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Council hints that mayor steered business to a bud

| Friday, April 30, 2010

It's tough to find a good printer in a pinch.

That's what makes Pittsburgh City Council's refusal Wednesday to pay an $1,850 printing bill to a North Side company that delivered on a tight deadline so baffling.

Allegheny Signs & Design printed 5,000 programs last April for the memorial service of three city police officers killed in the line of duty. That fact is not in dispute.

What is contested is whether council should cut the check to Allegheny Signs, owned by Carol Dzamko. She happens to be the mother of one of Mayor Luke Ravenstahl's closest friends — Jeff Dzamko, 34, who was arrested in March on a warrant for failing to appear at a hearing for writing bad checks.

Council's not-so-subtle implication is that during one of the most tragic events in city history, Ravenstahl steered business toward a bud.

No wonder Jeff Dzamko professed to be sick that politics was holding up the payment. Ravenstahl has to be upset as well.

Where else was the city supposed to get quality programs printed quickly• Its in-house printer• Minuteman Press, Alpha Graphics, a FedEx Office outlet or any other local printing company whose owner didn't change the infant diapers of a mayoral confidant?

Another question: Would any of those other printing concerns have brought the same professionalism and experience to the job as Allegheny Signs?

State records indicate the company existed for nearly six months when it suddenly obtained city work.

Given its long history in the community, I expected to see a steady stream of customers filing in and out of Allegheny Signs when I went to its East Ohio Street office on Thursday.

Surprisingly, that wasn't the case. Perhaps that's because the door was locked.

As I repeatedly pressed the buzzer, I noticed about a dozen Ravenstahl yard signs directly inside the door. At the top of a steep wooden staircase was a large, framed picture commemorating Ravenstahl's 2007 inauguration ceremony.

I finally was buzzed into the building by an Allegheny Signs employee who referred my questions to Jeff Dzamko. He wasn't there, but he called later in the day to suggest this matter has been significantly blown out of proportion.

Although he acknowledges being an unabashed Ravenstahl supporter, he said: "It's not like we're golf buddies or anything."

Despite the oversized "I Like Luke" sign adorning a wall, Dzamko chafed at the suggestion his office resembles Ravenstahl campaign headquarters.

"There are signs for other people, too," he said. "(Council members) Bruce Kraus, Doug Shields, Natalia Rudiak — I've done work for all of them."

Perhaps. But in the second-floor window of Dzamko's business are several campaign signs for Adam Ravenstahl, the mayor's younger brother who is running for the state House.

The printing must be high quality. Even from across the street, the message is clear.

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