Brian O'Neill: Missing crystal ball creates air of intrigue around City Hall

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You'll occasionally hear about someone who bought a home and moved in, only to exclaim with surprise, "Hey, what the ... why of all the ... that S.O.B. who sold me the place took the chandelier with him!"

Or maybe the washer-dryer or the wet bar is gone. It's something that the new occupant had every right to expect came with the joint, yet it's nowhere to be found.

This is more or less the situation we find in Mayor Bill Peduto's new digs on the fifth floor of the City-County Building. This way cool Waterford Crystal Super Bowl trophy has gone missing.

It's not the trophy for the Steelers' victory over the Seattle Seahawks in the 2006 Super Bowl in Detroit; the team has that. But the 11-by-16 inch handcut, football-shaped crystal was presented by Kaufmann's to the late Mayor Bob O'Connor on behalf of the city in February of that year, and it's supposed to be worth 30 grand.

That ain't pigskin, but the question nonetheless is whether it went wee, wee, wee all the way home with somebody from the administration of former Mayor Luke Ravenstahl.

Club Peduto reported the crystal and other missing items to the FBI, which has no end of curiosity about the Ravenstahl administration. Just Tuesday, former police Chief Nate Harper, whom Mr. Ravenstahl fired last year, was sentenced in federal court to 18 months in prison for diverting nearly $71,000 in public funds to an unauthorized credit union account, spending almost $32,000 of that on himself, and failing to file federal tax returns for four years.

Mr. Ravenstahl's attorney, Charles Porter Jr., texted a Post-Gazette reporter Thursday saying, "We don't know what stuff [the Peduto administration] is talking about. ... Nobody from the mayor's office has reached out to the [former] mayor or myself concerning any property."

The Peduto team is now saying it's inappropriate to say anything more while an investigation is underway, but it did offer a great sight gag in a report by WTAE-TV's Bob Mayo last week. Mr. Peduto's chief of staff, Kevin Acklin, was going all Sgt. Schultz on Mr. Mayo, saying nothing about what might be gone, but he said it while standing in front of glass cabinets in the mayor's office so bare they could have been in the video of Ol' Mother Hubbard's place.

This could still turn out to be a whole lot of nothing, but as this story contains those magic words "Super Bowl,'' it's going to be talked about in Pittsburgh. We might not have known the trophy existed a week ago, but now plenty are dying to see it.

East End Councilman Corey O'Connor, 29, the late mayor's son, reported that he checked the boxes of his father's mayoral memorabilia in his mother's basement. He found a slew of ceremonial shovels but just one little crystal football, the kind of knick-knack you might buy at Macy's on a whim, no five-figure model.

Pittsburgh mayors do have a history of misplacing, or just forgetting about, relics. A 300-year-old, one-ton English cathedral bell that was donated to the city in the late 1980s has been hiding in plain sight in the garage beneath Liberty Center for two decades because nobody in the Sophie Masloff administration told anyone in the succeeding Tom Murphy administration it existed.

I found the bell in 2009 after an English historian inquired about it, but Mayor Ravenstahl never got around to taking it out for a ring. Mayor Peduto has promised he'll resurrect that old bronze bell for some appropriate occasion, and he also intends to find a prominent public place for the bust of former Mayor William Addison Magee. The bust overlooked Grant Street for nearly 40 years but has been warehoused since it was removed to make way for the Steel Plaza subway stop in the 1980s.

Maybe if we find the crystal football, we can celebrate by ringing the bell as Willie Magee's head looks on.

Brian O'Neill: or 412-263-1947.

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