Wednesday, January 31, 2007

The Motznik Mash-Up: Ravenstahl & Peduto

Peduto Denies Motznik Claim, Ravenstahl Responds To Both Councilmen

I’m trying something different for my latest podcast.

Councilman Jim Motznik says he has decided to go along with the Mayor’s request and stop blogging. Despite the brief life of the ‘Motznik Speaks Out’ blog, he’s generated the first opportunity to podcast a point/counterpoint of the competing mayoral candidates. You can click on the icon below to go to my podcast page for the Luke Ravenstahl/Bill Peduto five-minute audio mash-up.

They’re presented in chronological order. First, Peduto responds to Motznik, then Ravenstahl comments on Motznik and responds to Peduto.


Tuesday, January 30, 2007

These Boots Are Made For Blogging

Councilman Jim Motznik jumps in with both feet

nd so, I thought, it's time to take a break from more serious blogging. The first month of The Busman's Holiday blog has been dominated by government and court-related posts, so I added Sunday’s lighter entry. Then this link arrived in an e-mail to my BlackBerry.

As the PG's Rich Lord puts it: "City Councilman Jim Motznik is blogging, and Pittsburgh politics is a more perilous place".

Pittsburgh blogs are buzzing with posts and comments on the news:

2 Political Junkies writes "Welcome Aboard, Councilman Motznik!".

The Burgh Report says "Motznik Is One of Us".

The People's Republic of Pittsburgh says "every other political blogger in the city is baking pies and dropping off casserole dishes to welcome" the councilman's new blog.

The Pittsburgh Comet is concerned that local bloggers are "getting a bum rap because of those moonlighters".

The Angry Drunk Bureaucrat compares all of this to a tiff in a high school lunch room.

At this writing, the MacYapper response from John McIntire had not yet been posted. (Update: it's there now.)

Council is back in session this morning. At the end of the Tuesday meetings, council members can bring up any issues on their minds, unrelated to legislation. It can make for some of the livelier extemporaneous comments; I'd nicknamed it "The Improv". My guess is that they won't touch the councilman's entry into the "burghosphere". That will probably be left to reporter Q&A after the meeting.

Note: Thanks to the Honorable Judge Peckham for the kind mention in The Carbolic Smoke Ball.


Sunday, January 28, 2007

Full-Scale Zombie Attack?

“City wants Downtown blueprint for disaster”
–Pittsburgh Tribune-Review headline

Hmm. There’s a $589,300 contract submitted to City Council for a private firm to develop new evacuation plans for downtown.

It makes this item from The Onion seem ripe for an update. The Onion is, I believe, the Madison WI equivalent of The Carbolic Smoke Ball.


A Quick Question for Readers

If you don't tell me, who will?

re you seeing all of the graphics in The Busman's Holiday blog?

I was surprised to discover that one of the PCs at my library has trouble displaying this blog. Apparently, there’s a version of Microsoft’s Internet Explorer that has a problem with graphics saved in the png file format.

If necessary, I can always go back and redo past posts using jpg images instead. Please post a comment here, or drop me an e-mail , if you’ve ever run into problems viewing The Busman’s Holiday.


Wednesday, January 24, 2007

‘On The Grand Jury Beat’ & Other Reporter Notes

Okay, it doesn’t look like this––
but it felt like it at the time.

(Grand Jury investigations are protracted, complex, and difficult for everyone involved. By their nature, they are secret. Nonetheless, news organizations are obliged to cover them when their focus may involve some aspect of government. This post intends no disrespect for those who face dealing with this legal process. If anything, it's intended as a self-deprecating look at what's sometimes involved for reporters in covering it.)

I spent much of my day on Tuesday patrolling the halls of federal court, covering Sheriff Deputy Gim Yee's appearance before the grand jury. This sort of thing is always an odd and interesting experience. Reporters from most news organizations in town sit or stand outside the room where subpoenaed witnesses are to appear. We alternate between cell phone conversations––whispered out of earshot––and the small talk you'd hear in any workplace. When the door opens, you never know who will exit. Once it was an FBI agent, whom I greeted with "just like old times"––a reference to media stakeouts during the Wecht and Sheriff's office investigations.

When Deputy Sheriff Yee and his attorney Mark Lancaster suddenly appeared in the hallway, they briskly walked through the middle of the media camp-out. Reporters scrambled: simultaneously calling out questions to the men, phoning to alert the photographers who must wait in the breezy cold out on Grant Street, and calculating which of several routes the pair might take to exit the building.

Yee and Lancaster power-walked toward the far end of the long hallway, suggesting they were heading for the elevators which would deposit them a block down the street from the photographers.

Then at the elevator bank, they made a sharp turn to the left and through the doors of a stairwell. At least one reporter still took an elevator, hoping to get ahead of them and warn the photographers. The rest of us quickly followed down the steps. Would they walk down seven floors? It was looking like it. I called after them as we followed, "Would you gentlemen be willing to stop and talk with us, once we're outside?" Lancaster answered "no". "Would you recommend stair-walking as part of a cardiovascular fitness program?" A chuckle came from Lancaster, but no firm endorsement.

When we reached the second floor, they left the stairwell and appeared to be heading for the U.S. Marshall's office. On this floor, they reversed field, heading down this second long hallway in a direction completely opposite their path on the seventh floor. They would exit where the photographers were waiting, after all.

Or not. In the end, the attorney and the witness left federal court via a loading dock at the rear of the building. When reporters and photographers converged on them, it was at the corner of 7th and Grant, as they prepared to cross the intersection. That's where the on-camera exchange of questions and "no comment" you saw on the news took place.

Some random notes:

•Mackenzie Carpenter of the Post-Gazette has a story that sets the scene for monitoring local campaign web sites. still appears to be a placeholder for things to come; its only link is a form for contacting the campaign. A check of this morning shows it has no links at all yet.

•Readers are still posting comments about the recent intersection of local blogging and mainstream media coverage of the Ravenstahl incident. You can click here to read the latest, including my response to some anonymous posters.


Saturday, January 20, 2007

Two Takes: The Ex-Chief & The FOP President

"If the Mayor had been forthright about this months ago, then this wouldn't even be an issue now."
Former City Police Chief Robert McNeilly

I've posted two new podcasts.

Former Pittsburgh Police Chief Robert McNeilly talks about credibility, police procedures, and the questions about the 2005 run-in between Mayor Luke Ravenstahl and a city police officer.

Police union President Jim Malloy says it's an officer has discretion in deciding how to deal with such incidents. He also offers his observations about what happened.

"A lot's being made out of a two-year-old issue that was settled
... they walked away and that was the end of it."
Police Union President Jim Malloy

Meanwhile, Officer Mark Hoehn is keeping a low profile, but he did say this much to me on Friday:

"As the mayor says, we shook hands. I told him it was over. As far I'm concerned, it's over. I'm not doing interviews. According to regulations, we're not supposed to talk to the media."

Police Chief Nate Harper is declining to grant permission for any police officers to speak with reporters about the incident.

Here’s my TV report on the Pittsburgh Channel. Click the top link under ‘Video’ on that page.

(Please drop me an e-mail if you notice any page layout or audio issues on the blog. Thanks.)


Thursday, January 18, 2007

MacYapper Speaks: The Ravenstahl Rumors (Update)

"The appealing thing about the blogosphere is that you can raise questions... and that's what i did."
-John McIntire

t's the post that rocked Pittsburgh's blogosphere.

Talk show host/MacYapper blogger John McIntire set off shockwaves when he went public with rumors about Mayor Luke Ravenstahl's 2005 encounter with a police officer that included sharp words and the clicking of handcuffs.

Now you can hear my entire interview with the MacYapper. I’ve posted the Q&A on my podcast page.

The Pittsburgh Channel has Channel 4 Action News coverage, including Jim Parsons' entire sit-down interview with the mayor giving his side of what happened. Click the links under “Video” on the Pittsburgh Channel stories.

The podcasts should work with any media player, though I imagine you'll get the best results with the latest version of QuickTime.

A note to those posting links: the earlier version of this entry was deleted when the update went online.


Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Q&A: Solicitor Specter Speaks Out

“The investigation was conducted in a fair and thorough fashion.”

–Acting City Solicitor George Specter

Here are some excerpts from my question-and-answer session with Acting City Solicitor George Specter concerning the Dennis Regan investigation.

Q: "Why the decision to talk to the media now about this case?"

A: "I wanted to talk to the media because of the accusations that were made against me in public."

Q: "What accusations?"

A: "The accusation that I attended a meeting on August 16, 2006 at which I heard Dom Costa discuss carrying out Regan's order, or vice versa, Regan ordering him to promote officer Rende to detective. And that's not true. I never heard anything like that. There was an August 16th meeting, but it had nothing to do with that matter."

(A technical problem interrupted the videotaping, and we started again for the camera.)

Q: "Again, why the decision to talk to the media now?"

A: I wanted to talk to the media because there have been some accusations made to media that--in public--about me and about my prior involvement in the Rende matter. Apparently stemming from this meeting on August 16, 2006. That meeting did not relate to the Rende matter; I never heard of the Rende matter prior to that time, and was unaware of it after that meeting ended."

Q: "Did you witness firsthand any evidence that Dennis Regan was pressing Chief Costa to promote an officer who Costa believed was not qualified?"

A: "Not at all."

Q: "Your report to the mayor appears to indirectly acknowledge that you were present for this. You recount that Costa says you were at the meeting. You don't say 'Costa says this, but this isn't true'? "

A: "What happens is, it's very simple. A couple of weeks before the meeting, I receive an e-mail from Chief Costa, asking me to attend a meeting with him and Officer Degler. A week or so after that he sent me an e-mail saying that he had scheduled a meeting at Dennis Regan's office on August 16 with himself, Dennis Regan, Officer Degler, and me. I put it on my calendar and went to the meeting. ...(Editor's Note: Specter details the meeting with Degler.)... After which, Degler got up and left. I followed immediately. I got up and said 'do you need me for anything else', and they said no, and I left."

Q: "Costa's statement puts you in the room interacting with Regan and with him as part of the incident, doesn't it?"

A: "It appears to, yes."

Q: "His statement, he said, places you in the room. He describes her leaving, and then he said over the course of the discussion 'Regan asked why, and George Specter said "Well, contract. They don't have graded detectives because of the contract."' So he actually describes you interacting with Dennis Regan and with him. Is that a lie? "

A: "I have to tell you. He may have said to Dennis Regan something along those lines, but I will tell you absolutely, Bob, I didn't even know what a graded detective was at the time, and I never had occasion to read the police contract. So, I wouldn't have said that."

Q: "So you were not in the room when this alleged activity took place?"

A: "That's right."

Q: "... If you weren't in the room, in your report to the mayor, why didn't you say, 'I'm falsely being represented as being witness to this'? Isn't that in itself important information?"

A: "That was an oversight on my part. In retrospect, do I regret not saying that? Absolutely. But, as far as the discussion about a detective is concerned, I wouldn't have known that. And frankly, if Costa or Regan, if Costa said to Regan as I was standing there, 'I took care of that matter', it would have been a meaningless statement to me. He might as well have said anything. I was leaving."

Q: "But the Costa statement not only has that. The Costa statement goes much further, and describes the entire exchange about 'I want him to be a detective now', places you in the room witnessing that. That's all an extended--misrepresentation? False statement? What, from the former chief?"

A: "I wouldn't want to accuse Dom Costa of making a -- of misrepresenting intentionally, or speaking falsely or anything. I think that my recollection is just very clear. I got up and said, do you need me for anything, and they said 'no'. And that--end of story."

(Later in the interview...)

A: "...the allegation that he (Regan) had sought to pressure Chief Costa into better positions for Officer Rende. On that one, as you correctly noted, 'I said credence has to be given, despite Regan's stout denials, credence has to be given to what actually happened. Costa said 'he told me to do it, and I did it'."

Q: "So then, your next and closing statement is 'the facts speak for themselves.' And in that context, what do those facts say--about Chief Costa's assertions, about Dennis Regan's assertions?"

A: "The fact that Costa did this, and says that he did it at the insistence of Dennis Regan, coupled with the record of transfers during the Costa regime, tell me that something--that there was some interaction between them that led him to move Rende so often in a short period of time."

Q: "So, did your investigation provide, in light of that, quote-- 'no conclusive evidence'--unquote?"

A: "I thought there was substantial evidence, but you still had Dennis Regan saying 'I never said it'."

Q: "So in order for there to be conclusive evidence, there'd have to be an admission on Dennis Regan's part?"

A: "Something like that. to be absolutely conclusive. But you know what's interesting here, Bob? I in a sense came to the same conclusions as Cathy McNeilly did. Recall, she said that she had no absolute proof that Dennis Regan had done these things. But she looked at the big picture. I, on the other hand, said 'let the facts speak for themselves'. There's essentially no difference between those conclusions."

Q: "But the mayor had to act on that. He said 'no conclusive evidence'. Is that an accurate interpretation of the findings that you made to the mayor?"

A: "If you're using the word conclusive, yes it is. But look at the overall result. What you have is, as a result of this investigation and the mayor's action on it: Dennis Regan is no longer employed by the City of Pittsburgh. Cathy McNeilly remains employed. Albeit, she was demoted. That demotion has been vacated by the district court; she is now back as a commander. But if you look at the bigger picture here, and what has actually happened: Regan is gone and she is still here. "

(Later in the interview...)

A: "I would like to say that the investigation was conducted in a fair and thorough fashion. I think that my report to the mayor evidenced that, and I think the mayor saw that in his reading of the report. And I think he acted properly in what he did. You have to remember, these things did not happen on his watch. And here he was, a relatively new, very new mayor, confronted with this issue and these allegations. And you have to look at the end result. So, I think it was a fair investigation and the result has been fair to everyone. "

Q: "Mr. Regan acting as--and signing off as--public safety director to reverse a dismissal of a police officer: that happened while the current administration was power?"

A: "That is correct. He should not have done that."

Q: "Was that within the scope of your investigation? It was an action that he took in police matters?"

A: "It was not made part of the investigation. Quite frankly, by the time we learned about it, he had already done it and the officer in question was back on the job. So that got into the very difficult question of 'do we try to reinstate the original disciplinary action'."


Friday, January 12, 2007

Mayor Ravenstahl Q&A & New McNeilly Case Documents

Podcast: Mayor Answers Reporters Questions On

Latest McNeilly Case Developments;
Evidence From Court Case Now Online

You can listen to Mayor Ravenstahl field reporter questions about issues raised in the McNeilly court case. I’ve posted the audio; you can click here to go to my latest podcast page.

Over at the Pittsburgh Channel, you can now read two of the newly available court documents. I’ve annotated these copies.

This one is the city law department’s memo to the mayor on the Regan investigation.

The other concerns Commander RaShall Brackney’s alleged counter with Dennis Regan.

Meanwhile, the ACLU has posted more than a dozen additional memos, letters, and reports at its web site.

Here’s a link to the Mayor’s Office web site for press releases. As of this post, the administration has not issued any written statements on this story.

You can read the city’s response in court to the McNeilly lawsuit in this earlier post to The Busman’s Holiday.


Thursday, January 11, 2007

McNeilly Case: The Judge’s Words

“The chilling effect of discipline and demotion to a police officer who makes a good faith report of what she believes in good faith to be wrongdoing and inappropriate influence in Government never serves the public interest.”

Here are excerpts of the preliminary injunction ruling by U.S. District Court Chief Judge Donetta Ambrose in the Commander Catherine McNeilly case.

• "Initially I make a finding that Plaintiff's speech at issue here was made by her as a citizen..."

• "Second, I find that Plaintiff's speech touched on a matter of public concern. Plaintiff's e-mail and the attached disciplinary action report were sent to inform city officials of her belief that the nominee for the position of Public Safety Director had improperly interfered with her attempt to discipline a police officer, who was the brother of the woman with whom Regan lived, and her concerns that Regan because of his improper interference was a poor candidate for the high-ranking position of Public Safety Director, which position would give him supervisory authority to control police officers and the entire Police Department, among other things. This was clearly a matter of public concern..."

• "...She knew, for one thing, that Regan had interfered with Commander Brackney's attempt to cite Duke's Tires, and that Regan had told Commander Brackney that Duke's Tires had friends in the Mayor's office, and that Commander Brackney would be walking a beat if she did not cooperate. She knew that Regan had interfered in the discipline of another police officer who, through the chain of command, received termination that was later overturned. She knew that Regan had interfered in the Police Department by ordering Chief Costa to promote Rende to detective even when Costa knew Rende did not have a record meriting promotion to detective; specifically, that Rende had an extensive disciplinary history and had, in fact, once been fired and then reinstated..."

• "... I find that Plaintiff had a good faith belief that Regan had improperly interfered in Police Department matters; and that because of his nomination to be Public Safety Director, Plaintiff's concerns were also a matter of public concern..."

• "... having found that Plaintiff's speech was that of a citizen on a matter of public concern, her demotion was unconstitutional unless the city had adequate justification for the demotion..."

• "As to the confidentiality matters, Plaintiff made every effort to keep the e-mail and attached DAR confidential. Indeed, she marked the e-mail confidential and disclosed the information only to those individuals who themselves had a duty to keep it confidential. It was someone to whom Plaintiff disclosed the information, not the Plaintiff herself, who revealed the information to the public..."

• "...the Plaintiff is likely to succeed on the merits of her First Amendment claim. She also has a claim under the Pennsylvania Whistleblower Law which prohibits public employers from retaliating against an employee who makes a good faith report of wrongdoing to appropriate authorities. For the reasons already stated, I find that the Plaintiff made a good faith report of wrongdoing."

• "I also find that Exhibit 24 clearly establishes a causal connection between her good faith report and her demotion. Therefore, the Plaintiff is likely to succeed on the merits per the Pennsylvania Whistleblower Law claim."

• "The second consideration for a determination of whether or not to issue a preliminary injunction is whether or not Plaintiff will suffer irreparable harm if the injunction is not issued. The law is clear. The loss of First Amendment freedoms even for the smallest amount of time constitutes irreparable harm."

• "...let me make something very clear. Contrary to how some may perceive this case, this case is not about corruption in the Police Department. It is about allegations of wrongdoing and improper and undue influence by officials within the Mayor's office in Police Department matters."

• "...The public interest is always served by disclosure of wrongdoing and undue and/or inappropriate influence by public officials in Police Department matters. The chilling effect of discipline and demotion to a police officer who makes a good faith report of what she believes in good faith to be wrongdoing and inappropriate influence in Government never serves the public interest."


E-Mail Bag & Links

“You’re Got Mail”

My blogging on The Busman's Holiday's brought some welcome e-mail and feedback from old friends and colleagues.

Among them:

• Dennis Roddy of the PG, who's just launched into the world of podcasts. Check out them out here at the Post-Gazette multimedia web page. I've heard two so far. They're well-written and interesting features that remind me of 'All Things Considered' and 'This American Life'.

John Fries, who was a producer at 3WS back in my radio news days. John's a creative and clever guy who was always fun to work with.

• El Brown, a former Channel 4 producer who now lives in Arizona. El isn't in broadcasting now, which is a loss. His blog for family and friends shows his writing talent.


Wednesday, January 10, 2007


Apple's New iPhone

Okay, I want one.

Apple CEO Steve Jobs just unveiled the iPhone.

As I posted Monday, I'm a fan of Apple's innovations and this phone is amazing.

No buttons, all touch-screen; it's a video iPod, it's a phone, it's a web browser all built into one. If you use it to look at a web page or picture, you make a pinching gesture on the screen surface to zoom in or out. All of this, plus it promises desktop computer quality access to your e-mail, contacts, and calendar.

But here's something that's huge for Apple: inside, it's got the heart of a Mac. The operating system behind the touch screen interface isn't starting from scratch; it's Mac OS X––the solid system that runs all Apple Macintosh computers.

Here are links to some online animations of the key features. The icons on the upper right of that web page will take you to more.

If you have the time, take a seat and check out this show:

To watch you'll need a high-speed internet connection and Quicktime 7, which a free download for Windows or Mac if you don't have it already.

It would have been hard to imagine something that would upstage the unveiling of this: Apple TV. It's a box that wirelessly connects your TV to your computer and the 'net. That means you can download movies in the den and watch them in the living room. It also wirelessly streams your photo connections and music to your TV, as well as online movie trailers.

Well, enough of my tech fan moment. I’m off to cover the continuation of the McNeilly lawsuit hearing in federal court. Pittsburgh Police Chief Nate Harper is expected to take the stand, and Judge Ambrose could rule on whether to grant or deny a preliminary injunction to Catherine McNeilly before the day is out.


Monday, January 8, 2007

"I’m a Pasocon." "I’m a Makku."

PC & Mac,

You know the 'Get a Mac' TV ads featuring John Hodgeman as a PC and Justin Long as a Mac computer.

It turns out they've been redoing the ads in Japan: different actors, same personalities. I love this video.

I'm an avid Mac user, and I enjoy tracking Apple's innovations the way some people follow sports teams. This could be an interesting week, by the way. Apple's CEO Steve Jobs gives the keynote at the MacWorld Expo on Tuesday. There's talk he may unveil a much-talked about "iTV" which will break new ground in linking your TV to the internet. Other rumors include a new kind of video iPod or even an Apple "iPhone".

This image on Apple's home page doesn't do much to lower expectations, does it?


Doing The Job?

The McNeillys Arriving
At Federal Court

A reader comment posted to The Busman's Holiday expresses opinions I've now heard from several people about Catherine McNeilly's illness and her ability to serve in law enforcement. The comment also repeats a popular misconception about when and how she became a police commander. It prompted me to do some research and here's what I've found.

The reader said...

"Ms. McNeilly is probably correct in her actions. Having said that she should also not be on the job. Her medical condition would prevent her from doing the job of police officer. Also if it were not for her husband, the former chief, she would not have been promoted to Cmdr."

My response in the ‘Comments’ area...

This 2003 Tribune-Review article shows that Catherine McNeilly became a police commander in 1992. That's four years before her husband became police chief in April, 2006.

The same Trib article documents that after developing multiple sclerosis, McNeilly had to fight the city to get her job back. She did so by filing a federal complaint charging discrimination based on disability. Notice how the article describes her duties at the time her illness began: "Her role had included administrative oversight of the personnel department, reviewing reports and other managerial duties."

It appears that she established through her federal complaint that her medical condition would not prevent her from doing her job as a police officer.


On Moderated Comments

Demosthenes Practicing Oratory
by Jean Lecomte du Nou├┐ 1842-1923 BB
(Before Blogging)

Some of you may have read this note in the comments section. I thought it was worth recapping here for future reference.

A note to Anonymous:

“Sorry for editing your post. As I've written earlier, I'm experimenting with moderated comments for The Busman's Holiday. My instinct is to avoid playing host to anonymous critiques of colleagues, competitors, or public figures. There are other active online forums available for those discussions. I do welcome feedback of all kinds via personal e-mail; the nature of moderated comments here will evolve as we go. Thanks for your comment.”

-Bob Mayo


McNeilly Case: The City's Answer

"Plaintiff had every right to criticize Dennis Regan’s pending appointment to whomever she wanted. She just did not have the right to include the confidential personnel information”

As promised, here's a link for you to read the City's response to Catherine McNeilly's lawsuit.
The Pittsburgh Channel is hosting a copy of the file, which I've annotated to highlight key points.

I'm not going to recap the coverage of the daylong hearing here in the blog. My interest is in offering items online that may not make it into the news of the day.

Among the key points argued by the city:

• "Plaintiff’s demotion was not based on her personal views towards the appointment of a candidate for a particular position in City government, but rather was based on her knowing and intentional violation of specific Pittsburgh Bureau of Police rules and regulations that prohibit the release of confidential employee information."


• "In Chief Harper’s initial notification of her demotion on November 28, 2006, Chief Harper cites to no less than eight separate rules and regulations that Plaintiff violated by releasing confidential information. In fact, Chief Harper’s final demotion memorandum, written on December 6, 2006, specifically reiterates that Plaintiff did not deny releasing the confidential employee information in contravention of numerous Bureau rules and regulations, some of which Plaintiff herself authored. Chief Harper further states that Plaintiff had ample opportunity to discuss the potential release of confidential information with the then Acting Chief of Police before doing so."

• "Plaintiff had every right to criticize Dennis Regan’s pending appointment to whomever she wanted. She just did not have the right to include the confidential personnel information from PARS and OMS systems when doing so."

• "Interestingly, Plaintiff alleges in her Verified Complaint that no other commander or police officer has been suspended for 'allegedly disclosing confidential information.'"

•"As evidence in the hearing will show, the reason no other commanders have been suspended pending an investigation into such circumstances surrounding a release of confidential information, let alone have been demoted, is because no other commanders or similarly-ranked superior officers have ever intentionally breached departmental confidentiality and security in such a fashion."

Now that I've figured out how to post and link to pdf files, I'm revising the earlier post so that the blog isn't cluttered with screenshots of court papers.


Thursday, January 4, 2007


Here’s To Clean Slates
And A New Year

No, this blog won’t be all news, all the time.

Here’s a link to an online puzzle which strikes me as a nice metaphor for starting fresh in the new year.

It’s a jigsaw puzzle game on a Japanese website. All of the puzzle pieces are blank; you can rearrange them on your screen to solve the game.

The same site offers another game that’s more of a challenge.

In this world map puzzle your game pieces are also blank. A timer ticks down your turn to locate any countries it names. Between games, you can click anywhere on the map to brush up on your geography. Click on the image above to give it a try.


Wednesday, January 3, 2007

McNeilly V. Ravenstahl: New Twists

Tonight there are new developments in Pittsburgh Police Lieutenant Catherine McNeilly's Whistleblower Law/First Amendment suit against the city and Mayor Luke Ravenstahl. They come on the eve of a federal court hearing in the case.

First: this morning, U.S. District Chief Judge Donetta Ambrose had to preside by phone over a discovery dispute when lawyers for the city and McNeilly clashed over access to important evidence.

Court papers show the judge ordered that "the entire files should be produced immediately" in advance of Thursday morning's hearing. Here's a link to that court document.

I've confirmed that the disputed documents include what Mayor Ravenstahl had previously described as a "thirty page report" on former Director of Operations Dennis Regan and former Commander McNeilly. I've also confirmed that they include "everything in the investigative files relating to the Regan and McNeilly investigations".

Attorneys tell me they expect that all of these documents will be entered into evidence at the 10:00 a.m. hearing and will become public records.

Second: McNeilly's attorneys filed a new brief today citing additional legal precedents for their request that the judge reverse McNeilly's demotion.

It argues that:

"a government employee's speech may be entitled to First Amendment protection even if the speech violates a facially valid workplace regulation".

"a government employee's speech may be entitled to First Amendment protection even if found to be incorrect".

A city official told me before Christmas that he believed Pittsburgh's law department would soon be filing documents in this federal court case. So far that hasn't happened–but when it does I hope to post them to the Busman's Holiday blog.