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Editorial: Penn Hills payout shows poor planning

September 7, 2018

It’s always great to have the flexibility to make a career move without consequences.

As an employee, at least.

That’s why former Penn Hills municipal manager Mohammed Rayan’s contract was a smart deal for him. It gave him the opportunity to leave his position running the whole show and return to his previous gig -- director of Public Works -- without worrying that the option wouldn’t be there and he’d be without a paycheck.

But was that a good idea for Penn Hills?

The contract obtained by the Tribune-Review shows the municipality could be on the hook for more than $220,000, the total of a year’s pay plus a month’s pay for each year of service. Penn Hills hired Rayan to be manager in 2009.

If this is how it works out, this is good news for Rayan.

He cited the political atmosphere and meddling when announcing his resignation in June. That sounds stressful, and you can’t blame someone for taking a less taxing position, especially if it comes with no financial risk and, in fact, a nice reward. Mayor Sara Kuhn called it a “smart business move on his part.”

You can, however, blame the Penn Hills council for approving a contract with a rather pricy escape hatch.

Maybe, after a string of short-term managers who left or were fired, they couldn’t imagine a situation where a manager would stay for nine years. Maybe they couldn’t foresee that they would actually not have a public works director in the future, creating a glitch where Rayan will be filling a job that no longer exists.

Maybe council, and the municipality’s solicitor, will predict better when the new manager is hired and it’s time to craft another contract.