Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Chessboards & Mushroom Clouds At City Hall

It's hard to choose which of the two pictures above is the best to foreshadow the ongoing escalation in exchanges between the Ravenstahl administration and City Council.

Is this story about something more than a simple snit over paying a legal bill? Four Council members are being told that what began with their challenging that controversial electronic billboard could end with their forced removal from office.

One gets the sense that there are powerful and volatile combinations in play beyond the view of the news of the day.

Check out this blog post about where this legal clash involving Lamar Advertising, City Council, and the Ravenstahl administration was heading. That showdown was asking for depositions and subpoenas of the Mayor, Chief of Staff Yarone Zober, and URA Executive Director Pat Ford on one side, and of five City Council members and their staffers on the other.

Meanwhile, Lamar Advertising's lawsuit against the four City Council members still has not been formally withdrawn...(as of this blog post early Tuesday morning). Doing so was part of the settlement negotiated between attorneys for Lamar, City Solicitor George Specter, and Councilman Patrick Dowd's privately hired attorneys.

When I asked Lamar Advertising's attorney Sam Kamin about this last week, he told me initially that the lawsuit was moot. When I asked him how long it could sit there -- dormant but not officially withdrawn -- before it expired, he answered in terms of years. He assured me there was "nothing nefarious " involved, then closed by saying that in response to my inquiry he intended to formally withdraw the lawsuit as Lamar Advertising had agreed to do in its signed settlement before the Zoning Board.

Note, by the way: the lawsuit by Lamar advertising against Shields, Peduto, Kraus, and Burgess says clearly that those four were (are?) each being sued as members of City Council. Only Patrick Dowd was also being sued as an individual. Among other things, the suit alleges that they violated the Sunshine Act. That's something that a public official can be accused of doing, but not a private citizen.


1 comment:

EdHeath said...

I think this is still a chess game, but I think it is escalating. I suspect the Ravenstahl administration is fine with the idea of forcing the four council persons to pay some $2750 each, or with removing them from office, appointing temporary council persons in their place and with holding special elections sometime down the road. Of course that would be incredibly bad for the City's image, but now would the time to do it, when the national media's attention is focused on the Presidential primary.