The executive director of the Allegheny County Democratic Committee abruptly resigned after drawing fire from committee members for what they described as racially insensitive messages that he and his wife allegedly posted on Facebook.
Mark Salvas, 47, of Plum, whom the committee hired in September, resigned on Tuesday, according to committee Solicitor Jim Burn.
Burn said the committee is searching for a replacement, but he declined further comment. Eileen Kelly, who chairs the committee, could not be reached Wednesday.
Salvas did not return a call seeking comment.
“We have a zero tolerance for sexual harassment or racism of any kind,” said state Democratic Committee Chairwoman Nancy Mills. “I think Chairwoman Kelly made the right decision once she was aware of the issues.”
The controversy centers on Facebook posts allegedly made by Salvas and his wife, Cindy DeZort-Salvas, in July and September.
“I’m not sure how to comprehend what he has up there, but it’s insensitive to African Americans,” said state Rep. Ed Gainey, D-Lincoln-Lemington, a committee member. “The action was wrong. The action was insensitive, and for that he had to go. African Americans are the backbone of the Democratic Party, and you can’t have someone at the head of your party not understanding the backbone of the party.”
One of the posts in question showed Salvas and his wife with the message, “I stand for the flag. I kneel at the cross,” apparently a reference to NFL players kneeling during the national anthem, according to a screenshot of the post found on Facebook by the Tribune-Review.
Another post was a request from DeZort-Salvas for donations to help former East Pittsburgh police Officer Michael Rosfeld’s legal defense. Rosfeld, who is white, has been charged with homicide in the fatal shooting of 17-year-old Antwon Rose II after a June traffic stop in East Pittsburgh. The black teenager’s death sparked a series of protests during the summer.
“Michael Rosfeld and his family have been like family to me,” the post said. “I know him to be a very dedicated officer.”
A third post featured an image of a Confederate flag with the message, “A crazy guy shoots up a church and you ban a flag. People stomp on the American Flag and you say it’s their right?!? That’s a special kind of stupid.”
The committee’s executive director basically serves as an office manager. Salvas has been involved with the Democratic Party for years and previously served in the same position during the early 2000s. He ran unsuccessfully in 2015 for Oakmont council and in 2017 for Plum council.
Bob Bauder is a Tribune-Review staff writer.
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