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City contractor lands project at mayor's home

| Friday, May 10, 2013, 11:59 p.m.

A contractor who owns a company that is renovating Mayor Luke Ravenstahl's house received more than $2 million for city work since 2010.

The city paid about $2.3 million — mostly for construction of an athletic field in Riverview Park — to R&B Contracting and Excavation Inc. of West Homestead, according to invoices in the city controller's office. State records show the company is owned by William J. Rogers, 47, of New Homestead.

Rogers also owns All State Development, which is listed on a building permit as the company performing at least $8,500 worth of exterior and interior work on a house in Fineview that Ravenstahl purchased on Aug. 31. According to the permit issued by the Pittsburgh Bureau of Building Inspection, work included a block retaining wall, which is under construction.

Several pallets of block remained on the side of the driveway along with what appeared to be boxes of construction material. Ravenstahl could not be reached for comment on Friday. His spokeswoman Marissa Doyle did not return a call.

Rogers declined to comment.

A federal grand jury reviewing city spending in public safety this week turned its attention to Ravenstahl. His two bodyguards and personal secretary appeared on Wednesday before the panel.

Using a contractor that does business with the city raises sticky questions for Ravenstahl, said Kathleen Hall Jamieson, director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania.

“The wise thing for the mayor would be to not give the work to a contractor who works with the city,” she said. “A smart mayor would not raise those concerns because you don't want people to ask those questions.

“It may call into question his political judgment,” she said.

Jamieson said a strong city ethics policy should outline whether such business is proper.

Pittsburgh's Code of Conduct states an employee should not “accept any service or anything of value … upon more favorable terms than those granted to the public generally from any person, firm or corporation having dealings with the city.”

If Ravenstahl got a better price for the work at his home than other people would get from the contractor, that would cause an appearance of impropriety, Jamieson said.

“If that's the price any other contractor would have bid, and the mayor does not control the process of where contracts go, there's no problem,” she said.

The city paid R&B about $1.3 million to build a soccer field in Riverview Park on the North Side. The company was the lowest bidder for the job, according to documents in the controller's office.

Pittsburgh paid the company about $605,000 to clean up a landslide last year on the P.J. McArdle Roadway on Mt. Washington, which was nearly double what the city expected to pay. The contract was let without bid because it was considered an emergency.

Public Works Director Rob Kaczorowski, a Ravenstahl appointee, signed all the contracts with R&B. Kaczorowski did not return a phone call.

Bob Bauder and David Conti are staff writers for Trib Total Media. Bauder can be reached at 412-765-2312 or bbauder@tribweb.com, Conti can be reached at 412-388-5802 or dconti@tribweb.com.

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