Returning our focus back to Pittsburgh city government for a moment, Chis Potter at Pittsburgh City Paper says the Ravenstahl administration has stopped paying the attorneys for the Citizen Police Review Board, in a contractural dispute rooted in the board's investigation of police conduct during the G-20 summit.
Since they're not getting paid, the lawyers have resigned from the board.
In a letter addressed to Pittinger and obtained by our very own Chris Young, Ward says their firm is stepping down because of a contractual dispute with the city's Law Department, which has frozen payment on their invoices. That would be the same Law Department, of course, that the review board has been battling in court over access to documents needed for an inquiry into G-20 security procedures.
Let me make that a little clearer. The attorneys who have been taking on the city Law Department now say the Law Department is refusing to pay them.
In the two-page letter dated Sept. 17, Ward said the Law Department refused to pay the firm's legal bills unless it agreed to renegotiate terms of their contract -- even thought the contract was already in effect. According to the letter, the city began demanding changes to in April. And though Mayor Luke Ravenstahl signed the contract as written in January, the letter says, the firm has not been paid at all this year. It now claims to be owed $32,000.
According to the letter, the Law Department originally insisted that the contract would be changed to include a provision "authoriz[ing] the Law Department to immediately and without notice terminate representation of the CPRB." In other words, the Law Department would be able to terminate the attorneys representing the people arguing the other side of the G-20 case.
. . . We will seek comment from the city Law Department tomorrow, and post their response here. But the timing of this dispute is significant. The city began demanding the right to change this contract in April; in June, city officials began an effort to replace most of the board members themselves. In both cases, the board has lost advisors with years of experience, having to replace them with newcomers in the middle of a critical lawsuit.