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Pittsburgh council moves to cut up mayor's credit card

| Tuesday, April 9, 2013, 12:57 p.m.

Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl would have to seek reimbursement, or get approval in advance, for payment of business expenses under legislation City Council introduced on Tuesday.

Council wants to eliminate the $10,000 “imprest fund,” which Ravenstahl taps with a credit card when he travels or makes purchases while on business and force the mayor to follow the expense rules for other city employees. The legislation sponsored by Corey O'Connor would eliminate the fund created in 1995 for then-Mayor Tom Murphy.

O'Connor said mismanagement of police revenue, including $70,000 that a grand jury says former Chief Nate Harper diverted into secret accounts at the Greater Pittsburgh Police Federal Credit Union, prompted his bill.

“This just gives us checks and balances,” O'Connor said. “Why take the chance of having other funds out there?”

Critics have said Ravenstahl's use of the credit card lacks public oversight even though the controller's office audits his expenses. Controller Michael Lamb called for its elimination, describing it as a “visage of the past.” Council members agreed.

“I think that credit card should be torn into shreds,” said Councilman Bill Peduto, who is running for mayor. “I don't think any public official or employee should have a line of credit that they can use without scrutiny.”

Mayoral spokeswoman Marissa Doyle said Ravenstahl wants to see the legislation.

Councilwoman Theresa Kail-Smith said the bill should include guidelines for about $10,000 in discretionary money given annually to each council member. They use the money for expenses ranging from coffee in their offices to funding for community projects.

“I think it's worth having a conversation about,” she said.

Separately, council introduced a bill to spend up to $110,000 on software and equipment that would permit police officers to file daily activity reports by computer. Councilman Ricky Burgess said it would save time and make the police bureau more transparent. Officers fill out the reports by hand.

Bob Bauder is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-765-2312 or bbauder@tribweb.com.

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