNeilly home in 1996, according to computerized 911 records, was for burglar alarms in July and October.


    She also said the U.S. attorney's office will examine the conduct of other officers who, the trial revealed, tried to bolster Gaudelli's claim.

    One was Officer Stacy McDonald, who worked at the 911 center. Testimony revealed that she asked a 911 dispatcher to print out "test" 911 calls to the homes of McNeilly and Assistant Chief William Mullen, then asked the dispatcher to alter the priority status field from "test" to "domestic."

  7. Maria,

    I found that P-G article after I posted, we must've been heating up the google wires at the same time. Also found something about an Edmond Gaudelli, from Pittsburgh, who was sentenced for paying somebody off. He's out of jail by now, living the the 15220 zip code.


  8. Thanks Sue. I work with victims of violence, and yesterday my co-workers and I were able to keep up with the hearing thanks to your "blog-cast". We work with one of the speakers, so we were especially interested in the up to the minute information. Thanks, also, for making it a point to highlight this important issue in the blog.


  9. Jen,

    Thanks for posting. I'm glad I could play a part in keeping people informed. I was informed that this might have been the first Pgh media event ever "lived blogged," but I have no idea if that is true (Mark?).

    Either way, it should happen more frequently. I think the Society should raise funds to purchase a laptop and an air card to make it happen in a collective sort of way ...

    Jen, seriously, thanks.

  10. Newly Discovered Evidence has recently emerged that shows that there were Domestic Violence calls at the McNeilly's house.These were covered-up by that psychopath Bob McNeilly by having an innocent cop by the name of Ed Gaudelli sent to jail.

    If you are getting all of your information from the P-G then it is suspect since Tom Murphy gave them tax-exempt status and they are essentially his PR firm.