Monday, January 15, 2007

A Failed Attempt to Remove My Tin Foil Hat

Over the weekend, there were a few blog posts and a bit of reporting on the topic of Mayor Luke Ravenstahl's (frankly rather weak) attempts to shift the blame for the whole Dennis Regan situation onto the shoulders of the very dead Bob O'Connor. The Burgh Report posted on it not just once but twice, complete with links to an article in the Post-Gazette and a story that was broadcast on KDKA. A similar post was made on 2 Political Junkies, which referenced a more readable text-based version of the same KDKA story.

As is clear from numerous previous posts, I have become strongly critical of Mayor Ravenstahl and his band of idiots. But this story seemed more than a bit hard to believe. Newsmakers all the way from Sienna Miller up to those whose IQs manage to break into the triple digits continually complain about their quotes being taken out of context. Frankly, I just assumed that the same kind of thing had happened here with Mayor (or, as the Burgh Report more correctly refers to him, Interim Mayor) Ravenstahl.

It would be pretty easy to do. Most news outlets, both print and broadcast, will only report a newsmaker's response to the questions that are thrown out by the reporters, and don't bother to tell us what question was being answered at the time. For example, imagine that the Interim Mayor was hit with a question such as, "Much of what led up to this case took place before you were sworn in as Mayor. To what degree to you hold your own administration responsible for these issues?". Granted, he is a professional politician. He should know by now how to tapdance around these kinds of "gotcha" questions. But it would be easy to understand him tripping up when responding to a question like this, which is all but guaranteed to produce this kind of "It was Bob's fault" response. Then the media, by reporting only the Interim Mayor's response, could easily make it look like Luke Ravenstahl was callously pissing directly on Bob O'Connor's grave.

So I was delighted to see, thanks to Bob Mayo's Busman's Holiday blog and it's associated set of podcasts, that we can all listen -- in it's entirety -- to Interim Mayor Ravenstahl's Q&A session on the McNeilly injunction decision. To me, this was key. I would be able to hear everything that was said, including both the questions and Interm Mayor Ravenstahl's answers. And I fully expected to find that he had been set up by one or more members of the media.

Well, I was wrong. Our Interim Mayor was not fed any questions at all which would have led to some kind of statement about Bob O'Connor's culpability for this fiasco. Instead, he shamelessly walked into that graveyard all on his own, pulled down his zipper, and let the urine fly.

And from what I can tell, Master Ravenstahl was pretty eager to do it. Here is only the second question that he was asked during the Q&A session:

Q: [Catherine McNeilly's] attorneys say, quote, the landscape of this case is strewn with allegations of wrongdoing on the part of police and on the part of an individual in the mayor's office, but that she was the only one who was punished. Your response to that?

Obviously, this question's central focus is on Ms. McNeilly's punishment, and specifically why she was punished but Dennis Regan was not. There is no obvious invitation for Master Ravenstahl to push some of the blame onto his predecessor. Yet that's precisely what the Interim Mayor chose to do:

A: Again these... everything that occurred in regards to this case occurred before I became the mayor. It was something that I had to deal with. It was presented to me. I dealt with it and I feel that I dealt with it appropriately.

As if this wasn't clear enough, the Interim Mayor came back to this theme later on. Again, it was in response to a question (or really, a set of questions) that had absolutely nothing to do with former mayor Bob O'Conner:

Q: You were mayor when Mr. Regan acted as Public Safety Director, although he did not have the position, to overturn the dismissal of a police officer.

A: That occured, correct, that occurred after the investigation had already begun.

Q: (unintelligible) your position and how you dealt with that?

A: The position that Dennis Regan no longer works for the City of Pittsburgh.

Q: Would you have fired him if he hadn't resigned?

A: It's not applicable at this point.

Q: You had the information at the time... Would there have been discipline against him? Did he do anything wrong?

A: He no longer works for us. He worked for Mayor O'Connor and Mayor O'Connor gave him the ability and authority to do what he felt was appropriate and most of these actions and allegation took place under Mayor O'Connor. When Dennis Regan worked for me, he worked for me, and he no longer does...

So there you have it. Luke Raventahl had no good reason to walk down this road. He was in no way invited to cast the blame on Bob O'Connor. He chose to do it all on his own. The only thing that one can assume is that he actually belives that this is all Bob O'Connor's fault. He didn't just say these things as a political ploy, since even the most inexperienced politician must know that criticizing a dead man, and especially Bob O'Connor, is likely to backfire. It's almost amazing to me. Luke Ravenstahl honestly doesn't seem to believe that he played any role whatsoever in creating this mess.

By the way, if Interim Mayor Ravenstahl had one central theme during this session with reporters, it was that whatever sins Dennis Regan may have committed in the past, he is no longer in a position to commit any more of them. You see this theme at the end of the exchange quoted above. And he rang the same bell again and again and again:

Dennis Regan no longer works for the City of Pittsburgh...
Mr. Regan no longer works for the City of Pittsburgh...
He no longer works for the City of Pittsburgh...
... he worked for me, and he no longer does...
He resigned and so... he no longer works for us...

This theme must be something that the Interim Mayor thinks is going to work for him. Not so far beneath the surface of these remarks is a plea for all us to recognize that this is all in the past, and that we should all move on to more important topics.

I'm not so sure that this is going to work. For one thing, as long as this lawsuit is alive, this story is going to keep coming up over and over again. There will be no escaping this situation until Ms. McNeilly's claim is settled, either by agreement or by the courts.

But even more disturbing is the glaring contradiction contained within these repeated statements. Master Ravenstahl appears to be taking credit for the fact that Dennis Regan is no longer employed in city government. Yet, as we have been reminded so many times now, the Interim Mayor's investigation into Mr. Regan's conduct found nothing wrong. There was no reason, according to Master Ravenstahl, to fire Mr. Regan. Instead, Mr. Regan voluntarily resigned from his post.

Sorry, Master Ravenstahl. You can't have it both ways. If you fired Mr. Regan, or even if you asked for his resignation, then you can indeed take credit for his departure. But at the same time, you also have to acknowledge that he did something wrong to justify this decision on your part. If, on the other hand, Dennis Regan did nothing wrong, then his resignation was entirely his own decision and you had nothing to do with it.

So obviously, I can't quite take off my tin foil hat (mandatory apparel for all Ravenstahl critics, or so you would think), at least not all the way. I tried to find a logical reason for Interim Mayor Ravenstahl's behavior, but I couldn't find one. I tried to give him the benefit of the doubt, but it turns out that he didn't deserve it. I really do wish that it had been otherwise, but Master Ravenstahl has, once again, let me down.


EverytimeLukeOpensHisMouthABoneFallsOut said...

Great post - simultaneous with my reading of your post, I was watching an Andy Sheehan/John Delano report on Ch. 2. The report included an interview of Acting Solicitor Specter, who made some interesting admissions. He stated that he "agrees with Cathy McNeilly" and stated that Luke never "asked" for the lawyer's opinion on how to handle Regan.

I find it ridiculous that Luke would not have consulted with his legal staff before making such an important decision - unless, of course, Luke didn't want to hear the "right" answer & preferred Zurone Yober's 2 year's of real estate legal experience & Dick Skrinjar's "Show them who's in charge" cheerleading advice. It really makes me laugh (until I remember the seriousness of the situation) everytime someone says that Luke "needed" to keep the O'Connor B-Team in place & promote them to positions that require maturity, experience & wisdom beyond their combined talents.

This also tells me that Luke is quite comfortable with the band of circus clowns he's surrounded himself with. People should be calling for Luke's resignation, not whining "give him a chance to make his stumbles" - certainly, no other mayor has ever been given such unnecessary deference.

Bottom line, Luke is not a nice guy. He's not a smart guy. He's not without baggage. This election can't happen fast enough.

Anonymous said...

You know that phrase, "me thinks thou doest protest too much"

To me the interim mayor's constant refrain of Denny doesn't live here anymore, smacks a bit of his protesting too much.

Hold on while I adjust my tin foil hat, it's slipping off...

O.K. I'm back.

I think Denny's very much involved and potentially quite powerful, isn't he "working" at Reed Smith, a firm that has many ties to City Hall, the LEAST of which is that they were Yarone Zober's former employer?

Anonymous said...

I doubt Zober has any pull at ReedSmith since he "resigned" after only a year or two there.

However, Glen Mahone is a partner at the firm, was an investor in the Harrah's casino proposal and was a "friend of BOB".

Anonymous said...

You forgot to mention that Mahone is also the lawyer for the Intergovernmental Cooperation Authority and was counsel on the city's bond deal last year.

Anonymous said...

This situation kind of reminds me of Bob Cranmer being hired by L. Robert Kimball & Associates after leaving county employ. Kimball just happened to serve as a consultant to the county during Cranmer's dismal commissionership and coincidentally is a relative of the Rooneys. The Steelers Football Club also hired Cranmer's secretary. Of course, none of this had anything ot do with Cranmer's support and vote for the new stadium.

The Burgher said...

I've posted on following up on this.

In addition to your analysis, you've caught Ravenstahl in another lie, possibly, or maybe just another moment when he doesn't know what he is talking about.

smittyfromtheflats said...

denny ain't working..period...