By John Finnerty
One of Kathleen Kane’s first moves as Pennsylvania’s attorney general was to hire her cousin, Colleen Tighe, to the position of executive secretary and scheduler, paid $55,003 a year.
Tighe had served as Kane’s assistant during the campaign, said Joe Peters, a spokesman in the attorney general’s office.
The revelation is the second time that Kane’s office has disclosed family ties in the office.
Kane’s sister, Ellen Granahan, was hired in 2008 by then-Attorney General Tom Corbett. In April, four months after Kane took office, Granahan received a promotion and a $13,652-a-year raise. Granahan was named chief deputy attorney general in charge of a task force aimed at cracking down on child predators. The attorney general’s office maintains that Granahan does not report to the attorney general and the decision to promote her was not made by Kane.
Robert Caruso, executive director of the state ethics commission, said Pennsylvania law does not bar public officials from hiring or promoting their cousins. Current state ethics law focuses on immediate family, such as spouses, children or siblings.
To deal with the concerns about promoting a member of her immediate family, Kane directed a subordinate to determine if Granahan should get the deputy attorney general post, Peters said.
No such buffer was involved in the hiring of Tighe, Peters said.
By serving as Kane’s executive assistant during the campaign, Tighe proved to the attorney general that she was qualified for her current position.
“The person is almost the closest person with you in office,” Peters said. “She’s with the attorney general when she travels.”
Tighe was hired by the attorney general on Jan. 16, the day after Kane took the oath of office. The position was never advertised, Peters said.
Kane’s office declined to provide a resume or job application from Tighe.
State Rep. Daryl Metcalfe, R-Butler County, the chairman of the powerful state government committee, said Tighe’s hiring does not appear to violate any existing law. But when coupled with the promotion of Granahan, it creates a worrisome pattern, Metcalfe said.
“The Attorney General’s office is not designed to be a family business,” Metcalfe said.
Metcalfe has already filed a complaint with the ethics commission about the promotion of Granahan. Metcalfe said he has received no update from the commission on the status of its investigation into that complaint. But if the commission finds no wrongdoing, Metcalfe said he will try to determine if there is way to strengthen the law.
Peters said that as far as he knows, Tighe and Granahan are the only employees in the Attorney General’s office who are related to Kane.
Finnerty writes for CNHI’s Pennsylvania newspapers, including The Meadville Tribune, from Harrisburg.