Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald (Pittsburgh City Paper photo).
Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald has filed a civil lawsuit against the county’s legislative branch over an ordinance that would raise the minimum wage for county workers to $20 an hour.
He argues that under the county’s Home Rule Charter, the power to set wages and salaries rests with the executive branch. The case was filed in Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas and names “County Council of the County of Allegheny, Pennsylvania” as defendants.
“Taking the personalities out of this entirely, there is a legitimate disagreement on whether the executive branch or the legislative branch has the legal authority to set wages,” Fitzgerald said, in a statement. “It’s an important legal question that requires immediate review and determination by the Court, especially since my administration is in the process of preparing the 2024 budget.”
Fitzgerald, who is in his final term as county executive, vetoed a bill passed by Allegheny County Council on June 6 that would have bumped the county minimum wage to $18 an hour next year, $19 an hour in 2025, and $20 an hour in 2026. In a June 20 vote, however, council voted 10 to 5 to override Fitzgerald’s veto.
The filing asks a judge to “resolve important differences between the parties concerning the legality of the Wage Ordinance.” The county council’s solicitor and the county law department have differed over whether or not the council has the authority under other parts of the home rule charter. Fitzgerald’s lawsuit cites section 402 of the charter, which lists 14 specific powers of county council, and, he argues, doesn’t include authority to set wages.
Allegheny County Council President Pat Catena criticized Fitzgerald in a statement responding to the lawsuit: “After consistently losing at every turn with this bill, he’s willing to throw County employees under the bus in a last-ditch effort to assert his rapidly waning authority.”
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