I'm continuing on the jury watch at the Wecht trial, but got to report on the clash with council and the mayor after the jurors went home for the day without reaching a decision.
My reporting was based on video gathered by WTAE Channel 4 Action News reporter Amber Nicotra and photographers Dan Pratt and TJ Haught.
Here are some quotes from the council meeting, followed by highlights from Mayor Ravenstahl's response to our questions later in the day .
[* For background, see note below.]
Councilman Ricky Burgess: "I'll be clear. I'm a grown man. if you want to punish me, bring it on."..."But no, they're not strong enough, brave enough to punish me personally. But what they have to do is, they take their punishment on the majority of council. Shame on you."
Councilman Jim Motznik: "Let's put it out there, and lets hear who's making threats and who's trying to punish and deal with it accordingly. To me this is about good government."
Councilman Bruce Kraus: "I was threatened directly from the mayor -- last week at Councilman Motznik's fundraiser-- that these very actions would be taken if this bill were to pass to take away the cars."
Motznik: "It wasn't a threat at all. It was about letting a new council member know about--" Council President Doug Shields: "If Mr. Kraus decided he was being threatened, I'm sure he's capable of making his own assessment. If you want to be the apologist for the administration, you go right ahead."
Mayor Luke Ravenstahl: "To suggest that I made some sort of threat is ridiculous. Certainly, Councilman Kraus and I had a discussion. And I suggested that if City Council want to live by the Act 47 plan, that they themselves should be willing to make amendments to their budgets to reflect Act 47. So that was the conversation that we had. It was in no way a threat. It was simply a policy discussion around the need for -- and what we believed Act 47 should represent."
..."I'm somebody that always has discussions and has an opinion. And I voiced that opinion to Councilman Kraus. He certainly didn't agree, but I think he's being disingenuous to suggest that somehow he felt threatened by me. I have no authority to tell him what to do. He's an independently elected city official. I have no authority to threaten him with anything because he is, you know, an elected city official in his own right. And to suggest that is unfortunate. But we certainly did disagree and we do disagree on the issue, but I wouldn't escalate it to that of threats being made."
* (If you hadn't been following this story, here's a quick recap. Over the objections of the mayor, council approved Councilman Burgess' bill to cut in half the number of "take home" cars for city employees. Later in the same meeting, the mayor's ally Councilman Motznik introduced a proposal to slash the council's budget for its staff. Talk had been simmering for some time of alleged threats against council and it's staff that would be carried out if the number of take home cars were reduced. During the public meeting, Councilman Kraus said that the threat of political contribution came straight from the mayor's lips to his ears. He said the mayor told him "we're coming after you" and "there's more where that came from".)
Wednesday, March 26, 2008