Meadville Tribune

Local News

August 25, 2013

Family ties in attorney general's office

HARRISBURG — Ellen Granahan, a deputy attorney general in the state attorney general’s office, had more than just a passing rooting interest in the 2012 campaign to elect her boss — Granahan’s twin sister Kathleen Kane was the Democratic candidate.

Kane, a Democrat from Lackawanna County, won and became Pennsylvania’s first female attorney general. And her sister’s boss.

Three months after Kane took office, Granahan was quietly promoted and given a $13,652-a-year raise.

“While AG Kane would never promote Ellen because she is her sister, neither would she discriminate against her on that basis,” said Joe Peters, a spokesman in the Attorney General’s office.

Granahan was hired in 2008 by then-Attorney General Tom Corbett. A Corbett spokesman declined to comment about Granahan’s promotion.

Granahan is not the only well-connected prosecutor in the attorney general’s office. Corbett’s daughter Katherine Corbett-Gibson is also a deputy attorney general. Corbett-Gibson was hired by Attorney General Linda Kelly after Corbett took office as governor, said Nils Fredericksen, a spokesman in the governor’s office of general counsel.

“(Granahan) was recently selected to head the Child Predator Unit because she is the most qualified and experienced attorney in terms of child sexual abuse matters,” Peters said. “The CPU is a priority for Attorney General Kane, and Ellen shares that passion and commitment.”

Granahan is one of 20 chief deputy attorneys general in the office, each of whom leads a division. Granahan’s pay of $83,423 a year is the lowest of the chief deputies, according to a spreadsheet of salaries provided by the Attorney General’s office.

The state Office of Administration, which provides human resources services for many state agencies, does have a management directive barring state employees from being in situations were a relative directly reports to him or her, said Daniel Egan, an Office of Administration spokesman.

“That’s the minimum standard,” Egan said. “Some agencies go further and prohibit family members anywhere in the chain of command, direct or indirect.”

The Attorney General’s office is independent is not bound by that directive, he said.

Peters said that one of the first tasks taken after Kane took office was to sort out potential conflicts of interest and come up with a strategy for dealing with them. In Granahan’s case, the solution was to assign all management of her to First Deputy Attorney General Adrian King, Peters said. King then decided that Granahan should be promoted, he said.

Pennsylvania Ethics Commission executive director Robert Caruso said that there is nothing in the state ethic act that would have dealt with the fact that Granahan worked in the office before Kane was elected and became her boss. However, the ethics act might be relevant if there are questions about Kane’s role in determining that Granahan deserved the promotion.

“That’s the $10,000 question,” Caruso said.

The ethics act states that public officials cannot use elected office for personal financial gain for themselves or family members.

The approach taken in the attorney general’s office is the typical manner used to try to shield elected officials from perceived conflicts of interest when relatives are being hired in their offices, Caruso said.

“There has to be a barrier,” Caruso said.

But even so, it is tricky to determine whether the public official is still influencing the hiring decision no matter who makes the actual hire, said Eric Epstein, who leads the government watchdog group Rock the Capital.

“The boss may not be the one who made the promotion but in the back of the mind of person doing the hiring, they know it’s the boss’s relative,” Epstein said. “And it would certainly make it an uncomfortable Thanksgiving dinner if one sister asked the other why she didn’t get the promotion she wanted.”

The promotion of her sister comes after Kane ran on an ethics platform that critical of the way previous attorney generals (including the current governor) managed the office, Epstein said.

“I’m not saying it’s unethical, but the appearance is unsettling,” Epstein said. “You are looking at a bright gray area.”

Nathan Benefield, director of policy analysis at the Commonwealth Foundation, saw little gray.

“If Kathleen Kane had anything to do with promoting her sister, it is a pretty clear conflict of interest under state law,” Benefield said.

Unfortunately, Pennsylvania’s laws on nepotism are among the weakest and worst enforced in the nation, and this sort of thing goes on all the time — the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission being a prime example of nepotism and patronage run amok, Benefield said.

Kane might have been better served to publicly disclose her sister’s relationship at the time Granahan was promoted, Epstein said.

 “It’s a unique situation. We don’t want (Granahan) to lose her job just because her sister got elected,” Epstein said, noting that Granahan’s qualifications suggest she may be perfectly suited for the job.

Finnerty reports from Harrisburg for Community Newspaper Holdings Inc.’s Pennsylvania newspapers, including The Meadville Tribune. Follow him on Twitter @cnhipa.

1
Text Only
Local News
  • Well inspectors trying to keep up during boom time

    The state’s 83 well inspectors face a daunting enough challenge keeping tabs on 120,000 active oil and gas wells that have been drilled over the last century.

    July 27, 2014

  • cycle Young stunt cyclist to bring show to 'Thunder'

    V-v-v-v-eroom! is the high-pitched whine from the Honda CBR 600 sport motorcycle as Steven Pilic rolls back the throttle and speeds down the asphalt. In one quick, smooth motion — just like you put one foot in front of the other — he shifts his weight forward on the handlebars, jumps from the bike’s foot pegs, lands his feet on the seat and pulls the 400-plus pounds of metal up onto its back wheel, using a combination of balance, brakes, clutch and speed to circle slowly at first and then faster and faster, tighter and tighter while doing a wheelie.

    July 27, 2014 1 Photo

  • Tornado watch issued for Crawford County

    The National Weather Service in Cleveland has issued a tornado watch for Crawford County.

     

    July 27, 2014

  • SUNDAY ISSUE: 'Free-range' parenting

    The case of a woman arrested after leaving her daughter at a park while she went to work is sparking discussion across South Carolina — and even the rest of the country.

    July 26, 2014

  • pymatuning History majors rule at Pioneer & Art Festival

    Those looking for living history exhibits at the 21st annual Pymatuning Pioneer & Art Festival weren’t disappointed Saturday.

    July 26, 2014 1 Photo

  • Organizers ready to stimulate Meadville with next weekend's Thunder in the City

    Started six years ago by Dave Stone, owner of Mickey’s Central Station, as an event to “increase commerce and stimulate the economy,” the annual Thunder in the City Classic Car and Motorcycle Show in Meadville has done that — and lots more.

    July 25, 2014

  • Conneautville celebrating 200 years

    Thursday was a relaxed opening day at the Conneautville Bicentennial Celebration, but things will get hopping today — literally. A frog jumping contest is scheduled for 6 p.m.

    July 25, 2014

  • PennDOT seeking outside help to make bridge repairs

    State officials are poised to sign a massive deal that will enlist outside help to rebuild and maintain up to 600 bridges, marking the Corbett administration’s latest foray into privatizing key government functions.

    July 24, 2014

  • Stabbing charges dismissed against Bloomfield woman

    A Bloomfield Township woman accused of stabbing her live-in companion last month is a free woman after the alleged victim in the case didn’t appear in court Wednesday.

    July 24, 2014

  • Guys Mills boy wins national PBS Kids Writers Contest

    July 24, 2014

Business Marquee
AP Video
The Carbon Trap: US Exports Global Warming UN Security Council Calls for Gaza Cease-fire Traditional African Dishes Teach Healthy Eating 13 Struck by Lightning on Calif. Beach Baseball Hall of Famers Inducted Israel, Hamas Trade Fire Despite Truce in Gaza Italy's Nibali Set to Win First Tour De France Raw: Shipwrecked Concordia Completes Last Voyage Raw: Sea Turtle Hatchlings Emerge From Nest Raw: Massive Dust Storm Covers Phoenix 12-hour Cease-fire in Gaza Fighting Begins Raw: Bolivian Dancers Attempt to Break Record Raw: Israel, Palestine Supporters Rally in US Raw: Air Algerie Flight 5017 Wreckage Virginia Governor Tours Tornado Aftermath Judge Faces Heat Over Offer to Help Migrant Kids Kangaroo Goes Missing in Oklahoma More M17 Bodies Return, Sanctions on Russia Grow Raw: Deadly Tornado Hits Virginia Campground Ohio State Marching Band Chief Fired After Probe
Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide
Stocks