Mayor Luke Ravenstahl has raised questions in missing several public and political events in recent days.
Wednesday night, he was a no-show at a candidates' night at Perry Traditional Academy in his North Side political base, and a public explanation from his close friend, Kevin Quigley, only added to the uncertainty created by his absences.
Just after city Controller Michael Lamb, one of Mr. Ravenstahl's rivals for the Democratic nomination for mayor, spoke to Democratic committee members, Mr. Quigley, a city Public Works Department official who is also a ward leader, rose to speak in Mr. Ravenstahl's place.
He offered an intriguing but finally opaque apology and explanation for the candidate's absence:
"It is with a heavy heart that I tell you here tonight that the mayor couldn't make it.
"Within the next couple of days he'll be having a press conference to discuss some issues," Mr. Quigley said, adding that "... there's some personal things going on right now that I'm not at liberty to discuss.
"Everyone in this room supported the mayor at one time or another," he continued. "Us as North Siders, it's always been an old adage that we stick together. I'm asking everyone in this room to send their prayers out to the Ravenstahl family and to stick together as North Siders."
Later, Mr. Quigley alluded to the federal investigations swirling around the city police bureau as he said: "I'm going to tell you that the mayor is implicated in nothing that's going on with the city. He's having some personal issues. And I am here to tell you that in the next couple of days, there's going to be some kind of press conference. I would just ask everyone in this room, reserve your thoughts and say a prayer for the mayor and his family."
In a brief interview after the meeting broke up, Mr. Quigley declined to offer any elaboration on the mayor's situation or of the public statement that he told the crowd to anticipate.
"What the press conference is going to disclose, I just don't know; I can't tell you," said Mr. Quigley, who was Mr. Ravenstahl's chief of staff during his time on council.
Tuesday evening, the mayor also had been conspicuous in his absence from another candidates' night. Just weeks before the Democratic rank-and-file will take their closely watched endorsement vote on March 10, Mr. Ravenstahl failed to appear at a Democratic event in the 19th Ward, one of the city's largest. His campaign spokesman, Matt Harringer, at first said he had a scheduling conflict.
Aletheia Henry, the mayor's campaign manager, later said he was forced to skip the event in Brookline because his mother was ill. The nature of Mrs. Ravenstahl's illness hasn't been disclosed.
Earlier Wednesday, radio station WESA had expected the mayor for its one-year anniversary show, but the station reported shortly after noon that "We had planned to bring you an interview with the mayor, however he was called away for an emergency."
Over the weekend, the mayor missed two events with Steel City Codefest, a gathering of programmers who were challenged to create an app using civic data. He missed a Friday evening gathering billed as a "Mayor's Mixer" and the awards ceremony on Sunday morning, despite the fact the event had been hyped by the mayor's office. A news release Friday said the mayor would be presenting the awards himself on Sunday, but he did not.
"The mayor was attending to other essential city business, and regrettably could not attend," the mayor's spokeswoman, Joanna Doven, said in an email.
Mr. Harringer, the campaign spokesman, said Mr. Ravenstahl did speak at Crawford Square on Sunday at another political gathering for members of the 1st, 3rd and 5th Democratic wards.
Wednesday, about 90 minutes before he was due on the live radio interview on WESA's Essential Pittsburgh, mayoral spokeswoman Marissa Doyle called the show's producer and canceled. Marcus Charleston said Ms. Doyle told him an emergency had arisen. Ms. Doyle sent a follow-up email apologizing and offering to reschedule.
Asked about the cancellation, she said, "I don't have an answer." She said she believed the mayor was attending to city business.
The mayor also did not attend a community meeting in Shadyside Wednesday about the closure of the South Highland Avenue Bridge.
Public Works Director Rob Kaczorowski said he did not expect the mayor at the meeting, even though a flier advertising it bore his name. Ms. Doyle also said the meeting was not on the mayor's calendar.
The mayor's aides did not respond to questions about the scheduling or subject matter of the news conference that Mr. Quigley said would occur in the next few days.