Kathleen Kane was elected to be the state’s top attorney and the Attorney General is running up quite a tab on outside, and often out-of-state, attorneys.
Public records reveal that the bill is nearly $500,000, and counting, for lawyers to defend Kane’s office against claims from former employees that she wrongfully terminated or slandered them. Taxpayers are picking up the tab.
“A lot of this is vindictiveness, a lot of this is backbiting,” said Eric Epstein, of Rock the Capital, a government watchdog group. “Most of this could have been avoided, and should have been avoided. And if the taxpayers think the bill is only $500,000 then they’re naïve. The number is gonna go over seven figures and it’s gonna bleed into the next administration.”
Republican Senator John Rafferty (R-Montgomery) hopes to be the next AG and he spoke to the Pennsylvania Press Club on Monday in Harrisburg. Josh Shapiro is the Democrat running against Rafferty to replace Kane in November.
“The $500,000 that’s being spent right now on legal fees could’ve been used to fight the heroin epidemic, it could’ve been used for senior citizen protection,” Rafferty said.
The Attorney General refused to go on camera to respond, but her office did release this statement:
“The use of outside counsel is necessary in part because the office’s staff civil attorneys carry heavy caseloads and do most of their work on behalf of other Commonwealth agencies. We might task our staff attorneys to handle a certain case, such as the Claude Thomas suit, if they have pertinent legal expertise, but that is not always the case. Often the appropriate decision is to seek outside attorneys who are legal experts in the issue at hand. There may also be conflicts of interest that exist in certain cases involving the office that require the use of outside counsel,” the statement from AG Spokesman Jeff Johnson said.
But potential conflicts didn’t stop the Kane team from settling a labor dispute with Ellen Granahan, Kane’s twin sister. She got an $80,000 settlement plus a salary increase of 20 percent just weeks after filing suit. Rafferty said even if the deal was on the up-and-up, it doesn’t look good.
“I think it would’ve been best left to the incoming attorney general,” Rafferty said of the Granahan settlement. “Public perception would’ve been far better had it been decided by the incoming attorney general.”
Disgruntled former employees suing their bosses is nothing new, but Rafferty, a former deputy attorney general, say eight cases in three years is highly unusual.
“I’m not aware of this happening under any other attorney general or any other offices within the commonwealth of Pennsylvania, so this is really one for the records,” Rafferty said.