Pittsburgh Councilman Jim Motznik introduced legislation today to slash council's staffing and its practice of tapping leftover funds from prior years and transfer $310,000 from its accounts to a public uses. A colleague said it reflects a threat made by the mayor last week.
Mr. Motznik said his resolution would clear out "a slush fund that the president of council and the clerk have been saving over the last couple of years." Council President Doug Shields said unspent funds from prior years do not constitute a slush fund.
Mr. Motznik said his resolutions on staff salaries were consistent with the Act 47 recovery plan approved in 2004, which was used as the basis for legislation passed today that would compel Mayor Luke Ravenstahl to reduce by half the take-home cars allotted to city officials.
Councilman Bruce Kraus said the legislation to cut staff salaries mirrors threats made directly to him by Mr. Ravenstahl at a fundraising event last week. The mayor's office has opposed legislation to cut take-home cars, and Mr. Kraus said that was the context of the threat.
"His exact words to me were, 'We're coming after you,'" Mr. Kraus said. "I said, 'If you feel that best serves the interests of the people of Pittsburgh, to cripple city council, have at it.'"
Mr. Kraus added that the mayor specifically threatened to cut council staff salaries, and said, "'And there's more where that came from.'"
Mr. Motznik, who hosted the fundraiser Mr. Kraus attended, said he heard the conversation. "The mayor simply said that Act 47 is a work in progress, and it's a financial road map," Mr. Motznik said. "He didn't threaten him."
Mr. Kraus challenged that statement.
"Jim Motznik was nowhere near that conversation," said Mr. Kraus. "That's a bold-faced lie."
The mayor said he did speak with Mr. Kraus at a fundraiser.
"The notion that a threat was made is ridiculous," said Mr. Ravenstahl. "I suggested that if council took the position that they saw Act 47 as an authorizing document, rather than a financial roadmap, that they should look at themselves.
"It certainly wasn't a threat, and to suggest that it was I think is unfortunate."