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Penn Hills residents react to manager’s contract, severance

September 25, 2018

Penn Hills Manager Mohammed Rayan reads from his proposed 2018 budget during a public hearing Monday, Dec. 4.

While Penn Hills officials are remaining mum regarding details of a former manager’s contract, some residents have refused to stay silent.

“When I first heard about it, I was very upset,” said Planning Commissioner Brent Rambo. “Whenever I see someone with a golden parachute ... it bothers the hell out of me.”

Former municipal manager Mohammed Rayan resigned from his post in May and said his last day would be July 1. He remains in the position as the municipality searches for a replacement. The position was still posted to the municipality’s website as of Aug. 29.

His contract, approved July 2009, allows Rayan to resign without cause, return to his former position as director of public works and receive a severance that amounts to over $220,000.

“Did they read (the contract) over well? Did they do their due diligence in trying to negotiate the best terms?” asked Rambo, who said responsibility for approving the contract nine years ago should fall to District Magistrate Anthony DeLuca Jr., who served as mayor at the time.

Council members, both current and those who served when the contract was approved, have not responded to multiple calls seeking comment -- nor did DeLuca or other Penn Hills municipal staff.

“Although he did a fine job, I’m not sure it’s good practice to give such a large severance to someone who is still employed at the same organization,” said Faith Milazzo, a Penn Hills resident.

Shortly after reading the article, Milazzo sent an email to the municipality’s general inquiry mailbox with a question and concerns:

“When the next municipal manager is hired, will residents have the opportunity to see the contract before it is approved?” she wrote. She added that many residents are concerned about protecting themselves from bankrolling a “huge severance package” again.

“Not to say Moe doesn’t deserve the severance, just not sure over $200K is the right amount,” she wrote.

Milazzo continued, “Since the ‘well has run dry’ as Moe said, I think another contract like that will hurt the municipality in future years. We can’t do anything about this huge payout now, but hopefully the people in charge will carefully consider what they are saying yes to in the future, so as not to further burden residents who are already strained by high school taxes and sewage bills.”

The response from the municipality said, in part, “personnel and negotiations are discussed in private. Final decision-making is done at a public meeting.”

Comments from residents on social media and other public forums were mixed.

Some people praised Rayan’s work with the municipality and trumpeted his contract as a savvy business move.

Jerry Chiappinelli, a Penn Hills planning commissioner, said he begged the manager to stay when he found out Rayan resigned.

“I thought he did a fantastic job,” Chiappinelli said. “I’d take him out to dinner, I like him.” He declined to comment on the contract because he “wasn’t involved with that.”

Others weren’t so forgiving. Some said they felt like moving out of the municipality, while others blamed “crooked” politicians for allowing the contract to be approved in the first place.

One Penn Hills resident, Donald Furtivo, wrote a letter to the editor that said, in part, the manager’s contract is “just another rip off of the Penn Hills citizens.”

“What organization permits an applicant to write such an employment contract, then resign and go back to their previous job, plus collect a ‘big payday?’” Furtivo wrote.

Maureen Sorce, Rayan’s secretary, said residents have until Aug. 31 to sign up to speak about the issue at council’s next meeting on Sept. 10. As of Aug. 28, no residents had signed up to speak on the contract. Anyone interested should send her an email at msorce@pennhills.org that includes what you would like to talk about, the date of the council meeting, a name, address and phone number.

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