Mayor says at grocery store opening in Hill that he's getting job inquiries
Potential employers could be courting Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl because of his government experience, but ethics laws limit his ability to represent companies doing business with the city, political experts said.
Ravenstahl, 33, whose term expires in January, acknowledged on Thursday he has begun to consider his next opportunity.
“I've been blessed and fortunate to have been approached by a number of people and organizations who are interested in doing work with me in the future,” Ravenstahl told reporters at the opening of a long-anticipated grocery store in the Hill District. “I haven't made any final decisions.”
The mayor declined to specify who approached him but said he plans to stay in Pittsburgh. He is a North Side native.
“I love this place and always have. What that means in the future, I don't know,” he said.
For one year, his future cannot include lobbying for city contracts or representing companies that have direct dealings with city government, according to city and state ethics laws.
Barry Kauffman, executive director of the government watchdog group Common Cause of Pennsylvania, said Ravenstahl is free to talk with potential employers but must be careful to avoid conflicts of interest while he is mayor.
“Is he doing favors for someone who might give him a job?” Kauffman said. “If he takes any action that benefits that company, then I think he's setting himself up for a possible ethics (violation).”
Ravenstahl has 10 years in city government — seven as mayor and three as a councilman. He graduated with honors from Washington & Jefferson College with a bachelor's degree in business administration.
Ravenstahl's political baggage could hamper his job-hunting, according to Moe Coleman, director emeritus of the University of Pittsburgh's Institute of Politics.
A federal investigation led to charges against former police Chief Nate Harper, and investigators have called Ravenstahl confidants to testify before a grand jury, including his personal secretary, bodyguards and a former girlfriend. Ravenstahl said he is not a target of the investigation, but he dropped his campaign for re-election not long after Harper's indictment.
After months out of the public spotlight, the mayor said this week he plans to be more visible and spend his last weeks in office highlighting his administration's accomplishments. The change in tactics is not about making himself attractive to employers, he promised.
“Honestly, (it) has zero to do with me and my future and what I intend to do after my term expires in January,” he said.
Coleman said that despite the cloud over the administration, Ravenstahl's future is bright.
“Luke's a young guy, and he's pretty smart,” he said. “If he gets through all this stuff with the grand jury, I think there's a lot of things he can do.”
Pittsburgh Controller Michael Lamb, who acts as the city's fiscal watchdog, said Ravenstahl can be tight-lipped now but should publicly disclose his next paying position when it comes. “I don't think he has any obligation to tell people who's contacted him,” Lamb said. “I do think once he takes employment that he does owe it to the people of the city to say what he's going to be doing.”
Another expert said ethics law leaves Ravenstahl plenty of wiggle room in his next job. He could act as an adviser to companies on how to navigate city government, even if he can't represent them before the city for one year, said Mike Mikus, a Democratic political strategist.
“Say, for example, a site has a historic designation, and you want to develop it. Well, there's a lot of steps you have to take. How do you navigate the bureaucratic waters?” Mikus said.
Bob Bauder is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-765-2312 or firstname.lastname@example.org.