FBI at police bureau again as mayor's office releases receipts
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On the same day that the FBI returned to Pittsburgh police headquarters, the mayor's office released documents describing two of his bodyguards' activity on an account at the center of a federal investigation.
At least one FBI employee arrived at the bureau's North Side headquarters Friday morning and stopped at the personnel and finance office, which acting police Chief Regina McDonald has identified as the target of the federal probe.
Shortly after the agent's arrival, at a news conference Downtown, Mayor Luke Ravenstahl announced that he will not run for re-election, and two of his staff members distributed financial documents that answered few key questions about the controversial accounts.
Chief of staff Yarone Zober and city solicitor Dan Regan presented a letter from Greater Pittsburgh Police Federal Credit Union CEO Karen Janoski stating that Sgt. Matt Gauntner, one of the mayor's bodyguards, had a debit card in an account there but did not use it.
They also presented a transaction log and some -- but not all -- corresponding receipts to show that fellow bodyguard Sgt. Dominick Sciulli used his card to pay for hotel rooms and gas while traveling with the mayor.
Eight people had cards connected to the account -- former police Chief Nate Harper, deputy Chief Paul Donaldson, assistant chief of operations Maurita Bryant, bureau personnel and finance manager Sandra Ganster, civilian clerk Tammy Davis and the mayor's bodyguards, including former bodyguard Fred Crawford. Chiefs Donaldson and Bryant have said they did not know about their cards until federal investigators notified them of their existence.
It remains unclear if and how the others used their cards and why a mayor's bodyguard was using money from an unauthorized account to cover to cover some expenses.
Controller Michael Lamb, a Democratic candidate for mayor, had said there are 15 authorized depositories for city funds and the Greater Pittsburgh Police Federal Credit Union is not one of them.
Mr. Crawford told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that the mayor knew of the cards and encouraged their use so he could skirt the state Right-to-Know Law, which would allow reporters to see his expenses. Mr. Ravenstahl has vociferously denied Mr. Crawford's statements and on Friday went one step further than before in his efforts to discredit the retired bodyguard.
"Fred is ... I'm not sure what he's up to but I know he's disappointed a lot of people and he's disappointed me, and he'll have to answer for that some day whether it's legally or otherwise," the mayor said.
Mr. Crawford, 48, said the cards were used for various expenditures, some of which included alcohol. Mr. Zober and Mr. Regan said they were presenting documents Friday to show that the cards were used for business purposes.
The debit card transaction log presented from Sgt. Sciulli's account shows 15 transactions between January 2009 and November 2011. It included charges that Mr. Regan said corresponded to trips Mr. Ravenstahl took to Harrisburg and Washington, D.C., to visit various legislators, attend a mayoral conference or, in one case, travel to a White House holiday reception with his mother.
It also included a $133.06 charge to La Moda Tailor in Phuket, Thailand, on Dec. 14, 2010, and a $142.29 charge to Bimmerspecialist.co on Dec. 31, 2010.
A handwritten note at the bottom of the log, which is signed by the credit union CEO, says that Sgt. Sciulli reimbursed those two expenses after he discovered that he had mistakenly used the card to pay for them instead of a card tied to his personal account at the credit union.
Mr. Zober said he thinks the fact that one bodyguard never used the card and one seldomly used it "would seem to contradict anyone's statement to the contrary that the cards were used on the mayor's behalf, for the mayor's benefit to do things that were inappropriate and unrelated to city government."
But even city officials concede that their records are incomplete.
Mr. Regan said the city will try to obtain documents from the account and he would not eliminate the possibility of asking other cardholders to request their documents and hand them over to the city.
The log provided for Sgt. Sciulli listed only his debit card purchases and did not indicate whether he ever withdrew cash or made other transactions using the account.
The Post-Gazette has learned that a Sept. 16, 2009, University of Pittsburgh check for $5,675.52 to the City of Pittsburgh -- meant to pay for work performed by off-duty police officers -- was deposited into the I.P.F. account at the credit union on Sept. 28, 2009.
That same day, $4,000 was withdrawn from the account. The withdrawal slip appears to be signed by Ms. Davis, who has since been placed on paid administrative leave.
Ms. Davis' spokesman, Warner Macklin III, said Ms. Davis "has volunteered and was very cooperative with federal authorities in answering their questions" and "there is an explanation that will be forthcoming concerning that transaction."
First Published March 2, 2013 12:00 am