PITTSBURGH (AP) — Mayor Luke Ravenstahl has given a federal grand jury a canceled $12,000 check and a contract he has for home improvements.
The grand jury is believed to be investigating city finances related to the mayor. Attorneys for two of Ravenstahl’s bodyguards have confirmed the men were subpoenaed and testified earlier this month about city-issued credit cards.
The mayor’s secretary was also questioned about Ravenstahl’s calendar.
Now, the mayor and a contractor doing work on his home have acknowledged turning over records that pertain to work being done on Ravenstahl’s home by All State Development in New Homestead.
All State is linked to another firm, R&B Contracting and Excavation, of West Homestead, which has done $2.2 million worth of work for the city since 2010. All State’s president, William Rogers, also owns R&B.
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette first reported last week that All State applied for a building permit in August to do work on a home that was deeded to the mayor three days later for $110,000.
It’s not illegal for the mayor to hire a company connected to one that does work for the city, provided he pays fair market value for its services.
And that’s what’s being done in this case, said Charles Porter Jr., a prominent defense attorney Ravenstahl has retained for the grand jury investigation.
Porter said the contract for the All State renovations, as well as Ravenstahl’s $12,000 down payment for the work, have been given to federal prosecutors.
“He didn’t get the work done for free,” Porter said. “He properly contracted with the company. He wrote a check for $12,000 up front. That’s the initial payment. The balance is to be paid for the completion of the work.”
Rogers also confirmed that the mayor’s canceled check and the contract have been turned over to prosecutors and that the company has been asked about the work being done on Ravenstahl’s home.
“It is what it is. Obviously, Porter’s not lying,” Rogers told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.
Ravenstahl has repeatedly denied wrongdoing.
The grand jury investigation comes on the heels of former police Chief Nate Harper’s indictment on charges he diverted more than $70,000 in fees the city collects when its officers work off-duty security details into unauthorized credit union accounts, and that he spent nearly $32,000 of it himself. Harper’s attorneys have said he’ll plead guilty this summer.
The credit cards Ravenstahl’s bodyguards were questioned about were linked to those unauthorized accounts. One of the bodyguards has said the cards were issued so expenditures wouldn’t be subject to media requests for public records.
Ravenstahl has kept a low public profile and has made few public appearances since he announced March 1 that he was ending his re-election campaign. That happened nine days after Ravenstahl demanded Harper’s resignation, and three weeks before U.S. Attorney David Hickton announced Harper’s indictment.
Porter said government prosecutors typically tell him when a client is a target of a grand jury investigation, and said that hasn’t happened in this case.
Hickton and his staff aren’t commenting on the investigation, though Hickton previously said it was ongoing when he announced Harper’s indictment March 22.