Ravenstahl won't give details on New York stay

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Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl and a fellow traveler refused yesterday to provide details about where they stayed one night last week after traveling to New York with Penguins co-owner Ron Burkle.

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The trip Mr. Ravenstahl took with Kevin Kinross, an aide to Gov. Ed Rendell, has generated questions about compliance with city ethics rules and about the mayor's credibility.

"We stayed at a friend of Kevin's house that evening," the mayor said of a sleep-over that started in the early morning hours of March 14, hours after city, state, and Allegheny County officials announced an arena deal with the team.

Asked if he knew the name of the friend, he said, "I don't, and as far as I'm concerned, the story is over, and I'm not really inclined to answer any more questions. I've answered every question that was asked. We stayed at a friend of Kevin's house."

He said he did not remember where in the city the house was, but deferred to Mr. Kinross' statement that it was in Queens.

"That's what Kevin said," the mayor said. "I don't even remember, as we said before, where we went to eat. It was a friend of Kevin's house."

Mr. Kinross would only say that the friend was male. He would not reveal how he knew his friend, or in what part of Queens he stayed.

Queens is New York's largest borough, and its 112-square-mile surface area is double the size of Pittsburgh. It has a population of 2.2 million.

Mr. Ravenstahl provided some details of the trip in an interview on Tuesday but refused to be more specific when discussing it again yesterday. Mr. Kinross has provided some information through gubernatorial spokesman Chuck Ardo.

After announcing a $290 million financing package on March 13, the two joined Mr. Burkle, County Chief Executive Dan Onorato and others in the Penguins luxury box at Mellon Arena. There they accepted Mr. Burkle's offer of a private jet flight to New York because he is a high-dollar Democratic donor and political player.

They ate and drank on Mr. Burkle's tab at the luxurious Gramercy Park Hotel, until some time after 2 a.m. The conversation was about politics, not the team, and did not include any request for campaign contributions, the mayor said.

The mayor said they then left for Queens. The hotel is located on Manhattan's East Side. Queens is located across the East River from Manhattan.

The hotel yesterday would not say whether Mr. Ravenstahl, Mr. Burkle, or any other involved person had taken a room for the night, citing a blanket policy against providing information on guests. A desk worker there could not locate any record of a stay by Mr. Ravenstahl or Mr. Burkle there last week.

The mayor has said no taxpayer money was involved in his trip, and that it was campaign-related. He has said he may reimburse Mr. Burkle, from campaign funds, for the approximate cost of the plane flight.

Where the mayor slept, though, is relevant if the lodgings were owned or rented by a party with some interest in city business, and if the stay had monetary value. The city's code of conduct bars officials from taking gifts above nominal value from an "interested party," with some exceptions.

"We're not going to give you that name" of the person with whom Mr. Ravenstahl and Mr. Kinross stayed, said Mr. Ardo. "We're not going to involve some guy whose only role was to open his door and let a couple of guys sleep over."

The mayor flew back to Pittsburgh on a commercial flight the next day, but not in time to make a morning meeting with Hill District leaders concerning development around the new arena.

Rich Lord can be reached at rlord@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1542.


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