HARRISBURG -- Sen. Sean Logan, a Plum Democrat, said Thursday that he will resign to become a vice president at University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, prompting criticism that he has been too cozy with the health care giant.
That perception stems from recent controversy over UPMC's decision to close a Braddock hospital and build a facility in Monroeville, where Logan began his political career as mayor.
Logan will quit his $89,300 Senate seat in August and move to community relations work for UPMC on Sept. 1.
"It was a difficult decision," said Logan, 40, citing time with his wife and two children as a contributing factor. The 45th District includes most Allegheny County towns such as Clairton, McKeesport, Monroeville and Plum as well as Westmoreland County communities such as New Kensington and Arnold.
Logan would not say how much UPMC will pay him. The health system's tax records show 2,838 employees there made $100,000 or more.
"Now we know why. Mr. Logan has received his '30 pieces of silver' as payoff for his work on UPMC's behalf," said Tony Buba, chairman of the citizens group Save Our Community Hospitals, which worked to prevent the January closing of the Braddock hospital.
"I'm not quite sure advocating for a hospital in my district is bad," said Logan, a lawmaker for a decade.
He said he was involved in providing substantial financial support from UPMC to the Braddock community.
Logan denied he obtained a $5 million state grant to help UPMC build the Monroeville hospital. That 2009 grant came through the secretive capital budget process, in which projects frequently are not pinned to sponsors. Legislative leaders often submit amendments containing lawmakers' pet projects.
"The governor released it," Logan said of the UPMC grant -- and indeed, the governor releases all capital budget grants after the Legislature allocates the money.
UPMC spokesman Paul Wood said the decision to build in Monroeville was announced in March 2008, "more than 19 months before our announcement to close UPMC Braddock."
Braddock Mayor John Fetterman praised Logan as a man of integrity.
"If UPMC had him all along, we may still have the hospital," Fetterman said. "I think he's a great guy and a real straight-shooter. I think he will add a lot of the depth that UPMC lacks."
Logan has weathered other controversies. He voted against the repealed 2005 legislative pay raise but accepted the first checks from the increase that lawmakers called "unvouchered expenses." As criticism of the pay fiasco mounted, he sponsored the bill to repeal the raise for lawmakers, judges and some state officials.
He said his new job would not involve lobbying, but he might register as a lobbyist to "protect myself."
Lt. Gov. Joe Scarnati, who serves as Senate president, said he intends to call a special election for Logan's seat concurrent with the Nov. 2 general election.
"I'm shocked to see him resign," said Rep. Tony DeLuca, a Penn Hills Democrat. "... I hate to see him go. He was an asset to the Senate, his district and this state. He had the respect on both sides of the aisle with Democrats and Republicans."
It's unclear how many people might run for Logan's seat. The Allegheny County Democratic and Republican committees will nominate candidates once there's a vacancy.
"Someone needs to hit the ground running. This will be a short race to November," Logan said. He pointed to McKeesport Mayor Jim Brewster, a Democratic opponent of his in 2000, as a public official who could step right in. Brewster could not be reached for comment.
Rep. Marc Gergley, another McKeesport Democrat, said he expects to decide soon whether to run.
The Braddock hospital issue continues to raises questions.
During a meeting Feb. 19 in Allegheny County Executive Dan Onorato's office, Logan and community leaders discussed what would happen to UPMC's Braddock facility. Logan and Onorato told Braddock residents about a $29 million plan to raze and redevelop the site.
Citizens activist Buba said film footage of the demolition would make a fitting end to a documentary he's making about the situation. Buba said Logan got out of his chair and began a profanity-laced tirade against him, saying the ending footage should be the ribbon-cutting when the site is redeveloped.
"Everybody was just stunned," said Buba, who called the incident his "only real interaction with Sean."
"Absolutely inaccurate," Logan said of that account. The Braddock group made unreasonable demands, including a $50 million "development fund" that UPMC would pay over 10 years, he said.