Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Upmc Sues City, Mayor Complaint Argues Ravenstahl 'Initiated a Campaign to Target and Damage' Health Care Giant

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Upmc Sues City, Mayor Complaint Argues Ravenstahl 'Initiated a Campaign to Target and Damage' Health Care Giant

Article excerpt

Suggesting that it has been singled out, publicly scolded, taken for granted and invited to join a city task force only to be hit up for money, UPMC on Friday sued the city of Pittsburgh and Mayor Luke Ravenstahl in federal court, claiming its civil rights have been violated and demanding recompense.

The health care giant filed a 16-page complaint responding to a March 20 lawsuit by the city and accompanying news conference by Mr. Ravenstahl. The city's lawsuit questioned UPMC's tax-exempt status and sought to compel payment of six years of back payroll taxes. The mayor justified the challenge based on what he said were the system's vast workforce, nearly $10 billion in operating revenue and international scope.

The city and mayor "have initiated a campaign to target and damage UPMC under the pretext of a state court civil action ... and by other means," according to UPMC's complaint.

Attorney William Pietragallo, representing UPMC, wrote in the complaint that the city's lawsuit was "announced and instituted in total disregard of state and local law and in gross violation of the constitutional rights of UPMC and its supported organizations, including their right to equal protection under the law, and procedural and substantive due process, as well as in contravention of Congress' power to regulate interstate commerce."

But can a health care titan be a victim of unconstitutional bullying?

"My understanding is that the Constitution applies to any person, and a person would include a corporation," said Adrian Roe, a civil rights attorney unconnected to the city or UPMC.

According to UPMC's lawsuit, the city has not challenged the status of other large nonprofits institutions, including insurer Highmark, West Penn Allegheny Health System or the universities.

"We don't believe that we violated their due process rights or their equal protection rights," said city solicitor Dan Regan, adding that a point-by-point defense would have to wait until city lawyers and outside counsel had studied the allegations fully. …

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