Since the Pittsburgh police scandal involving a hushed-up slush fund is not directly impacting taxpayers in our readership, we, to use a well-worn phrase, really don’t have a dog in the fight.
But we can’t resist expressing our puzzlement over one aspect of this brewing controversy: Last week, bodyguards used by Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl and drawn from the ranks of the city’s police force were found to have used debit cards linked to the alleged slush fund, leaving the Washington & Jefferson College graduate to vehemently deny that he had any knowledge of the off-the-books account. We’ll see if Ravenstahl’s assertion holds up in the investigations that are just getting into gear.
What we can’t quite figure out, though, is why Ravenstahl needs bodyguards in the first place.
OK, it’s understandable that Ravenstahl might need a small degree of protection as he tends to his official duties in Pittsburgh. But Ravenstahl has apparently lugged a security detail with him to events in Harrisburg and even to President Obama’s inaugural festivities in Washington, D.C. Outside of the Pittsburgh region, who would care about him? He’s not an instantly recognizable luminary like New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg or a celebrity of Taylor Swift-ian proportions. It’s a virtual certainty that Ravenstahl could walk from end-to-end in any shopping mall in Cleveland or Buffalo, N.Y. – probably even Erie – and he wouldn’t turn a single head. Given his age, most people would assume the 33-year-old is an aide to the mayor of Pittsburgh, not the mayor.
Ravenstahl’s security has been costly. WPXI-TV reported last week that one of Ravenstahl’s bodyguards earned $190,000 in overtime over three years for his services. Another got $114,000. The WPXI report pointed out that Rich Fitzgerald, the Allegheny County executive, doesn’t use any bodyguards.
Whether it’s a product of self-importance or an excess of caution, Ravenstahl should shed the bodyguards and let them keep an eye on Pittsburgh’s other residents.