Metcalfe Holds Hearing on State Ethics

HARRISBURG – Pennsylvania House State Government Committee Majority Chairman, State Representative Daryl Metcalfe (R-Butler), convened a public hearing today focusing on several pieces of legislation to expand the Pennsylvania Ethics Act.

Throughout today’s hearing, Metcalfe cited the following incidents as justification for future legislative action.

All in the Family:
Pennsylvania’s Public Official and Employee Ethics Act prohibits elected officials from using their offices to enable financial gain for immediate family members. Newspaper reports have raised questions about Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane’s twin sister, Ellen Granahan, who received a promotion and a nearly 20 percent salary increase to head the office’s Child Predator Unit.

“Kathleen Kane’s office has been in the news recently for all of the wrong reasons, much like when she defiantly decided she would not defend Pennsylvania’s Defense of Marriage Act despite her constitutional and statutory obligation to do so,” Metcalfe said. “As the chief law enforcement officer of this Commonwealth, she needs to be held accountable to even higher legal and ethical standards.” 

Disorder in the Courts:
Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice Seamus McCaffery employs his wife, Lise Rapaport, as his chief administrative judicial assistant. According to reports, throughout Rapaport’s employment she has received referral fees on 19 occasions from law firms. One referral fee alone totaled more than $800,000. Of the firms paying referral fees to Rapaport, several firms have appeared before her husband, Justice McCaffery, on unrelated cases.

Similarly, former Supreme Court Justice Joan Orie Melvin also employed her sister, Janine Orie, as an administrative assistant.

Although the Ethics Act prohibits elected officials from using their offices to enable financial gain for immediate family, a Commonwealth Court case excluded judicial officers and judicial employees from inclusion under the act.

“The primary purpose of Pennsylvania’s court system is to administer justice,” said Metcalfe.   “Many private sector companies already have ethical guidelines in place to guard against the type of nepotism and conduct that landed the Orie sisters in legal trouble and placed Justice McCaffery and his wife under a microscope.”

Day and Night Double-Dipping:
During normal business hours, the Pennsylvania Game Commission’s director of Bureau of Wildlife Habitat Management oversees the development and implementation of the Game Commission’s oil/gas and mineral recovery program. The director, whose position is taxpayer funded, works with companies that develop natural gas resources throughout Pennsylvania.

At night, the director works as an oil and gas mineral lease consultant for individuals seeking to lease their lands for the development of natural gas resources. He again works with the same companies he does during the daylight hours, except now he receives a cut of the revenues and royalties generated by leaseholders.

The Pennsylvania Game Commission does not see these dual roles, working with the same companies in a public capacity during the day and in a private capacity at night, as a conflict of interest.

“How does this look to the hard-working Pennsylvania taxpayers who are responsible for paying his daytime salary?” Metcalfe asked. “Clearly, this is another area of Pennsylvania Ethics Act that needs to be refined by the Legislature.”

Driving Out Corruption:
It has been no secret over the years that Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission officials have been accused of corruption. A March 2013 grand jury presentment highlighted charges ranging from theft by deception to commercial bribery. The presentment accused former State Sen. Robert Mellow and others of using the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission as a “personal cash machine” and also seeking campaign contributions for an advantage in the contract bidding process.

“We should have a zero-tolerance policy against misuse of taxpayer dollars through pay-to-play schemes,” Metcalfe said. “The most effective solution to deal with this organization is to abolish it and merge all operating functions within PennDOT.”

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Representative Daryl Metcalfe
12th District
Pennsylvania House of Representatives
Media Contact:  Ty McCauslin
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