Know of email abuse? These reformers want you to send old-fashioned letters

By Andrew Staub | PA Independent

HARRISBURG, Pa. — The state Capitol’s resident reformers want to do their part to help unravel Pornogate, the X-rated email scandal that has ensnared two members of Gov. Tom Corbett’s cabinet.

Eric Epstein, coordinator of Rock the Capital, and activist Gene Stilp, also a candidate for state House, announced Wednesday they’ve set up a postal box where citizens can leave anonymous tips about the potential misuse of state computers and email systems without fear of retribution.

While they says they want to capture more than just complaints about raunchy emails — such as using state computers for shopping or downloading games — the old-school P.O. box strategy is a direct response to Attorney General Kathleen Kane’s revelation that eight prominent state officials, and reportedly 30 others, sent or received pornographic emails through their state accounts while working in the Attorney General’s Office under Kane’s predecessors.

SEND US A POSTCARD: From left, good-government activists Gene Stilp and Eric Epstein want anybody with information about the misuse of state computers or email systems to send them a letter to P.O. Box 60521, Harrisburg, PA 17106.

“I understand other folks may have concerns about First Amendment rights, but doing nothing is not an option,” Epstein said. “Allowing this type of communication to go on unchecked is completely unacceptable.”

Stilp and Epstein readily acknowledged they don’t have the ability to subpoena anybody and don’t have real investigative authority, but they said they could use complaints to file formal open-records requests or forward information to the media.

Plus, they always can do what Stilp did — ask a higher power to investigate. He filed private criminal complaint regarding the emails with Dauphin County District Attorney Ed Marsico, with the hopes the prosecutor could assemble a grand jury to look into the email situation, which still hasn’t been explained in its full context.

“I want to make sure that, in some fashion, somebody’s going to look at this in a prosecutorial way, not just with administrative penalties,” Stilp said.

Marsico said Thursday morning his office is reviewing the complaint.

Kane opened a storm of controversy last week after she allowed reporters to view a sample of the racy content that was included in hundreds of emails sent between 2008 and 2012. She named eight prominent officials, including Department of Environment Protection Secretary Chris Abruzzo and State Police Commissioner Frank Noonan, as individuals who either sent or received the dirty emails.

The Morning Call reported Wednesday that Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice Seamus McCaffery also sent explicit emails.

Renee Martin, a spokesman for Kane, said about 30 employees in the Attorney General’s Office also were involved. Their names were not released because of union and human resources policies, she said earlier this week.

“We have to stay within our legal bounds,” Martin said.

Even with plenty of unknowns, Stilp said the situation has left everybody “disgusted.” Epstein said he and Stilp wished they didn’t have to set up an anonymous post office box to take complaints, but said action cannot wait.

“We’re not here to assess or assign guilt,” he said. “What we’re here to do is make sure that this type of behavior ends. Not tomorrow. Not sometime down the road. Now.”

Andrew Staub is a reporter for PA Independent and can be reached at Andrew@PAIndependent.com. Follow @PAIndependent on Twitter for more.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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