While independent Pittsburgh Mayoral Candidate Kevin Acklin says he cannot prove that any money changed hands nor can he prove that any contracts were improperly awarded to developer John Verbanac, he still contends the relationship between the Mayor and Verbanac is improper. Acklin made the accusations during a mayoral debate last week and then reiterated the claims Wednesday at a second debate. Thursday afternoon he once again called on the mayor to “come clean” about his relationship with Verbanac. Acklin says between the two debates he received copies of emails that show Verbanac was writing speeches and directing campaign policies for Luke Ravenstahl and later communicating with top administration officials about Urban Redevelopment staffers and decisions. More documents have reportedly been sent to Acklin this morning. Acklin says the two most disturbing incidents involve the mayor’s efforts in the awarding of the casino licenses and the decision by the URA to not award a $6 million grant to develop the old LTV mill sight. Acklin says Luke Ravenstahl seemed to pull his support for the Isle of Capri application and begin supporting the Forest City bid to build a casino at Station Square. The documents show the mayor asking the Penguins to support a plan “B” in which the team would receive payments for a new stadium from another casino license holder. The Isle of Capri application included fully financing the penguins new home. At the time the move prompted some to say “the fix was in” for Forest City’s application and the city is trying to insure the new arena will be funded. The licenses was eventually awarded to dark horse applicant, Don Barden.
Acklin says Verbanac also seemed to kill a URA deal to give Millcraft Industries, a competitor of Verbanac, a $6 million grant to develop the old LTV steel mill sight. The email from Verbanac to Ravenstahl Chief of Staff Yarone Zober says the decision to move the money without speaking with Verbanac was “hurtful” and “cuts my legs from underneath me.” That grant was never awarded.
Acklin says he wants Ravenstahl to come clean with a “full disclosure” of the relationship he has with John Verbanac. Acklin says, “It does not smell right at the very least” He says just because the mayor was not fully successful in helping Verbanac does not mean there was no corruption. Acklin says, “This has very little to do with the election, this is about justice.”
During the debate Mayor Ravenstahl said his contact with Verbanac was not improper. The campaign has not responded to the most recent comments from Acklin.