For the past week, Democratic Attorney General Kathleen Kane has released information in a piecemeal fashion about bawdy emails exchanged by current and former state employees on the job in Pennsylvania years ago.
Some say the office has done little to quell criticism that the bit-by-bit disclosures show political motive.
State Supreme Court Chief Justice Ronald Castille called it a “show and tell” last week — the way the attorney general revealed raunchy images sent or received by eight men who worked under Gov. Tom Corbett when he helmed the attorney general’s office. All the men named by Kane’s office are Republicans.
Kane staffers alluded to dozens more current employees whose names couldn’t be revealed, they said, because of union agreements, office policies, and “legal bounds.”
Then came the e-mail copies, heavily redacted and released in two batches, pertaining to the eight men named. The emails were shared with the Corbett administration and reporters.
Renee Martin, Kane’s spokeswoman, said the emails were shared as soon as they were redacted and printed.
“We promised you that it wouldn’t be an incomplete story. You want to see everything, this is everything on those eight,” said Martin, referring to the men the office has named in connection to the emails.
Kane said last week she was releasing information originally sought with right-to-know requests under the state’s open records law. Martin suggested other requests could yield more information.
When asked whether current employees of the attorney general’s office who swapped the bawdy emails would be disciplined, Martin responded, “We have already begun that process.”
But some people smell politics.
“Clearly, there are questions that one can legitimately ask about the choices that Kane has made here,” said Thomas Baldino, a professor of political science at Wilkes University.
Kane said in a written statement last week that she released the names she did in the interest of transparency. Baldino points out the inconsistency of that explanation when one looks at the other employees whose names have been blacked out from the shared e-mails.
“She has to define this,” Baldino said, “because people will continue to raise questions about the political nature of her decision until she explains the rationale by which she’s making these decisions.”
The governor’s office has asked for a full accounting of inappropriate e-mails swapped.
“I call upon the attorney general to release to the public, in a complete and unbiased manner, all of the information on all individuals associated with this issue,” said Corbett in a written statement Thursday. “Such action is in the best interest of the public and will serve to regain trust in those who work in public service.”
A cabinet secretary and top state agency lawyer have resigned after being linked to the e-mails. As of Friday, the administration was waiting for information pertaining to Randy Feathers, a Corbett appointee to the state Board of Probation and Parole.
Also implicated in the bawdy exchange was Frank Noonan, the state police commissioner. He remains on the job, after the governor noted Noonan appears not to have sent or forwarded any of the emails.