Pittsburgh responds to UPMC's tax dispute suit

Pittsburgh says UPMC's claims about motive behind tax challenge are 'irrelevant,' 'ridiculous'

Associated Press

PITTSBURGH (AP) -- Claims by the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center that the mayor is challenging the hospital network's tax-exempt status to deflect attention from a grand jury investigation of city finances are as "irrelevant as they are ridiculous," an attorney for the city and the mayor said in a new court filing.

Mayor Luke Ravenstahl sued this year, asking a judge to declare that UPMC shouldn't be tax-exempt because it operates more like a for-profit business in some respects than a charity.

UPMC then responded with a federal lawsuit claiming Ravenstahl's suit was violating its civil rights and meant to divert attention from former Chief Nate Harper's resignation and indictment on charges relating to a slush fund, as well as a continuing federal investigation that now appears to be focusing on Ravenstahl.

UPMC's amended complaint "contains a breathtaking mix of innuendo and illogical leaps," city attorney E. J. Strassburger wrote Tuesday, challenging UPMC's attempt to link the timing of the tax-status lawsuit to the unrelated federal probe.

UPMC spokesman Paul Wood then responded to the city's latest court filing by calling Ravenstahl's attack on UPMC's tax-exempt status "bizarre and breathtakingly improper" and "shameful."

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