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The Pittsburgh police scandal: Muddled mess

| Thursday, Feb. 21, 2013, 12:42 p.m.

The firing-slash-resignation-slash-retirement of Pittsburgh police Chief Nate Harper raises more questions than it answers, of course.

Mr. Harper, a 36-year veteran of the force and chief for the past 6 12 years, supposedly is the subject of a federal grand jury investigation — first into the awarding of a police contract to the shell company of a one-time friend who likely “flipped” on him and, more notably, into the finances of a special events fund and unauthorized accounts at a credit union. The term “slush fund” has been thrown around. Harper, 60, denies wrongdoing. No charges have been filed.

But on Wednesday, Mayor Luke Ravenstahl, who had stood behind the chief, changed his mind. Or, to be more precise, he had his mind changed for him in a two-hour visit to the FBI and the U.S. attorney. The feds obviously gave Mr. Ravenstahl a mind-blowing bill of particulars against the chief, details not made public.

Harper was asked to resign (i.e., fired); Harper, through his attorney, says he was going to retire anyway. Why?

It's quite odd for the normally tight-lipped feds to tip their hand (by Luke proxy) in such a way. Why this time?

And it was more than a bit odd that Ravenstahl — who during a Wednesday night news conference, repeatedly said he was neither a target of an investigation nor had he received a grant of immunity for talking to the feds — took not only a city attorney but his personal counsel to the session. Why?

Odder still is that Ravenstahl named as acting chief Assistant Chief Regina McDonald. Why? After all, she oversaw the very operation the feds are investigating.

The public deserves more answers.

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