Allegheny County Controller: Darwin Leuba and Corey O'Connor | Pittsburgh City Paper

Allegheny County Controller: Darwin Leuba and Corey O'Connor

click to enlarge Allegheny County Controller: Darwin Leuba and Corey O'Connor
CP Illustration: Lucy Chen

The controller serves as Allegheny County’s fiscal watchdog, meaning they have the power to review the operations and finances of any local agency that utilizes county funds. The office is also responsible for paying county workers, reviewing new construction projects and developments in Allegheny County, and serving on multiple county-wide boards — including the Jail Oversight Board and the Juvenile Detention Board of Advisors.

Darwin Leuba

Bio: O’Hara Township Auditor since 2017. At 24 years old, Leuba is the youngest candidate on the ballot. Worked on several local progressive campaigns, including Bethany Hallam’s and Lisa Middleman’s. Noted opponent of tax breaks for nonprofits and large corporations.

Nonprofit taxation: Pledges to use the controller’s office to get UPMC to pay a “fair share” in property taxes. Tells WESA he hopes to “enforce county contracts and revoke tax-exempt status for ineligible properties.” Prepared an audit report identifying 10 UPMC parking lots that he believed were not eligible for tax-exempt status shortly before Pittsburgh officials launched a broader review of tax-exemption status on city real estate.

Jail reform: Has used right-to-know requests to scrutinize Allegheny County Jail policies. Supports granting incarcerated individuals access to the public library system, enforcing the jail’s current food service and health care contracts, and creating a publicly available website for monitoring jail air quality and temperature.

Environment: Describes air quality as “personal,” having experienced multiple lung collapses as a teenager. Pledges to audit the Clean Air Fund, which he says has been misused as a “slush fund for general County operations such as routine maintenance.” Vows to use the audit to calculate fines for polluters that can be redistributed to impacted residents.

Select Endorsements: Climate Cabinet Action, Food & Water Action, Lead Locally, Pittsburgh DSA, Run For Something, Sunrise Movement Pittsburgh

Corey O’Connor

Bio: Allegheny County Controller since July 2022 after being appointed by former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf to fill a vacancy. Son of late Pittsburgh Mayor Bob O’Connor. Previously Pittsburgh City Councilor for District 5.

Nonprofit Taxation: Asked by WESA about Leuba’s focus on UPMC tax exemptions, O’Connor said, “you have to take on all the nonprofits, because if you only take on one, you’re leaving tax revenue out of the coffers.” Has been criticized by opponent Darwin Leuba for approving a controversial UPMC expansion of Mercy Hospital in 2018 without a community benefits agreement while serving on City Council.

Jail reform: Tells WESA one of his priorities is “addressing the systemic issues at the Allegheny County Jail,” which, he says, are “deplorable.” As controller, O’Connor’s office completed the first audit of jail staffing in 10 years, as well as an audit of county programs for children of incarcerated individuals. Tells City Paper that “efforts to mitigate the effects on support systems for children are crucial.”

Environment: Tells WESA he wants to assess county-wide progress toward environmental goals, including “gauging investments in hybrid and electric vehicles, and ensuring money earmarked for green initiatives is spent properly.” Said during a 1Hood Media-led candidates debate that he also plans to conduct an audit of the Clean Air Fund.

Select Endorsements: Allegheny County Democratic Committee, Allegheny-Fayette Central Labor Council, Pittsburgh Federations of Teachers, Pittsburgh Mayor Ed Gainey, SEIU 32BJ, Steel City Stonewall Dems, Teamsters Local 40

Ephemeral art made at Chalk Fest
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Ephemeral art made at Chalk Fest

By Pam Smith