Friday, August 31, 2007

Ravenstahl hush-hush on findings by Pittsburgh ethics panel - Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Be open. Be honest.
Ravenstahl hush-hush on findings by Pittsburgh ethics panel - Pittsburgh Tribune-Review The mayor received those recommendations in the form of a letter from the board Tuesday, but he has kept it secret.
Rule #1 in public life: "Don't keep secrets."

I hate secrets. Everyone in Pittsburgh hates them too. We are nebby.

Luke, it isn't going to work. It looks bad. It is bad policy. It is not what public officials are to do.

Here are the four cornerstones of my ideal and what I want to be and project:

I care. I think it is important to have care and concern for others and our shared spaces. And, I want to be able so say I offered care too. I care for my kids as a stay-at-home-dad.

I want to be loving. Love is what makes the world go around -- beyond the science of it all. I love the city. The love I have for family and friends should not be questioned. I offer tough love advice -- but they come from a love of coaching and a love for the hope of improvements. I'd love to make this world better. I love to talk about and advance solutions, mine and from elsewhere.

I am open. There is nothing to hide when you do you best and give your all. When things are open, things can improve. Issues can be talked about, in the open. The best solutions can be found -- when things are open. Be open for business, remarks, attacks and contributions.

I want to be honest. Facts, data, research and objective observations are necessary. We can't fool ourselves and others. We can't ignore issues, problems and people for any reason. Lies stink. So do half-truths.

Update: The letter was released by the Ethics Hearing Board today.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Ethics board releases Ravenstahl letter
By Jeremy Boren
Friday, August 31, 2007

Pittsburgh's Ethics Hearing Board today released a letter it sent to Mayor Luke Ravenstahl that advises him to avoid accepting free admission to pricey charity events from companies that do business with the city.

Ravenstahl accepted two rounds of free golf June 27 and 28 at the Mario Lemieux Celebrity Invitational at the exclusive Laurel Valley Golf Club in Ligonier. The annual golf tournament was sponsored by the Mario Lemieux Foundation, a charity. The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and the Pittsburgh Penguins made a donation to the foundation that allowed Ravenstahl to attend. It amounted to a $9,000 ticket to play at the event, which raises money for cancer research and is closed to the public.

The Ethics Hearing Board met Aug. 21 to question Ravenstahl about the gift. It cleared him of violating the city's Ethics Code but promised to recommend changes -- in the form of a written letter to Ravenstahl -- that could strengthen the rules.

Ravenstahl and the board initially refused to release the letter on Thursday, but relented today.

"We acknowledge that the intent of the city official may well be to help raise money for the charity," says the two-page letter, dated Aug. 24. "Our concern is that the public's perception may be that the party underwriting the high priced fee may seek to gain special consideration in exchange for their charitable support, or may have unique opportunities for access."

"Public perception matters greatly in such circumstances," it says. "Even if no quid pro quo is granted, the perception of favoritism or privileged access may persist. Such concerns could lead to an erosion of the public's trust in the impartiality of city officials in key decisions, agreements or contract awards. This breach of confidence must be avoided."

Ravenstahl's office did not immediately return a telephone call today.

The board recommends two changes to the city's Ethics Code based on similar rules they researched in the U.S. Senate Rules Committee, U.S. House Ethics Committee and elsewhere.

The board suggests invitations to public officials "must come directly from the sponsoring charity" and must be paid for by the charity, not an "interested party" that does business with the city.

UPMC has two multimillion-dollar contracts with the city to handle its workers compensation plan. The Penguins are in talks with the city-county Sports & Exhibition Authority to finalize a lease agreement for a $290 million Uptown arena. The Pens eventually will need approval from the city's Planning Commission for a master plan development. Ravenstahl appoints members to the commission.

Pittsburgh's rules prohibit public officials from accepting free admission to events worth more than $250 in a year, but there is no upper limit for charitable events. The board doesn't set a specific dollar limit for attending such events in its letter, but it says Ravenstahl should avoid accepting freebies to events "where the price of admission is above the means of most city residents" and is paid for by an interested party.

The median annual income in Pittsburgh is about $30,200, according to U.S. Census data. Ravenstahl is paid $96,141 a year.

The board also wants the ethics rules to state that the Ethics Hearing Board could be consulted "to clarify grey areas" for the mayor and his staff on all ethics matters. It notes that Denver has a similar process that allows the mayor to consult with an ethics board.

The letter invites Ravenstahl to reply with his thoughts on the proposed plan by Tuesday, in time for the Ethics Hearing Board's next meeting on Sept. 7.

Jeremy Boren can be reached at or (412) 765-2312.