Public defender Lisa Middleman announces campaign to challenge District Attorney Stephen Zappala

Lisa Gaye Middleman, an Allegheny County public defender, announced that she is launching her campaign for District Attorney today. Middleman, who is running as an independent, will face 20-year incumbent Stephen A. Zappala Jr. in the November 5 general election. Her campaign launch comes after another challenger, Turahn Jenkins, trailed Zappala by 20,357 votes in May’s Democratic primary election. Middleman estimates that she’ll need to gather nearly 4,000 signatures on her petition before Aug. 1 to appear on the November ballot but plans to collect well above that amount.

A tale of two fires: Allegheny County health officials change approach after second fire at U.S. Steel’s Clairton plant

After a Dec. 24 fire at U.S. Steel’s Clairton Coke Works, Allegheny County Health Department officials discussed internally how to respond. The department considered issuing an emergency order to require U.S. Steel to take steps to reduce its emissions, email records show. Officials went as far as drafting such an order, they said. But they didn’t issue it because the company was already voluntarily taking many of the steps the county believed would keep residents safe.

Your tax dollars at work: Explore how City of Pittsburgh paid employees in 2018

The City of Pittsburgh spent more than $216 million to pay its employees in 2018. According to city spokesman Tim McNulty, the city budgeted $219.5 million for employee salaries, overtime and bonuses and spent $3.4 million less than expected. Overall, salary data analyzed by PublicSource showed the city actually spent $235.9 million on salaries, overtime and bonuses for 3,982 employees in 2018. But, McNulty said, that total includes money paid to employees from grants and other funding sources aside from city tax dollars, including payments from third parties for off-duty police and medics. Over the last five years, premium pay spending for city employees has increased.

Your tax dollars at work: Explore how Allegheny County paid employees in 2018

Allegheny County's spending on overtime pay has steadily increased over the past five years. In 2014, the county paid out roughly $20.7 million in overtime. Fast forward to 2018, the most recent data available, and the county's expense on overtime pay has jumped to about $30.1 million. The overtime pay for 2018 went to 3,570 employees, which accounts for just more than half of the county workforce. However, employees of the Kane Regional Centers and the Allegheny County Jail made the majority of the overtime pay, earning $16.7 million total.