Calls mount for further investigation of scrapped Pa. sting

    A nonpartisan government reform group says investigations into a sting operation dropped by the Pennsylvania attorney general’s office shouldn’t stop with the state House Ethics Committee.

    Leaders from both parties in the House have assured the chamber’s ethics panel it would be given the budget to do an investigation of members implicated in a sting that dispersed $20,000 to eight people.

    Attorney General Kathleen Kane says she dropped the case because it couldn’t be successfully prosecuted, despite recordings of public officials accepting money or gifts.

    Ellen Kaplan, with government reform group Committee of Seventy in Philadelphia, said a probe by a legislative panel would be great, but it’s not enough.

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    They’re going to be looking into the conduct of their own members — that’s important but there are other things in this case that have to be gotten to the bottom of, so the public knows exactly what happened here,” Kaplan said. Her group has been calling for an independent investigation of the handling of the dropped case since it was first reported by the Philadelphia Inquirer.

    “There are so many disputed facts in this case,” Kaplan said, “and it just seems to us that you really need an independent counsel — who is not political — who can get to the bottom of the so many issues in this case that are very, very troubling.”

    The House Ethics Committee has subpoena power, but probably would not be able to obtain evidence from the case under court seal, according to its chairman, Rep. Scott Petri, R-Bucks. He could not confirm whether an investigation would be initiated, due to confidentiality rules.

    Petri said the letter from House leaders assuring “sufficient resources” was significant because the panel doesn’t have a budget. “It was nice to know the committee would have resources if we needed it,” he said.

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