Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Doug Shields: Q&A on Pat Ford

In the last post, Pat Ford's attorney Lawrence Fisher singled out Council President Doug Shields for criticism. Here's my Q&A with Shields.

Q: "Your response to the news of Pat Ford's attorney saying the review has been terminated, there won't be an investigation, and that Pat Ford, he says, is exonerated?"

A: "Well, the reaction to that is that I still have a lot of questions out there as to what is going on in the city. I don't know what they looked at, I don't know who they spoke to. But it is what it is at this point. As far as any comments on my take on all this or political grandstanding, there's a couple of inconvenient facts in the way. Number one, the city solicitor's opinion made it very clear that Mr. Ford was absolutely wrong in his analysis of what that billboard's about. It is not a minor change. The city solicitor made it clear that Mr. Ford had previously done these Lamar deals and, as you'll recall, that those were not legal actions then. And the word that he used was 'prospectively'-- meaning going forward -- that we shouldn't do these things. Those are the facts."

"And whether there was influence peddling or not, it's really down to the issue of 'are we abiding by the city zoning code?' and the answer was 'no' and it's as simple as that. And all the other matters that came Mr. Ford's way were not of my making, but were of his own making. And putting himself in a position where there was a question of his integrity. There was a question on the table of who's influencing whom. And actions that were taken by the zoning administrator and others at the direction of the URA director was improper as far as I'm concerned. There's no way that the URA director should be directing the Department of Planning. Those are facts. Those are all established facts. And I don't see it as any grandstanding on when you've got a fact matter out there with regard to abiding by the law."

Q: "So, you're saying that apart from the matter about personal gifts -- you're saying that his role in the way the billboard matter went forward raises questions?"

A: "Well, one thing's absolutely clear. During the six hour post agenda, the facts, or so-called facts that Mr. Ford was asserting to the council were incorrect. That's a fact. I don't understand. You know, this is part of the problem with government today, generally. Whether it's in the congress or the state house or at the local level. It seems that there's a wink-and-a-nod system out there; that we're going to let things slide. That it doesn't really matter and nobody wants to go and read the law and understand how to run a city. There's a certain amount of arrogance on the part of governmental official about what they should be doing and what they actually do. And I would consider all of this matter part of that whole scene that we see in Pennsylvania today."

Q: "Finally, his lawyer said that they've notified the URA that Pat Ford intends to request a return to work. Is it appropriate for him to return?"

A: "That's a decision between the URA board. I will say this: that I think despite the finding of the ethics commission, I think that the relationships between the council and others that deal with the URA, this is clouded by this. And I don't know how productive that is. If Mr. Ford wants to take the position of being 'okay, I did something wrong', i.e. interpreted the zoning code wrong, then it should be admitted and apologized for there, and move on. But if it's going to be an acrimonious relationship, if it's going to be personal battles and so forth, then the value of his being in that office is diminished."

Q: (Elaine Effort, KQV): Say he is allowed to come back, if the Lamar billboard issue comes forth...?

A: "The Lamar billboard's going to be the Zoning Board of Adjustment in early September, I think the 4th or the 7th, something like that. And my interpretation of the code is that they don't have the use exception available to them under the code. And then we'll see what happens there and then people can judge for themselves, as to the veracity of what those of us on council objected to in the process of putting that board up. There's a no-bid contract at the Parking Authority, Mr. Ford was the chair. There was a sign off at administrative review that was incorrect, as said by the city law department. All these things came to a head. They were not of my making. They were presented to me, and I acted accordingly. I'm here to basically mind the public purse and mind the public trust."

"There's an old saying, 'once you reach the limit of your logical argument, then you resort to name calling". It seems to me that someone's looking to do some name calling around here. And I presume that they ran out of their logical argument a while back."

To be posted next: Q&A with Mayor Luke Ravenstahl.


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