Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Fitzgerald, Wagner Try to Bury the Hatchet over Lunch

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Fitzgerald, Wagner Try to Bury the Hatchet over Lunch

Article excerpt

After years of feuding capped by a bitter primary election battle, county Executive Rich Fitzgerald and county Controller Chelsa Wagner met for lunch Thursday in what both described as an effort to forge a more productive approach to the issues of county government.

Events will determine whether the meal was merely symbolic or a genuine turning point in their stormy relationship, but in a joint statement both Democrats offered optimistic assessments of the prospects for their future. Perhaps wary of disturbing their newfound detente, neither responded to requests for interviews to elaborate on their conversation. They confined their remarks to the prepared statement emailed to reporters Friday afternoon.

"Nobody benefits when elected officials argue,"' said Mr. Fitzgerald, a figure who has often seemed to revel in arguments. "I'm glad that the Controller and I were able to clear the air and agree to put aside any differences.

"Working cooperatively, we are more likely to find efficiencies and savings that benefit Allegheny County taxpayers. At the end of the day, we agree that the County taxpayers are our boss and who we should be serving. By focusing on that, and our commonalities, Allegheny County residents benefit."

The statement came 10 days after a primary election in which Ms. Wagner triumphed in a battle for renomination over Mark Patrick Flaherty, a challenger supported politically and financially by Mr. Fitzgerald. The executive's embrace of the Flaherty challenge followed four years in which Mr. Fitzgerald and Ms. Wagner clashed repeatedly. Their fractious relationship was exemplified by Mr. Fitzgerald's decision to oust Ms. Wagner from a holiday party he hosted during a political gathering in New York City.

In another charged confrontation, Ms. Wagner released an audit last year accusing Mr. Fitzgerald of improperly using a county car for personal and political purposes. Mr. Fitzgerald denounced the audit as a political attack. But to defuse the issue, he returned the car and wrote the county a check for $42,700, representing the reimbursement for every mile recorded during his use of the vehicle. …

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