Friday, December 8, 2006

Connections with Dennis Regan Push Yet Another Mayor into Rank Stupidity

The story all over the Burghoshere -- Burgh Report, 2PJs -- this morning (and also in stories by the Post-Gazette's Rich Lord and Ed Blazina and the Tribune-Review's Jeremy Boren and Jill King Greenwood) is that Mayor Luke Ravenstahl's administration has demoted Pittsburgh Police Commander Catherine McNeilly. Effective immediately, Ms. McNeilly has been reduced in rank to Lieutenant and assigned to a desk position in the Warrants section of the Municipal Court building. I guess Master Ravenstahl (and his teachers) believe that to be a nice out-of-the way spot to hide her until the storm blows over. She will also lose about $10,000 per year from her pay.

I can only urge Ms. McNeilly, in the strongest terms possible, to sue. Sue, sue, sue, sue, sue!

I say that even though I usually have a knee-jerk reaction against using the civil courts to address these kinds of matters, and despite the fact that city can ill-afford both the legal fees and any monetary judgement awarded to Ms. McNeilly as a result of such a lawsuit. But when a public official like Master Ravenstahl behaves with such transparent stupidity and is completely blind to any thing approaching common sense, then the courts seem to be the only recourse.

Let's get all the events straight in our minds. First, our late mayor, Bob O'Connor appoints his friend, Dennis Regan, to be a kind of general advisor in his administration. That was a stupid decision, because Mr. Regan had absolutely no governmental experience of any kind, but a chief executive has the leeway to appoint any advisors he or she feels most comfortable with. It crossed the line from merely stupid to incredible rank stupidity when Mayor O'Connor got sick and Mr. Regan took over the mayor's position in everything but name. Mr. Regan's actions during this time, the clear result of trusting the untrustworthy with too much power, have already been documented in an earlier post.

Once young Master Ravenstahl was sworn in, Mr. Regan somehow managed to cast his Svengali-like influence over our new mayor, and the stupidity began growing at a geometric rate. First, there was the idiotic decision to appoint this failed businessman as our (of all things) Director of Public Safety, a position that he was clearly unqualified for. In response, Ms. McNeilly saved us all by sharing the details of Mr. Regan's interference in a police disciplinary matter with some members of City Council. Note that she didn't contact the media, hold a press conference, or even leak the files to a few reporter friends of hers. She simply gave City Council the information they needed to evaluate Master Ravenstahl's ridiculous choice for Director of Public Safety.

For that, at least in my eyes, she is to be commended.

And then came the stupidity of the last week. First Master Ravenstahl somehow ignored the obvious and decided that Mr. Regan had done nothing wrong. And now he turns around and decides that it was instead Ms. McNeilly who was guilty of misconduct, even though it would appear that she is protected from retaliation by the state's whistle-blower statutes.

That's it. Stick a fork in the idea the Master Luke Ravenstahl is qualified to be Mayor of Pittsburgh, because that idea is dead and gone. It's not because he's too young; it's because he is too stupid. He has no ideas of his own. He is a pawn in the hands of more experienced political operatives from the city's ancient Democratic machine. He lacks the courage to admit that he made a gross error in appointing Mr. Regan as Public Saftey Director, when the mistake is so glaringly obvious. He is punishing Ms. McNeilly for revealing him to be the fool that the truly is. And he is stupid enough to believe that he will get away with it.

Let's hope William Peduto is smart enough to both beat Master Ravenstahl in the forthcoming primary and to run the city on his own once he enters office. Ideally, of course, we would instead be able to elect a Mayor from outside the Democratic Party. But since that will never happen, Mr. Peduto is at least a better choice than the rank stupidity that we have right now.


Mark Rauterkus said...

No, no, no.... You try to get the events in order. But, you fail to go to the real source of the troubles. And, in this town, it seems, all roads to hell begin with Tom Murphy.

Tom Murphy's police chief was Robert McNeilly. The McNeilly's were Murphy's -- and this was a rub in many ways for many years.

Catherine McNeilly was a plant at a mayor debate in 2001 and gave a zinger to O'Connor then. Fireworks were happening then. And there was some lawn sign snaffu too.

PS: I posted to my transportation blog a photo you'll love @ the turnpike. See and zoom in on the photo.

Richmond K. Turner said...

I can see there being bad blood between the McNeilly family and Bob O'Connor. I wasn't suprised to see Robert McNeilly depart as police chief because of it. But when the 2001 election took place, Luke Ravenstahl was still trying to figure out who he was going to ask to his fraternity's spring formal. He has no real personal beef with either McNeilly.

So what your saying is that more established members of the Democratic machine are basically controlling the decisions that Master Ravenstahl is making. That makes me feel, if anything, even worse.

PS: The picture has the humor value you were looking for, and I've seen similar scenes during some travels in Eastern Europe. But the sad thing is that even Communist-era statues are far more attractive than the Breezewood "interchange" with I-70.

Anonymous said...

It's the awful truth. Taxpayer-funded (through Lamar's goodwill or otherwise) billboards, promotion and placement of unqualified hacks, women with distinguished careers cast aside and humiliated, campaigning on city-time...the list goes on. Murphy is hardly responsible for decisions made in '06 - Opie is. The PG should be as quick to attribute responsibility for such MAJOR mistakes that HE HIMSELF commits as they are to embrace Opie for programs he claims credit for, but did not initiate.

Anonymous said...

All she did was share personal information with member of Council?

I don't think so. It was a violation that she got demoted for, she was clearly in the wrong.

Anonymous said...

I'm sure the Peduto clan will push for her to sue so he can bring some negative press to our great Mayor Luke. Too bad though...this issue isn't big enough to sink him.

Anonymous said...

Commander McNeilly should be applauded for doing what every other city employee (except the brain-trust in the mayor's office) was thinking, but didn't have the guts to do. What people should learn from this is that if the boy king is told that the ship is headed for an iceberg, after giving himself 50 days to think about the subject & spending $20,000 of someone else's $, he will plow the ship directly into the iceberg and then throw the person who brought it to his attention into the water as he helps the person who had no business being behind the wheel in the first place obtain first-class passage on another, safer ship. Of course, these are hard decisions for a group of people who have no management experience, but decisions that come naturally to good, well-meaning leaders. It's when you are trying to protect your own tail or engineering a particular result that things become this, well, stupid.

Richmond K. Turner said...

All she did was share personal information with member of Council?

I don't think so. It was a violation that she got demoted for, she was clearly in the wrong.

You know, you bring up a good point -- but I don't think that it was really the one you wanted to make. I went back diving into all the news stories about Ms. McNeilly's suspension and demotion. And absoultely none of them specifically mention what she is supposed to have done wrong. She appears to have been punished for no specific reason whatsoever.

A story from October 13 in the Post-Gazette states that Ms. McNeilly was being investigated to determine whether "... she improperly released personnel records", but it makes no mention of whom she released these records to. An earlier article from October 10 states that "Zone 1 Cmdr. Catherine McNeilly, meanwhile, dropped a bombshell in an e-mail to the mayor and all council members [my emphasis] inferring that Mr. Regan was involved in preventing discipline against the brother of his housemate."

Since today's news was not accompanied by any more details, these old articles are the only source of information available about what she is accused of doing. There are no claims -- no public claims, at least -- that she sent her e-mail to anyone outside of the mayor and the members of City Council.

I will grant that the press seems to have been very well informed about the contents of the McNeilly e-mail, quoting entire passages of it verbatim. But it seems unlikely that she herself leaked it to the media. The leak almost certainly came from one of the Council members who are after the mayor's job.

So thanks for your comment. It made me do a bit more research to see just what Ms. McNeilly was really accused of. And now that I know more, it seems very clear that she was demoted solely for making the Mayor look like an idiot, and that she is almost certainly protected by the state's whistleblower laws.

Anonymous said...

I couldn't agree more with Mr. Turner and the "anonymous" writer. It is unclear why the mainstream media seems intent on helping Ravenstahl benefit from his brief "incumbency." As you aptly point out, he has demonstrated a clear inability to govern.

During this brief period of time, Luke (1) secured a bogus election opinion designed to keep him in office w/o an election; (2) immediately made Regan his director of operations; (3) tried to make Regan his public safety director; (4) retained a spokesman who has not uttered a credible statement in months if not years; (5) promoted Zober despite his flat out misrepresentations regarding his purpose and role with respect to the Dept of General Services; (6) flip-flopped on the Penguins to support a plan that makes no sense to anyone except for the politicians who have apparently had their palms greased; (7) oversaw a bogus "investigation" of one or more of Regan's misdeeds designed aimed at punishing the whistleblower; (8) retained and paid Regan during the "investigation;" (9) insisted on secrecy despite the obvious public concern in matters of police interference; and (10) improperly disciplined the whistleblower who had the audacity to tell City Council what many people (including the mayor) already knew.

Yet, according to the PG editorial staff (today), Luke "has made a good impression or at least avoided major mistakes." So, what constitutes a "major mistake?"

Richmond K. Turner said...

Thanks for your perspective on things. You brought up a number of howling errors on the part of Master Ravenstahl that I had neglected to mention.

Like you, I read the editorial in today's Post-Gazette in incredulous disbelief. I really can't understand how they could make their claim of "no major mistakes" in the exact same issue of the paper which contained the story on Ms. McNeilly's demotion.

However, they did include a few cautionary words:

But "so far so good" should not be enough recommendation for thoughtful voters to endorse [Ravenstahl]. He needs to lay out a sensible plan of action for Pittsburgh that is fully cognizant of the fact that the city must live within its means.

When I examine that part of the editorial, I think that the Post-Gazette is about where I was last week when the Regan investigation results were announced. They are putting Master Ravenstahl on notice that he needs to come up with some original ideas of his own, and soon, if he is to win their endorsement.

For those of us who have watched this trainwreck unfold, of course, it's already too late for that. We already know that Master Ravenstahl is seemingly devoid of any original plans. I would write a letter to the P-G, but what's the point? I already have my own forum here.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...

"I'm sure the Peduto clan will push for her to sue so he can bring some negative press to our great Mayor Luke. Too bad though...this issue isn't big enough to sink him."

It doesn't matter what the Peduto clan wants, she has a good case. She will pursue it or drop it regardless of any benefit to a 3rd party.

In reality, she has 180 days to file a claim. I don't know if that is from the day she was suspended or demoted, but either way, I imagine it is only a one day story. The trial probably won't get underway til after the election.

Anonymous said...

Spokes people never say anything important. They always tow the company line and stay consitent with the Mayors policies.

Anonymous said...

No one has said she was getting in trouble because she released it to anyone outside of City Council & the Mayors office.

Releasing it to ANYONE was a violation.

Richmond K. Turner said...

Actually, when I look at the state's whistleblower laws (as posted on The Burgh Report), the mayor and the City Council appear to be precisely the people to whom such an email was to be addressed:

No employer may discharge, threaten or otherwise discriminate or retaliate against an employee regarding the employee's compensation, terms, conditions, location or privileges of employment because the employee or a person acting on behalf of the employee makes a good faith report or is about to report, verbally or in writing, to the employer or appropriate authority an instance of wrongdoing or waste.

So even if this was one of those big, scary "violations" that result in the public knowing what's going on with their tax dollars (can't have that!), it's still something that appears to be protected by the whistleblower statues.

Anonymous said...

Indeed, McNeilly's report would appear to fall squarely within the Whistleblower statute. It is also protected speech under the First Amendment since it involves a matter of obvious public concern, i.e. corruption, police management. McNeilly's counsel also noted in an interview with KQV the noticeable pattern of gender discrimination at City Hall. Susan Malie, BJ Lieber, Cathy McNeilly. Professional, diligent? Yes. But each had the nerve to disagree with the short unprincipled men who have been running the City, e.g. Regan, Zober, Lieberman, Ravenstahl.

Anonymous said...

Don't forget Zone 3 Cmdr. Brackney on that list of women.

Sounds like our boy king and his brilliant management team have not only set the taxpayers up for a magnificent whistleblower case, they've also potentially exposed the city to a class action sex discrimination case. Quite the accomplishment at age 26.

I wonder if Luke consulted HR experts in the city's legal department or just went with Zober's 2 year's of legal experience in making that decision? Probably used the same magic that went into the pronouncement that he didn't have to run for mayor until '09.