Sunday, July 1, 2007

Ravenstahl Q&A Podcast: Decisions & Responsibility

Here's the link to a podcast of my Q&A with Mayor Ravenstahl on his decision not to rescind the controversial police promotions.

I asked the mayor if he feels he has any personal responsibility for what went wrong in the process. Ravenstahl answered that "it's clear my directors and chiefs have to share all information with me. Understand that they have a job to do and sometimes it requires them to make decisions without first consulting me. But decisions of this magnitude and this type of activity are certainly something that...I think it's clear to everybody--and we all understand--that this is something that I should have been briefed on and made aware of before this decision."

Seeking clarification, I asked if he was saying that he does not feel he was at fault or wrong in any aspect, but rather had decisions made below him and presented to him. He answered "Correct. I felt comfortable in the decision made on Commander Trosky and take responsibility for that decision and stand by it. The other two, again, is a different matter, and one that we have already discussed".

Jeanne Clark of the National Organization for Women was unimpressed, saying "He's not exactly shown himself to be a profile in courage. We're hearing big talk, but we've seen very little action."

When asked, City Council President Doug Shields told me "Harry Truman set the bar and the buck always stops, unfortunately, at the chief executive's desk."

Mayor Ravenstahl says that if he had demoted the controversial officers from their recent promotions, the city would have faced a losing court battle while standing on thin ice. He calls it a difficult decision and says that he's disappointed, angry, and frustrated to be in this position. He told me "I had to make a determination whether to protect the taxpayers' money or--knowing that we would lose--take a stand and say that this is not going to be tolerated. There are other ways that we can take a stand."

Clark said in my Channel 4 Action News interview that "we're talking to lawyers to find out what we can do legally, because the FOP are not the only ones who can sue."

Ravenstahl says he has reprimanded Police Chief Nate Harper for not informing him of the histories of Lt. Charles Rodriguez and Sgt. Eugene Hlavac, though the mayor reaffirms that he stands by the promotion of George Trosky to Commander. "I wasn't informed on the issue. I let the chief know about that. I was not happy; I am not happy. I'm angry with the way this played out. I'm angry with the black eye that this has given the city and the police department, and it was unnecessary," Ravenstahl told me.

Shields says "obviously citizens who are concerned about domestic violence and other issues beyond police matters are upset with the mayor as well. He's going to have to do some bridge-building here."

The mayor declined to reveal where he was during City Council's hearing on the issue. He pointed to his private meeting with members of the City-County Women's Commission the previous day and suggested that his presence in council chamber might have detracted from the hearing's focus.

Mayor Ravenstahl is promising a policy of zero tolerance for domestic abuse, and new city policies and procedures to address the issue of how officers are promoted. He told me he intends to work closely with women's organizations to deal with those issues. He says his goal is to "restore faith in government, change the policies and procedures that are currently in place, which are outdated, to say the least. And at the end of this horrible and black-eye situation, come out with a good, sound policy as we move forward, and insure that this doesn't happen again."

Note: Any trouble listening to the Podcast? E-mail me to let me know.


Mark Rauterkus said...

Thanks Bob.

I remember when the media was very gracious with Luke Ravenstahl when he was just cutting new news in the early days -- say with the $10,000 for the Promise Pittsburgh Lie.

He played the MSM like a fiddle then.

Now Luke's music might be more out of tune to the MSM.

What do you think? Has many in the MSM lost hope in Luke by now?

Bram Reichbaum said...

I'll throw in my 2c, Mark ...

I think most Pittsburghers are hoping they can still forge the raw material of Luke into some strong, sturdy steel -- even if it takes some extreme heat and pressure to do so.

However, they may be just starting to question whether that alchemy is possible.

Char said...

Did I hear him correctly where he said "zero tolerance for all departments, for all hires in the City of Pittsburgh"...?

Like fore these guys maybe?....

Is he just talking department heads or can we take him for the exact words he spoke? (all hires in the city)

If so, wow. That's quite ambitious. Not being a civil servant and therefore not knowing the protocol, are background checks a routine part of evalutating every city applicant? If not, wow. That will be quite an undertaking and expense I'd presume.