Pittsburgh's ethics board met today, and took up the questions that have occupied the attention of the Burghospree and the media, the Mayor's participation in the Mario Lemieux charity tournament. The PG story (http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/07194/801476-100.stm) doesn't mention the hearing the Mayor missed, but that's as it should be. The voters can and should consider that action in the fall, and of course the voters could consider the ethical questions as well. But it is also responsibility and the charge of the ethics board to enforce the parts of the city code that apply to ethics and ethical behavior.
Now this Mayor has showed a disregard for strict adherence to ethical considerations in the past (http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/07080/771206-53.stm), so it is about time that Mr. Ravenstahl be forced to consider the consequences of his behavior. On the other hand, a city attorney raised a reasonable point in today's story:
"City attorney Kate DeSimone argued to the board that no action should be taken that would chill mayoral involvement in charity. "He is the public face of the city, and he does need to attend charitable events," she said."
Rabbi Danny Schiff suggested that these events should be limited to events the public can also easily attend. George Specter disagreed, although the Rich Lord didn't say how. But *I* want to say I can see the point of the Mayor of our distressed city having access to rich people willing to give money away. Now, we all know the Mayor was in hog heaven golfing with Sidney Crosby and Joe Thiesmann, as well as rich executive adults. But it is hard to say what the actual value of the event is. It would be interesting to know what any individual will write off to the IRS, the full value of the 9,000/27,000, or maybe only 8500 (what is the value of the meals and the rounds?). Of course, there is value in being able to write off income on tax returns (subject to income limitations that all those executives are subject to, what with the AMT and all), but the Mayor wouldn't have access to that part of the favor anyway. You could make the argument that the city itself has gotten a favor from UPMC, that might come back to haunt the city if it tries to ask UPMC for a higher "voluntary" contribution (in lieu of taxes). So while the Mayor's administration can make the argument that the Mayor needs to be in proximity to people who want to relieve themselves of money, he should stay away from be sponsored by people who don't pay taxes to the city. Of course, those were the very people who made the offer to the Mayor who has been identified as by the press as reluctant to refuse tickets to this type of event. The ethics board may have its work cut out for them.