Pennsylvania governor strips lieutenant gov of security

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Posted: Apr 21, 2017 8:08 PM
Pennsylvania governor strips lieutenant gov of security

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Breaking decades of precedent, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf is stripping the state's lieutenant governor, Mike Stack, and his wife of state police protection following complaints about the Stacks' treatment of troopers and other state employees who tended to their taxpayer-funded residence.

Wolf released a three-sentence letter Friday addressed to Stack informing him of the decision. The move dropped jaws in the state Capitol, since lieutenant governors have had state police protection for decades in Pennsylvania, and have occasionally had to step in to serve as governor.

Wolf also told Stack in the letter that he would limit cleaning, grounds keeping and maintenance staff at his fellow Democrat's official residence near Harrisburg, and only under supervision at pre-arranged times.

"I do not delight in this decision, but I believe it is a necessary step to protect Commonwealth employees," Wolf wrote to Stack, a former state senator from Philadelphia.

The governor hand-delivered the letter to Stack, his office said.

Stack responded in a statement three hours later, saying that he agreed with the decision. He said he and his wife acknowledged that their behavior was "unacceptable" and called it a symptom of a larger problem that he was committed to addressing. He said he also apologized to Wolf for "any embarrassment this situation has caused."

He did not say what that problem is, and neither Wolf nor Stack has given details about the complaints. However, media reports suggested they revolve around allegations that the Stacks verbally abused their state police security detail and household staff at the official residence, and pressured state police drivers to use lights and sirens to bypass traffic in non-emergency situations.

Wolf and Stack were elected on the same ticket in 2014, but candidates for governor and lieutenant governor in Pennsylvania run independently in the primaries and, once elected, hold what are considered independent offices. The men have never been close, and yanking Stack's police protection all but seals that for the future, including 2018, when both men are expected to run for a second term.

"For it to get to this point is shocking and for it to get to the point of a governor to remove a (security) detail and staff is amazing, and it's also very sad," said Stephen Miskin, a spokesman for House Majority Leader Dave Reed, R-Indiana.

Stack, 53, and his wife, Tonya, live in the state-owned house at Fort Indiantown Gap, the state National Guard headquarters about 20 miles east of the Capitol. Built in the 1940s, the 2,500-square-foot home has a swimming pool and a five-car garage.

In prior years, it has been tended by kitchen, grounds and cleaning staff, while state troopers provided around-the-clock protection to the lieutenant governor and his wife that included driving them around on public and private business.

Complaints had spurred Wolf to initiate an inspector general's investigation into the Stacks' treatment of state employees. On Friday, the governor's office declined comment about whether Wolf had received a report from the inspector general.

News of the inspector general's investigation first became the subject of media reports earlier this month, prompting Stack to summon reporters to his Capitol offices.

In comments to reporters, Stack provided scant detail about what he felt he did wrong, but nonetheless he acknowledged he had said "things in anger or stress or frustration" that he wishes he hadn't said.