As ready as he’ll ever be

Jeremy Boren tells us:

Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl [seen here showing how much he loves to roll up his sleeves and watch some kid work] said he’s prepared to prove at a hearing Tuesday that two days of free golf he accepted from the Pittsburgh Penguins and UPMC at a celebrity tournament in June didn’t violate the city’s Ethics Code.

… … …

The mayor has said the free golf doesn’t violate city ethics rules that bar public officials from accepting free admission to events worth more than $150 because the money went to benefit charity.

While his assertion of preparedness seems a bit dubious, as the mayor never seems to be prepared for anything beyond adopting a supercilious attitude and casual dishonesty, he has a decent case that his celebrity golf outing did not violate the city Ethics Code. According to the code:

197.07 OFFERING OR ACCEPTING GIFTS AND FAVORS.

A public official, city employee or agent of the city shall not solicit or accept from an interested party, nor shall any interested party offer or give anything of value to a public official, city employee or agent of the city, subject to the following exceptions:
a) Gifts from direct family members;
b) A non-pecuniary award publicly presented, in recognition of public service;
c) An occasional non-pecuniary gift of nominal value;
d) Complimentary travel for official purposes;
e) Admissions to charitable, civic, political, or other public events;
f) Admissions to cultural or athletic events not to exceed $250.00 per calendar year in the aggregate and $100.00 per calendar year from any single person, agent or other interested party; or
g) Complimentary meals and/or refreshments.

The Mayor’s golf outing was, in addition to being a really unwise place to be while you should be dealing with a room full of angry citizens, pretty clearly a “charitable… event.” On the other hand, the mention of “or other public events” implies that the charitable events must be “public,” which the Mario Lemieux Golf Invitational was emphatically not. While there was a “charitable” aspect to the golfing, it fits much more cleanly in section f under “athletic events.”

If the ethics committee agrees with me, as they might or might not, the Mayor violated the ethics code twice in two days, but can make a strong argument that he did so due to ambiguity in the code. What might be the results of a ruling that the Mayor was in violation of the code? Looky here:

XI. PENALTIES FOR VIOLATING THE ETHICS PROVISIONS

The Board may impose any of the following penalties upon finding a violation of any of the City ethics provisions including the wrongful acts described in the preceding section:
. A letter of admonition to the perpetrator and all relevant parties, indicating that the respondent has been found to have violated City ethics provisions.
[It is nice that someone might finally tell Luke directly that he is unethical.]
. A letter of public censure to the perpetrator and all relevant parties, as well as the news media, indicating that a violation of City ethics provisions took place, and that the Board strongly disapproves of the official’s or employee’s actions.
[I imagine that the news media will be taking some interest in this prior to a letter being sent.]
. Recommendation to the Mayor of suspension without compensation, with notification to the perpetrator and all relevant parties.
[Why do I imagine that the Mayor might decline that recommendation?]
. Recommendation to the Mayor of termination, with notification to the perpetrator and all relevant parties.
[See above.]
. Recommendation of impeachment of an elected official, with notification to the perpetrator and all relevant parties.
[Oh my! Council would never do it, but for it to even be recommended would really be something.]
. Return to the City Treasury a sum of money up to the amount of financial gain resulting from violation of any City ethics provisions, in addition to any other penalty provided by the law or this Chapter. The Board shall determine the amount of financial gain realized.
[Luckily, the code allows “gifts from direct family members.” I am sure there is a Ravenstahl out there who can afford the cost of a golf outing.]
. Barring a person or entity from participation in business dealings with the City for a period to be determined by the Board.
[I can’t picture the ethics board banning 500-pound-gorillas like the University of Pittsburgh or the Penguins from doing business with the city.]
. A fine of up to $1,000 per violation.
[One or two thousand? Is each day a violation?]
. Criminal prosecution by the proper authority where there is a violation of federal or state law.
[Good gracious. Seems far-fetched, but they managed to indict Twanda Carlisle.]

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