Week in review: Two resign as fallout over X-rated emails drags on

By PA Independent Staff

As we look back at the week that was, the fallout over the so-called Pornogate scandal dominated the Capitol, with two state officials resigning amid allegations they were among a group who sent or received sexually explicit emails over a four-year span.

Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Chris Abruzzo resigned Thursday afternoon, and DEP Deputy Chief Counsel Glenn Parno followed in the evening, according to Gov. Tom Corbett, who said he received more information about the emails Thursday.

At the same time, Corbett cleared state police Commissioner Frank Noonan, the second cabinet member Attorney General Kathleen Kane named last week when she dropped the bombshell about the sexually explicit emails.

LOOKING BACK: Details about Pornogate continued to drip out this week, with two state officials resigning amid allegations of X-rated emails.

It was a bad time for the head of state police to face controversy, considering Noonan has been occupied with the search for Eric Frein, the man accused of killing a state trooper and wounding another.

“Information received regarding State Police Commissioner Frank Noonan’s account indicates that he did not participate in opening, originating, forwarding or replying to any message,” Corbett said in a statement. “It is important that Commissioner Noonan remain focused on the critical public safety mission he is leading in the manhunt for Eric Frein and that there is no disruption in the work underway in this case.”

Corbett also called upon Kane “to release to the public, in a complete and unbiased manner, all of the information on all individuals associated with this issue” and said he is awaiting information on a fourth official.

Activists set up P.O. box to take anonymous complaints

Good-government activists Gene Stilp and Eric Epstein are also looking for more information about any potential misuse of state emails systems or computers.

The two set up an anonymous post office box this week to accept complaints, saying tipsters could point out potential wrongdoing without fear of retribution.

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

Stilp, a candidate for state House, also filed a private criminal complaint with Dauphin County District Attorney Ed Marsico over the matter and also requested the Judicial Conduct Board investigate state Supreme Court Justice Seamus McCaffery after The Morning Call reported the jurist was involved with the X-rated emails.

Freshman state senator calls out Republican majority leader

State Sen. Scott Wagner, R-York, believes his caucus needs a change at the top.

Wagner wants state Sen. Dominic Pileggi out as majority leader, and he made those sentiments clear in a letter he sent to the Chester County Republican on Friday. Wagner accused Pileggi of blocking legislation that could help Corbett, shutting fellow Republicans out of negotiations regarding the Philadelphia cigarette tax and protecting private- and public-sector unions.

“The bottom line is this: I have concluded that it is not in the best interest of Pennsylvanians for you to continue as Senate Majority Leader,” Wagner wrote to Pileggi.

The letter, which quickly became public after Pileggi forwarded it to every Republican senator, sent politicos abuzz. Pileggi said he saw the dispute “as an internal caucus matter, not something to be debated in the media.”

Philly cigarette tax ‘will not come close’ to solving district’s financial problems

A new $2-per-pack tax on cigarettes in Philadelphia will help keep the city’s school district afloat — and will help keep 1,000 employees on the job — this year, but does little to solve the underlying financial issues in the district.

The new cigarette tax is expected to generate about $50 million this year, helping to plug an $80 million budget shortfall.

But Moody’s Investors Service says the extra tax “will not come close to solving the district’s fiscal problems.”

In a note released to investors this week, Moody’s warned that the district will continue to struggle, financially and academically.

That’s the cycle Philadelphia has been stuck in for a few years in a row: state and local officials spend the summer months finding a new, last-minute way to raise revenue for the district. Last year, Philadelphia had to borrow money on behalf of the school district to close a $120 million budget gap, after state lawmakers approved a local option sales tax to support the district.

State House starts farewells with plenty of work left

State representatives will return Monday for the first of five scheduled session days in October. They don’t have much time left now to push through a pension reform bill or other big-ticket legislation, but chances are lawmakers will still carve out some time for fluffy farewell speeches.

In fact, departing state representatives already began to bid farewell last month.

“They’re basically saying goodbye to a chamber which means a lot to them,” said Steve Miskin, a spokesman for the House Republicans.

The more cynical take is that self-congratulatory speeches can wait.

“They always have time to pat themselves on the back. They never seem to have time to get the people’s work done,” said Rock the Capital founder Epstein.

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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