- Associated Press - Tuesday, April 15, 2014

PITTSBURGH (AP) - The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center can have a copy of the contents of the former mayor’s computer in case it contains information relevant to a civil rights lawsuit the hospital network has pending against the city, a federal judge ruled Tuesday.

The vendor hired to make the copy must abide by a confidentiality agreement and produce copies of its findings - in sealed, tamper-proof envelopes - to attorneys for the city and UPMC, according to the ruling first reported by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (http://bit.ly/1n9gOSm ). U.S. District Judge Joy Flowers Conti also decreed those attorneys won’t be allowed to open the envelopes unless she approves it.

Under former Mayor Luke Ravenstahl, the city challenged UPMC’s nonprofit status in state court, seeking to tax otherwise exempt properties. Mayor Bill Peduto, who took office in January after Ravenstahl decided not to run for another term, is still pursuing the lawsuit but has acknowledged it is a bargaining chip in the city’s efforts to force UPMC to agree to a PILOT - or payment in lieu of taxes - program.

Peduto wants nonprofits to contribute money for city services because UPMC, city universities and other nonprofits don’t pay taxes on most of the real estate they control.

UPMC’s attorneys want the data on Ravenstahl’s former city-issued computer copied and preserved because they believe it may contain evidence to bolster UPMC’s claim that the tax status lawsuit violated UPMC’s civil rights.

Conti has stayed the civil rights lawsuit - meaning it remains in limbo - while the city’s challenge to UPMC’s tax-exempt status plays out in state court.

Ravenstahl’s computer became an issue when it was learned he kept it for several days after leaving office. Ravenstahl’s attorney has denied that anything improper was done with the computer during that time.

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Information from: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, http://www.post-gazette.com