Pittsburgh officials locate clock missing from mayor's office

An antique clock reported missing from the mayor’s office made a “mysterious journey” before it reappeared in the City-County Building, Mayor Bill Peduto said Friday.

Mr. Peduto said city officials found it after they received a tip from someone alerting them to its whereabouts.

The mayor said he did not know where the clock had been.

The wooden Seth Thomas clock, which had stopped at 6 o’clock, on Friday morning was back on a mantel above a fireplace in the mayor’s conference room in the City-County Building.

“I can tell you that in 19 years and four different mayors sitting in that conference room that clock never made it past one inch on that mantel and it had a little journey,” he said.

Mr. Peduto did not say who tipped city officials to its location, when they found the clock or where, but his remarks elicited a strong reaction from the attorney representing former Mayor Luke Ravenstahl.

Attorney Charles Porter Jr., who is Mr. Ravenstahl’s private attorney, said any suggestion that the clock was ever taken from the building “is totally false. The clock, to our understanding has been in the City-County building the entire time.”

“Mayor Peduto has chosen to make reckless assertions,” Mr. Porter said. “Mayor Ravenstahl at no point had this clock, and had nothing to do with its location in an office in the City-County Building, where it was located. It’s our understanding that as early as Monday of this week it was known by the city administration that the clock was in fact in the city’s possession.

“The only thing mysterious was Mayor Peduto waiting until Friday to say it was returned when in fact” it never left the building, Mr. Porter said.

The clock was among several items that Mr. Peduto has said were missing or damaged when he took over as mayor. Among the other missing items that the city had reported missing to the FBI were a Waterford crystal trophy that was given to the late Mayor Bob O’Connor to commemorate the Steelers’ 2006 Super Bowl win that was worth $30,000.

“The Super Bowl trophy was provided to the FBI,” Mr. Porter said. “They were given the ability to review and document everything else that was present.”

FBI spokeswoman Kelly Kochamba, citing agency policy, declined to comment on whether the trophy had been returned to federal investigators. But mayoral spokesman Tim McNulty said the FBI returned the trophy to the city on Friday. It is now somewhere in the fifth floor mayor’s wing of the City-County Building.

A vase from Wuhan, China, was also reported missing, though its companion remains in a glass case outside of city council chambers.

Mr. Porter said that Mr. Ravenstahl never brought city items home, though he did take some to an off-site storage place. The FBI was given access to that storage area about two weeks ago, he said.

Mr. Ravenstahl took his work computer from the City-County Building for several days, then returned it to the city after city officials reported it was missing in January. The city then turned over the computer to the FBI, because of the continuing federal probe into city business and politics.

Mr. Ravenstahl has provided an affidavit indicating that he “did not delete data or files from the computer,” according to a filing in U.S. District Court Friday.

Attorney Ronald Barber, who was retained by the city in a court fight over UPMC’s tax-exempt status, responded to UPMC’s motion to reopen discovery in a lawsuit, in which UPMC alleges that the city violated its rights by selectively challenging its tax-exempt status. The lawsuit is stayed while the city and health system fight in state court over the tax exemption, during which time Mr. Ravenstahl and the city were ordered not to destroy any potential evidence.

UPMC filed the motion to lift the stay in response to news reports that Mr. Ravenstahl took his computer because he did not trust the new administration of Mr. Peduto.

“UPMC’s assertion that Ravenstahl may have deleted data from the computer is nothing more than speculation,” Mr. Barber wrote. The matter is before U.S. District Chief Judge Joy Flowers Conti.

Liz Navratil: lnavratil@post-gazette.com. First Published March 28, 2014 11:13 AM

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