PNC employee quits city parking board

Bank asking certain workers to resign to safeguard its interests

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A Pittsburgh Parking Authority board member who voted to study a pension bailout opposed by Mayor Luke Ravenstahl has resigned because his employer, PNC, asked him to do so.

Michael Jasper, a PNC vice president and finance manager who had served on the authority board for about five years, could not be reached for comment Thursday. PNC spokesman Fred Solomon declined to discuss Mr. Jasper but said the corporation recently reviewed its policy on employees' outside activities and asked "a handful" of employees to resign from various boards to "preserve our opportunity to conduct future business with those institutions."

He declined to elaborate or to specify the number of employees affected but said not all work in Pittsburgh.

On Dec. 1, the Akron (Ohio) Beacon Journal reported that Kevin Thompson, a regional president for PNC, resigned from the University of Akron board of trustees because of his employer's "general policies and practices."

Mr. Jasper's resignation was announced at an authority board meeting Thursday. In a letter to Mr. Ravenstahl, Mr. Jasper said PNC "thought it best that I step down pursuant to its general policies and practices."

Joan Gulley, PNC chief human resources officer, is a member of the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh board of trustees. Library system spokeswoman Suzanne Thinnes said she was unaware of any plan by Ms. Gulley to give up her seat; Ms. Gulley declined comment.

Mr. Ravenstahl must nominate Mr. Jasper's successor to the five-member parking authority board, which has received an unusual amount of attention this year.

After City Council rejected Mr. Ravenstahl's plan to lease city and parking authority assets for a pension bailout, council adopted a plan to sell the city's share of parking properties to the parking authority and use the proceeds for the pension fund. Mr. Ravenstahl opposed council's plan and took the unusual step of appearing at an authority meeting to convey his disapproval.

Mr. Jasper and city Councilwoman Natalia Rudiak nonetheless voted to study the plan; board members Scott Kunka, Linda Judson and Christopher D'Addario voted against a study, so the plan was stalled.

Mr. Jasper's appointment was one of the first made by the late Mayor Bob O'Connor in 2006. Ms. Rudiak called Mr. Jasper "a person with ethics and integrity" and said she was taken aback by his resignation.

"I'm sad to see him go," she said.

Asked whether she believed his departure was linked to the parking study vote, Ms. Rudiak said, "It might be. I don't know if we'll ever find out the truth. ... I know that whole event [parking study vote] was very politically heated."

PNC has strong ties to city government. It's a depository for city funds and would have been co-underwriter of a bond refinancing shelved by city officials in recent weeks. In September, the city and Urban Redevelopment Authority sold a Liberty Avenue parcel to PNC for $485,000.

PNC Chairman and CEO James Rohr contributed $9,000 to Mr. Ravenstahl's campaign fund from May 2008 to May 2009, according to the city controller's office.

In the past, Mr. Ravenstahl has been accused of ousting board members who displeased him, including the late Michael Eversmeyer, removed from the Historic Review Commission in 2007 after voting against an Oakland development; Debbie Lestitian, removed from the Stadium Authority last year after opposing North Shore development proposals; and Alice Mitinger, removed from the Zoning Board of Adjustment last year after writing an opinion unfavorable to a billboard proposed for the Grant Street Transportation Center.

The mayor's office said those departures weren't political and said Mr. Jasper's wasn't either.

"PNC does not want employees serving on boards where PNC does business. ... The mayor thanks Mr. Jasper for his dedicated service to the Parking Authority board," mayoral spokeswoman Joanna Doven said in an e-mail.

Mr. Solomon said PNC has not issued a blanket prohibition against employee service on community- or government-related boards, only asked certain employees to give up their positions to safeguard PNC's interests. He said asking an employee to give up a position was "solely PNC's decision."


Joe Smydo: jsmydo@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1548.


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