The House Subcommittee On Courts Thursday released a 5-page report by the four Republican members of the Subcommittee making recommendations on how to prevent actions in the future like those that happened to deter and, in some cases, prevent staff members from the Office of the Attorney General from fulfilling their duties under convicted Attorney General Kathleen Kane.
The Subcommittee stopped short of recommending Kane’s impeachment because she has already resigned and stands convicted of criminal charges.
“We heard from witnesses who were afraid they would face retribution for simply performing their jobs, and not only did Kathleen Kane manage in this manner, but so did those closest to her—people she placed in positions of power and authority,” said Rep. Todd Stephens (R-Montgomery), Majority Chair of the Subcommittee.
In addition, the information gleaned from the investigation identified serious deficiencies in current law. These gaps created extreme difficulties for OAG staff, impeding their abilities to fulfill their duties serving the citizens of Pennsylvania.
Though a majority of the subcommittee members believe that the evidence presented at the hearing detailed conduct which would meet the definition of “misbehavior in office,” a majority of the subcommittee members have decided that the conviction in a criminal court of the attorney general accomplishes the objectives of impeachment, i.e., removal from office and a ban on holding any other office of trust in the Commonwealth.
The report recommended that any further impeachment proceedings be deferred unless and until such time a future House of Representatives finds it necessary to pursue them.
“If Attorney General Kane would become eligible to serve in a position of public trust due to a change in circumstances, impeachment proceedings may well be appropriate,” the report concluded.
The investigation also “revealed a need for greater oversight of government agencies, including alternative outlets for whistleblowers to report wrongdoing and protections for those who report such wrongdoing,” according to the report.
The subcommittee’s recommendations include:
-- Requiring the Attorney General of Pennsylvania at all times to possess a valid license to practice law in Pennsylvania, and requiring anyone who is contracted or employed by the attorney general’s office to provide legal services possess a valid license to practice law in Pennsylvania.
-- Prohibiting attorneys in the Office of Attorney General from maintaining a private law practice.
-- Clarifying that the first deputy shall be at the top of the chain of command and assume any duties the attorney general cannot fulfill.
-- Providing for greater legislative oversight over government agencies to investigate wrongdoing and provide accountability and transparency.
-- Providing an avenue for whistleblowers to report wrongdoing outside their own agency.
-- Providing greater protections for whistleblowers.
-- Providing explicit protections for individuals who cooperate with a legislative investigation.
-- Reviewing the provisions concerning grand jury secrecy to prevent someone from using it as a shield to prevent accountability and/or transparency.
The investigation by the Subcommittee and resulting report were authorized by the adoption of House Resolution 659 (Everett-R-Lycoming).
Kathleen Kane served as attorney general from January 2013 until her resignation on August 16, 2016, following a jury verdict finding her guilty of perjury and other offenses the day before.A copy of the report is available online.