Reading between the lines?
There was word last week of a settlement conference in Pittsburgh Police Commander Catherine McNeilly's whistleblower lawsuit against the city and Mayor Luke Ravenstahl. Lawyers for McNeilly and the city were negotiating to see if they can reach a settlement instead of going to trial. All parties made it clear, however, that they're talking at the request of the judge who reversed McNeilly's demotion.
The following is a partial transcript of questions and answers exchanged with reporters as the parties left the federal courthouse after their meeting with the judge. Their answers below may speak more to meeting legal obligations to talk than to actual progress.
Q: “Is the case over?”
Assistant City Solicitor Michael Kennedy: "The court has ordered that we engage in settlement discussions. that is part of all of these cases: we engage in good faith settlement negotiations. we are doing what the court requires us to do in this matter."
Q: “What happened here today?”
Bill Goodrich, Personal Counsel to the Mayor: "We had a talk with the judge. The judge wanted to see what was going on. We're under a court mandate to continue talking with the parties, and until that matter---we have orders to report back to the court."
Q: "What does the mayor want to see happen here?"
Bill Goodrich: "I'm not quite sure what the mayor wants to see has to do with it. I think it's a question of what the litigation shows as to-- and the results of the litigation."
Q: "Are you close to settlement?"
Bill Goodrich: "We are still talking, as ordered by the court. The court has requested that we continue to speak. It was part of the order of court originally that was issued by the court back when the injunction was determined and was issued by the court. And so we will continue as the court wishes.
Q: "What does the mayor want out of all this?"
Bill Goodrich: "The mayor wants to see see that justice is done for all the parties."
McNeilly's Attorney Tim O'Brien: "We discussed with the court what the parties had been doing since we filed the law suit. Basically, the parties have been obligated to --in accordance with the court rules --to engage in good faith settlement negotiations. The parties have complied with that obligation. We're in the process of continuing those negotiations and that's where it stands."
Q: "How many hours or days of negotiations of a possible settlement have taken place?"
Tim O'Brien: "It' s been hard to keep track of that, but quite a few."
Q: "Are you ready to depose the mayor?"
Tim O'Brien: "At this point, in compliance with the court rules, we're still in the process of engaging in good faith settlement negotiations. And as long as those negotiations are going on, that's what we're doing to do."
Q: "Is there a time frame within which this has to be resolved or is this open ended?"
Tim O'Brien: "It's not open ended, but it's subject to a reasonable period of time. As long as there are there are good faith settlement negotiations going on which we are required to engage in, that's what we are going to do."
Q: "Are you satisfied with the progress of the good faith negotiations? "
Tim O'Brien: "Well, we're still at it, so I think we're satisfied with the progress so far."
Q: "What are the odds this will go to trial---ever?"
Tim O'Brien: "Very hard to handicap. As I said, we're involved in good faith settlement negotiations, and as long as that's going on, that's what we're going to do."