Monday, June 23, 2008

Shields to Call for Council to Pay Lawyer's Fee

Pittsburgh City Council President Doug Shields will motion to make a $10,706 lawyer bill a city expense. The fee was originally incurred during the challenge of a permit granted for Lamar Advertising to construct a billboard downtown by Shields and fellow Councilmen Bruce Kraus, William Peduto, and Ricky Burgess. When they sought to have the city pay for it, the Law Department issued a 13-page opinion which said that if the four men voted on making the fee a city expense, they would create a conflict-of-interest situation, and may be required to "immediately forfeit their office." In response, Shields has gotten a counter-opinion. His 4-page report comes from Marvin A. Fein, a former deputy solicitor. This opinion states that "The City Solicitor did not have a legal basis to preclude Council from discussing or voting," nor for "threatening them with forfeiture of office." Shields says the most egregious part is that the councilmen were threatened with removal from office even though municipal leaders cannot be removed without evidential hearings and a senatorial vote. The Council President may bring the fee up for vote tomorrow.

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