Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The Ford Breakdown

Once again...

6. Termination: Either party may terminate this Agreement for any reason by giving 30 days advance written notice of its or his intention to do so to the other party at the address set forth in the caption of this Agreement. If, however, the Authority terminates this Agreement prior to the Expiration Date [12/31/08] or any extension or renewal thereof, as the case may be, without Just Cause, it shall pay Ford an amount equal to one year's salary based on the annual salary paid to Ford on the effective date of termination (the "Severance Payment").

The URA's September meeting will be held tomorrow, Thursday the 11th, at 2:00 PM on the 13th floor of 200 Ross St. There are no items currently marked on the agenda related to the employment status of its Executive Director, but all agendas are subject to change at the last moment.

On April 9th, Ford was placed on temporary paid leave of absence after having confessed to accepting small gifts from a Lamar Advertising executive and alleging a smear campaign against him by political rivals to the Tribune-Review. Since that time, Mr. Ford has collected approximately $48,000 in salary.

On August 6th, Ford's attorney announced that his client was "cleared" of wrongdoing by the State Ethics Commission based on his understanding of procedure, and requested that Ford be reinstated by the URA. When proof of Ford's vindication was not forthcoming, he went on to accuse the SEC of foot-dragging and playing politics.

On August 23rd, news broke that Ford's wife Alecia Sirk had been soliciting friends including some city vendors and developers for contributions to her husband's legal defense fund. This was problematic, given the nature of the original allegations about Ford.

On August 26th, the Post-Gazzette met with Ford's attorney and discussed some irregular parking lot contracts; news of these broke earlier this week.

On August 27th, Pat Ford attempted to resign from the Authority effective 12/31/08, charging a "culture of deception and corruption." This resignation was tendered with 125 days advance written notice -- much longer than called for in his contract, during which he would earn another $35,000 in salary.

The URA does not need to take a hard line toward Ford's antics and accusations; it might decide it would be prudent to pay him through the remainder of his contract. Or, it could take a more demanding interpretation towards Ford's duties as Director and a more exacting interpretation of Just Cause by terminating his contract immediately.

UPDATE: Or, it could give both Ford & Sirk much more money than they are entitled to just to go away quietly (Burgh Report).


While we're on the subject of those parking lot contracts...

The lots -- Downtown and in the Strip District -- are now run by William Penn Parking, a Green Tree firm owned by Robert Gigliotti. He's known in government circles as the valet provider and some-time political liaison at LeMont restaurant, scene of high-dollar fund-raisers, including Mayor Luke Ravenstahl's.

Known by whom?

What is this LeMont, where valet drivers are kingmakers, where political liaisons forge political alliances among political players, and where they don't take American Express? Is it like Studio 54? Is it more likely to be frequented by labor leaders, captains of industry, university moguls, whom?

Has it been so for a very long time? Are its best days behind it in this respect, or is it in full bloom?

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Tuesday: Sui Generis

He's right, you know. You don't have to retry Cyril Wecht.

Our holding today that there is no constitutional bar to retrying Dr. Wecht does not stand for the proposition that he must be retried. That is a decision that rests with the Government. Indeed, Wecht’s prosecution is one that already has spanned more than thirty months. It has resulted in numerous appeals and emergency motions to this Court and, with the filing of this opinion, three lengthy precedential opinions. (Busman's Holiday)

We cannot and would not reduce it to "common sense" (P-G Edit Board), but there is honor in strategic withdrawal when it is done in support of one's overarching objectives.


"I think there needs to be greater oversight by the URA board," said Mr. Ferlo, D-Highland Park, a member of that board. "We should know: Who are the respective bidders? What are the amounts? Why is the staff choosing one over the other?" (P-G, Rich Lord)

Grrrr, staff!

Ferlo wants URA staff to identify bidders and their bids on meeting agendas; publicly list company names, contact information and principals of all contract winners; post contract proposals worth more than $100,000 on the URA's Web site a month before a formal vote happens; and set up a Web site listing the dollar amounts of firms' competitive contract offers. (Trib, Jeremy Boren)

It would also be helpful to have a column on the website listing the political contributions of all contract winners, bidders and principals involved.


State tax officials have sided with Pittsburgh Controller Michael Lamb in a dispute with a Downtown property owner over taxes due on a June 3 building transfer, resulting in $1.66 million in revenue due to the city, state and Pittsburgh Public Schools, the controller announced yesterday. (P-G, Team Effort)

Bravo! And they asked, "Why would anyone run for Controller?" On to the next exciting task!


The conversation continues (Slag Heap). Click through to the old City Paper article that features an officer listening to G&R on an iPod during questioning from the formidable Citizens Police Review Board.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Smoking Ban Arrives Thursday

Under a state law effective Thursday, smoking is banned in enclosed workplaces and commercial establishments and in areas where the public is invited or permitted. Among areas where smoking will be permitted: (Trib, Fabregas & Wereschagin)

Selected exceptions to the ban:

• Bars where food accounts for 20 percent or less of annual sales

How can anyone tell?

• Up to 25 percent of a casino floor

Well, naturally. Ca-ching, ca-ching!

• Private clubs

Now, with even more allure!

• Cigar bars

• Tobacco shops; manufacturers, importers or wholesalers of tobacco products; manufacturers of tobacco-related products such as lighters

Get ready for a meteoric rise in cigar culture, especially considering the local mystique.

• Designated outdoor smoking areas at sports or recreational facilities, theaters or performance establishments

Okay, so this is not the Revolution, nor is it prohibition. It's regulation and accommodation.

Sniffing out violators of Pennsylvania's smoking ban will fall on the shoulders of people bothered by the smoke. (Trib, Luis Fabregas)

Um, really?

The state is encouraging people who see smoking ban violations to call an automated help line, 877-835-9535, and leave a message describing the violation and where and when it occurred.

A warning letter and educational materials will be sent to the violator. If complaints continue, the state could issue a $250 fine, which increases to $1,000 for repeated violations.

Boy, when the tobacco lobby and the restaurant lobby want to water something down, they really water something down, huh?

Monday: Political Everything!

And another thing:

The URA awarded William Penn control of the Downtown lot despite the fact that Kail's Parking offered to pay the agency $2,050 a month more. In the Strip District, William Penn won the contract with the high bid of $1,200 a month, then was allowed to lower the amount by $483 a month -- a move that an executive from runner-up Central Parking called "not standard procedure." (P-G, Rich Lord)

It's another Monday morning, right? When will we all learn?

The leases were awarded without a vote of the URA board, though the agency told bidders in writing that the board would make the decisions.

Sure, why not?

Mr. Gigliotti [of William Penn Parking] is best known in political circles as the valet for LeMont, where he is involved in handling political fund-raisers.

His wife, Linda Gigliotti, is the Pittsburgh police officer who coordinates other officers' off-duty, private details.

The URA The entire system of Authority-led governance is in crisis. That much we know now without having to resort to anything exotic.


414 Grant Street is done mincing words.
The Burgher discovers a straight-up contradiction in statements URA Acting Director Rob Stephany made about the McTish contract.