After a late-night bargaining session March 8 in New Jersey during which an agreement to build a new arena was all but reached, Allegheny County Chief Executive Dan Onorato and Mayor Luke Ravenstahl flew back to Pittsburgh on a plane chartered by the Penguins.
By taking the flight back, Mr, Onorato said he and Mr. Ravenstahl were able to attend the reopening of the David L. Lawrence Convention Center the following morning. The convention center had been closed since Feb. 5 because of the collapse of a section of loading dock flooring.
Had the two returned on their scheduled commercial flight the next morning, they would have missed the reopening, he said.
Also flying back on the Penguins charter with the two officials was Yarone Zober, Mr. Ravenstahl's chief of staff, Mr. Onorato said. The Penguins contingent included co-owner Mario Lemieux, attorney Chuck Greenberg, President Ken Sawyer and consultant David Morehouse.
Mr. Onorato said he considered the flight to be in accordance with official business and had no plans to reimburse the Penguins. He said he would report it on his financial disclosure form. The Penguins, he said, had three open seats on the flight and offered them to the officials.
Asked whether he thought there was anything questionable about taking the team's flight back, Mr. Ravenstahl said, "I don't believe so. I think that falls in the purview of a business-related activity, and we did ride back that evening with the Penguins."
Staff writer Rich Lord contributed. Mark Belko can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1262.