Ravenstahl defends tweeting about work from other locations

Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl acknowledged that he sent tweets showing himself working in his office when he was elsewhere, but said those missives were never meant to reflect live events.

"The fact that the tweets weren't sent in real time doesn't in any way -- from my perspective -- take away from the fact that those meetings did happen, that they took place," he said, following a news conference about the reopening of the Pittsburgh Public Market on Wednesday. His office refused to answer questions about the tweets Tuesday. "There's no intent in any way to mislead people."

The Post-Gazette reported Wednesday that two tweets about staff meetings -- with photos of the mayor and his staff working in his office -- were sent when he was outside the City-County Building, based on location stamps from Twitter. The tweets come at a time when the mayor is highlighting his work on social media to counter the perception that he's been unplugged the Past several months.

Pittsburgh Public Market has 'soft' opening

Mayor Luke Ravenstahl was among those on hand for the "soft" opening of the new Pittsburgh Public Market, Downtown. (Video by Nate Guidry; 10/23/2013)

One, sent Friday, read, "Friday staff mtg. Our success is the result of so many dedicated City employees! #7yearsofsuccesses" and included a photo of himself and nine other staff members around a table in the mayor's conference room. It was sent about 20 minutes after the conclusion of the meeting from near his home in Fineview. But the mayor explained Wednesday that he went home after the staff meeting to retrieve his phone charger, sent the tweet en route, and then later returned to the office.

A second, sent Tuesday, referenced a Monday budget meeting and included a picture of him behind his desk meeting with members of his financial team with the message, "One of my last budget meetings. Proud of our work!" To the tweet, he attached a document titled "Top 10 Financial Accomplishments." He sent the message from Shannopin Country Club -- a Ben Avon Heights golf course where he was a member in 2011.

On Wednesday, the mayor said he was at the club for lunch and "discussing business," ALthough he declined to say with whom. When asked whether he was conducting city business or job hunting, he replied, "A little bit of both."

"I think we're all entitled to eat lunch," he said.

He said he delayed sending the tweet about the Monday budget meeting so as not to detract from an event marking the third year of Internet Essentials, a Comcast program that provides schoolchildren with low-cost Internet.

The mayor was adamant that he did not intend to imply he was in the office at those hours and added that he saw nothing wrong with tweeting about past events. He pointed out that he never wrote that he was actually in the office.

"There was no intent to deceive anybody," he said. "I don't think those tweets suggest that I'm at work at that moment."

But Jessica Ghilani, a professor at University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg who studies the history of technology and communication, said there is an assumption that Twitter, which bills itself as "a real-time information network," reflects live events. The site allows users to post 140-character messages and attach photos, videos and links, making it ideal for covering events in real-time.

"There is an expectation that Twitter is a live public diary for public officials," she said. "It's very much an alive medium."

Twitter launched seven years ago and gained a widespread following long after that. As a newer medium, she acknowledged "there are no set rules," she said.

Still, she said that given the nature of Twitter and the fact that the tweets were sent in the middle of the workday, his followers who missed the locator tags could have been misled.

"I think it's safe to assume that people will assume that he's at work," she said.

The mayor resurrected his mostly dormant Twitter account last week as part of an overarching effort to shape his legacy and remind the public of his accomplishments as his time in office winds down. He said he sought to counter the negative publicity that came in his last year in office, a tumultuous time marked by the resignation and then federal indictment of the police chief and his decision to drop his bid for re-election.

Federal investigators now appear to be focusing their attention on him. In recent months, his personal secretary, three men who served as police bodyguards for him, his chief of staff and two female acquaintances have been called before a federal grand jury.

"I think it's important for us to be able to reflect on what we've been able to accomplish as an administration," he said.

Moriah Balingit: mbalingit@post-gazette.com, 412-263-2533 or on Twitter @MoriahBee.

Moriah Balingit: mbalingit@post-gazette.com, 412-263-2533 or on Twitter @MoriahBee. First Published October 23, 2013 11:30 AM

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