Mayor Ravenstahl picks brother for Alcosan board
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Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl has nominated his brother, state Rep.-elect Adam Ravenstahl, to the Allegheny County Sanitary Authority board. The pick could face questions when it comes before City Council for confirmation.
"Any time that you choose to hire or appoint your immediate family members, it automatically becomes a question," said Councilman William Peduto. "The question is whether this appointment is being made for political purposes -- there is no greater politics than family -- or whether this person is the most qualified to serve in this capacity."
Mr. Ravenstahl's spokeswoman, Joanna Doven, said the pick makes sense because Adam Ravenstahl's constituents are "the people who are affected by Alcosan's location the most. There has always been a meaningful effort to have representation from the North Side on Alcosan's board as quality-of-life issues such as odor and traffic affect residents near the operation."
Adam Ravenstahl, 25, of Summer Hill, won a May 18 special election to finish the term of former Rep. Don Walko, and a Democratic primary nomination to seek a full two-year term. He faces Republican Alex Dubart in November.
Mr. Ravenstahl conveyed the nomination to council in a letter dated May 19, which came along with eight other nominations and appointments for introduction to council today.
Bounced from the Alcosan board is Dan Keller, 49, of Brighton Heights, whose term ended on Dec. 31. He was one of Adam Ravenstahl's rivals for the Democratic nomination.
The city code says no direct family member of a public official can be appointed to a position "which is under the direct jurisdiction or control of the public official." Only the Ethics Hearing Board can waive that ban.
City Solicitor Daniel Regan said the nomination doesn't run afoul of the code because an Alcosan board seat "is not under the direct jurisdiction or control of the mayor." He noted that the nomination requires council confirmation, and the authority is legally independent.
State law does not restrict the nomination of officials' relatives to unpaid posts, but some ethics advocates said such picks can create perception problems.
"What do people think when they hear that the mayor is appointing his brother?" asked Ellen Kaplan, vice president and policy director of the Philadelphia-based Committee of Seventy, a watchdog group. "They think, 'I don't have those same family ties. So my chances of getting appointed to that position are not as good as his brother's.' "
"If I were in the mayor's position, I wouldn't do it," said Tim Potts, co-founder of Democracy Rising, a statewide reform group.
Nominees are normally interviewed the week after council gets their names, and a vote occurs the week after that.
The other new nominations are John Valentine to the city Planning Commission; Mayada Mansour and Steve MacIsaac to the Youth Commission; Gerald Robinson, Amanda Rubio and Beth Pittinger to the Human Relations Commission; and Jennifer Danquist and Jason Matthews to the Equal Opportunity Review Commission.
First Published May 25, 2010 12:00 am