The fallout

Published by James O'Toole on .

City Controller Michael Lamb was first out of the gate among political rivals reacting to the mayor's decision to reverse course and cut loose the police chief he had defended previously.

Here's Mr. Lamb's statement:

“Just yesterday the Mayor was standing by the Police Chief he appointed, defending him of any wrongdoing,” said Lamb.

“Now, after changing his story about the use of the secret credit union account’s role in the G-20 Summit and dodging the real questions, Ravenstahl has dismissed the Chief.  What exactly has changed since yesterday, Mr. Mayor?

“The ongoing issues and investigations into the Police Department go much further than just Chief Harper and his dismissal does not solve the issue at hand.  We still need answers from the Mayor as to what exactly his role in the investigated bank account was, what he knew about the account and when he learned of it.  We need to know who was ultimately behind the account and who had access to it.  We need to know where the money came from for it and what it was used to purchase.

“Mayor Ravenstahl must address and comply with the ongoing investigation, providing answers to both the authorities and the people he serves before he can claim he accomplished anything in ridding our city of this scandal.”

And those of you following Bill Peduto on Twitter saw this entry from the councilman/candidate:

"Mayor Luke fires Chief Harper. Yesterday, said he had full confidence and refused to be "judge & jury". What changed in 24 hours?''

Later, after the mayor's news conference, he elaborated:

"Just 24 hours ago, Luke Ravenstahl was saying that Chief Harper had his full confidence and that this investigation was no big deal.  And now today, Luke Ravenstahl is firing Chief Harper.  What has changed in the last 24 hours?  Luke owes the people of Pittsburgh a full and truthful explanation.  As I suggested several weeks ago, Chief Harper should have been placed on an administrative leave of absence pending the result of the grand jury investigation.  This matter was mishandled by the Mayor’s office from the very beginning, and the people of this city deserve an explanation.''


Tim Stevens, chairman of Black Political Empowerment Project, expressed disappointment with Mr. Harper’s departure. He said Mr. Harper remained committed to improving police-community relations and only recently made recommendations for improving a brochure on what a person should do when stopped by the police. He added that many members of the black community took pride in Mr. Harper’s appointment.
“We are saddened by the fact that this has happened and that the police chief is in the middle of a very unfortunate and inappropriate situation, and I was hoping he would not be found in the middle of all this and that he would survive the scrutiny,” Mr. Stevens said.

“We had our disagreements with Harper, but we always found him to be a straight shooter, which is something we appreciated,” Vic Walczak, Pennsylvania legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union said.


Council President Darlene Harris, who was briefed on the situation only after the press conference, said she could not weigh in on the mayor's decision because she did not have enough information. She said he was not permitted to share anything about the information he learned that prompted him to ask the chief to step down.

"I cannot agree or disagree because I have not been briefed on what's going on," she said. "I know no more now -- other than the chief's resigned -- than I knew before."
Councilman Ricky Burgess said he also was not privy to the information, but trusted the Mr. Ravenstahl made the right decision because the mayor had "lost confidence in the chief."

"I think the mayor has acted prudently, wisely and appropriately," he said.
Councilwoman Theresa Kail-Smith, the chair of the public safety committee, said she had been briefed on some of what the mayor learned today, but declined to comment on it.

"The mayor had some clear vision of what [investigators] were looking for," she said. "It's very sad. It's very disappointing ... but a very necessary decision was made."

When asked if she knew if anyone else in the bureau had been fired or asked to resign, she said "From what I'm understanding, it seems to be somewhat isolated."


Councilman Corey O'Connor said, "It looks like the mayor had no choice.''

"I know he respected Chief Harper, but this was just a mistake that he made and the mayor wanted to move the police force forward,'' he added.  "The chief did great service over the years; unfortunately this stuff happens and we need to put this type of situation in the past.''



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