Gov. Tom Wolf’s beleaguered nominee to lead the State Police will step down, in an attempt to end a months-long struggle with Pennsylvania Senate Republicans and clear the air as budget negotiations intensify.
Acting State Police Commissioner Marcus Brown withdrew his name for consideration for the post Monday, after failing to win the Senate’s confirmation vote last week. Republicans in the majority had questioned Brown’s judgment. Democrats said Brown was being targeted for his plans to make the State Police more diverse.
Picking a new commissioner will help the administration focus on the state budget due at the end of the month, said Wolf’s spokesman Jeff Sheridan.
“This is something that the governor felt he needed to move on from, so that it’s no longer a distraction,” said Sheridan. “We are now close to the deadline on passing a final budget, and the governor wants to make sure that budget reflects his priorities.”
Brown, a former Baltimore cop and past head of the Maryland State Police, had angered some current and former troopers by wearing the Pennsylvania State Police uniform, despite not having come up through the ranks. He will stay on as acting commissioner until the governor picks a new nominee.
Brown’s withdrawal was announced hours after another distraction was dispatched: the governor’s office allowed Erik Arneson to return to his post as Open Records Director pending a court appeal.
Arneson had been fired from the position by Wolf, who said his last-minute appointment by former Gov. Tom Corbett was inappropriate. Arneson sued with the help of the Senate GOP, his longtime employer, and a Commonwealth Court ruling reinstated him last week. Wolf’s office appealed and Arneson was told he wouldn’t be able to resume his open records work in the meantime.
But on Monday, the governor’s office reversed course, saying Arneson could return to the agency as the administration waited for the state Supreme Court to consider its appeal. In a written statement, the governor said being unable to remove the appointed open records director “eroded the governor’s executive authority under the Pennsylvania constitution.”