Bucks activist tries new tack to identify Pa. workers who swapped porn

     Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane  has not disclosed the entire cache of messages, and her office has been selective in its disclosure of participants in the email exchanges. (AP file photo)

    Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane has not disclosed the entire cache of messages, and her office has been selective in its disclosure of participants in the email exchanges. (AP file photo)

    An activist who has crusaded for a year to learn who exchanged pornographic emails within Pennsylvania’s Office of Attorney General said he might be about to make headway – thanks to public comments made by Attorney General Kathleen Kane herself.

     

    Simon Campbell, founder of the Bucks County group Pennsylvanians for Union Reform, has been angling to uncover the identities of all the state employees who sent or received smutty emails found on OAG servers and computers. Kane’s office unearthed the messages but fought numerous requests for their full release, citing union contracts and employee privacy.

    Last month, during a speech to reporters, Kane said 23 office employees had been reprimanded for passing porn.

    A light bulb went off in Campbell’s mind.

    “When public officials give press conferences, they create attachments to Right to Know appeals by creating categories that we didn’t even know about,” said Campbell, chuckling. He filed a new open records request – this time, asking for the reprimanded employees’ pay statements.

    “We’re not asking for the actual porn emails, because we think they might not be classified as records,” said Campbell. “But an employer pay statement? We think we’re on rock-solid ground to say, that’s a public record of the agency.”

    Kane has been criminally charged with leaking secret investigative material and then covering it up. She maintains her innocence and has vowed to fight the charges in court.

    She has also said her office’s discovery of the inappropriate emails is at the root of the case against her.

    But Kane has not disclosed the entire cache of messages, and her office has been selective in its disclosure of participants. Last year, she released some emails, along with the names of eight people involved in the smut swap. All of the people named had ties to then-Gov. Tom Corbett, a Republican. Other names on the released emails were redacted.

    The Morning Call exposed former state Supreme Court Justice Seamus McCaffery, a Democrat, as part of the exchange, and prompted his resignation. The OAG later announced that 61 anonymous employees were disciplined for their role in the email chain.

    Last week, the Supreme Court unsealed additional pornographic and inappropriate emails that hadn’t been made public by Kane’s office. The document dump exposed the names of additional senders and recipients. But the tranche of messages had been submitted last year by Kane to support her argument that two of her critics, former state prosecutors Frank Fina and Marc Costanzo, were manipulating an investigation of her to hide their role in the pornographic e-mails.

    The messages represent only a part of the entire universe of raunchy messages unearthed. The court couldn’t unseal what wasn’t in its possession.

    In a written statement last week, Kane said she won’t release more emails without the “guidance” of the court – guidance that she will seek at a Sept. 16 hearing in Commonwealth Court. That’s when her office plans to contest a Right to Know appeal, filed under the state’s open records law by The Philadelphia Inquirer. The request, denied by Kane’s office and now before the court on appeal, seeks all the pornographic emails in the OAG’s possession.

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