A relatively small city expenditure of $167 led to a fervent critique of Mayor Bill Peduto by City Councilwoman Darlene Harris Wednesday morning.
In its committee meeting, City Council received a list of invoices to be paid this week, as it does in every weekly committee meeting. For the most part, these invoices are paid without incident.
But a charge for unpaid parking tickets attributed to the Ravenstahl administration caught the eye of City Councilman Dan Gilman.
“I certainly do not believe it’s the taxpayers’ responsibility to pay for parking tickets that city staffers received because they were either … parked illegally, or a meter expired or whatever the case may be,” Gilman said. “That’s not the taxpayers’ responsibility to pay these.”
City spokesman Tim McNulty said employees who receive tickets in city vehicles are expected to pay them out of their own pocket. However, the tickets in question date back to late 2006 and early 2008. McNulty said because they were not paid right away, the current administration is unable to track down the employees who received the tickets. The tickets have since been sent to a collection agency, which billed the city on behalf of the Pittsburgh Parking Authority this year.
McNulty said the administration is “doing the right thing” by paying the tickets.
Councilwoman Darlene Harris disagreed, saying the invoice itself was “nonsense.”
“To me, this is politics,” Harris said. “I am getting really sick of it. Over and over again, this administration has been blaming the Ravenstahl administration for everything, even as far as … what time of the day it is.”
Harris said there is no need for the city to pay the tickets at all.
“Because you do know that if you take a parking ticket over to traffic court, that is on a city vehicle, that it’s usually thrown out,” Harris said. “So, this administration could have actually gone over and did that.”
McNulty held that, while the mayor’s decision to simply pay the $167 fine is not political, Harris’s solution to the problem is.
“What’s political is asserting that we should go to a judge and have the tickets waived or fixed,” McNulty said. “The councilwoman may think that’s the proper way for government to work, but the mayor doesn’t.”
The invoice in question has been held for one week, so Council Budget Director Bill Urbanic can gather more information on the situation.