Republican Allegheny County Chief Executive candidate D. Raja rolled out the plan for his first 100 days in office Wednesday afternoon. And while most of the press event went according to the plan, Raja also found himself dogged by questions regarding 84 lawsuits he filed against employees between 1996 and 2009.
Raja said that if elected, he would quickly implement benchmarks to measure performance, and take on issues facing the county including property assessments, the Port Authority and Marcellus Shale drilling.
For example, Raja said he would list what the unemployment rate is when he takes office, and then set a goal for where that number should be after a set period of time. A plan will then be developed and executed to try and reach that goal.
And because the goal has been clearly stated, the public will know how his administration has performed. Raja said even great ideas can fail because of bad execution but, "average ideas can become great because of great execution.
Of note in Raja's plan is the inclusion of a "focus to eliminate disparity ... to ensure that all residents are successful. In particular, the objective is to see significant progress in the African American community." One of his plans is to start creating minority business districts within his first year in office.
Raja said the fact that this region's African American community is the poorest in the country is "appalling" and says he will take steps to improve conditions. The entire plan can be found here.
After introducing his plan, Raja was once again by reporters asked about his decision to file lawsuits against 84 former employees, as first reported in City Paper a week ago. The campaign of his opponent, Democrat Rich Fitzgerald, also released a press release shortly before the press event questioning Raja over the suits.
Mike Mikus, Fitzgerald's campaign manager called the event "staged ... in an effort by his campaign to deflect attention from his lawsuits against his own employees."
"Raja needs to stop with the gimmicks and explain why a man of his wealth feels the need to sue 84 of his own workers."
The events are nothing new for Raja: He has been holding policy roll-outs every 10 days to two weeks for the past few weeks. But in response to the accusations, Raja said the lawsuits were being used as distracting tactics from Fitzgerald.
"People have been asking me why don't I address these lawsuits," Raja said. "But this is exactly what Rich Fitzgerald wants me to do." He says Fitzgerald wants Raja talking about the lawsuits because "he doesn't want me talking about the issues."
Raja says that the number of lawsuits has to be put in the context of the "thousands" of people who've worked at his company over the years. "Ninety-nine percent of our consultants have had no issues."