Appointee refuses to step down over porn scandal

AP News
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Posted: Oct 03, 2014 10:14 PM
Appointee refuses to step down over porn scandal

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Republican Gov. Tom Corbett called on one of his political appointees to resign Friday because of his role in the scandal over pornography exchanges in the state attorney general's office, but the appointee refused.

In a letter to Corbett, Randy Feathers said he wants Democratic Attorney General Kathleen Kane to appoint an independent forensic expert to review what Kane described as inappropriate emails linked to Feathers that were provided to the governor's office at his request.

Feathers said he would consider stepping down from his $116,000-a-year seat on the state Board of Probation and Parole if the expert concludes he did not fulfill his professional responsibilities.

Corbett could remove Feathers from the board for cause, but that would require the consent of the state Senate. Republicans who control the chamber signaled support for Corbett, but the GOP caucus is several votes shy of the two-thirds majority that state law requires.

Feathers is one of four men who followed Corbett from the attorney general's office nearly four years ago to new jobs in his administration that they still held as of Wednesday. Two top state officials resigned Thursday, and Corbett said he decided that the fourth man, state police Commissioner Frank Noonan, did not actively participate in the exchanges.

Feathers, who formerly served as a regional director of the attorney general's narcotics bureau and was involved in the Jerry Sandusky child sex investigation, has been on the probation board since October 2012.

Corbett's request came as his office wrapped up two days of reviewing emails that are at the center of the scandal, including what Kane's office says are more than 400 emails Feathers received and dozens he sent while working for then-Attorney General Corbett. Heavily redacted copies revealed sexually tinged jokes and at least one insensitive remark about people of Arab descent.

The scandal has forced Corbett to defend his management of the agency he headed from 2005 to 2011 even as he fights for his political survival one month before the Nov. 4 election. Corbett is locked in an uphill campaign for re-election against Democratic challenger Tom Wolf.

Kane took office last year after becoming the first Democrat and the first woman to be elected attorney general.

Last week, Kane identified eight former office employees who sent or received hundreds of pornographic images or videos in emails that were discovered during her review of the Sandusky prosecution.

Corbett requested details from Kane's office as he weighed whether the four still working in the administration should keep their jobs. He said he was unaware of the pornography exchanges and called such activity "inexcusable."

The two who resigned Thursday — Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Christopher Abruzzo and department lawyer Glenn Parno — did so as Kane's office delivered the first batch of emails Corbett requested.

Corbett said Noonan did not open, originate, forward or reply to any of the emails.

Noonan, who has not commented, is directing the manhunt for a fugitive suspected of killing one state trooper and wounding another in an ambush at a state police barracks last month.

Kane's office has said that a larger number of current and former employees were involved in the exchanges, including about 30 current employees. Kane spokeswoman Renee Martin said union contracts and other restrictions prevent the disclosure of information about those employees but the current ones are being disciplined.

Concerns about inappropriate office emails also have been raised in the state's court system. State Supreme Court Chief Justice Ronald Castille demanded information on whether any judges were involved, warning that such exchanges could create a conflict of interest.

The final batch of emails released Friday afternoon, like those released Thursday, are bound in thick volumes. Most of the text was redacted, but it includes sexually suggestive comments about photographs that were originally attached to the emails but not released.