Corbett asks appointee to step down in email scandal
HARRISBURG — Gov. Tom Corbett on Friday asked a member of the Board of Probation and Parole to resign because of the unfolding scandal involving pornographic emails shared by staff members in the Attorney General’s Office.
Randy Feathers, who supervised agents in Altoona when Corbett was attorney general, makes $115,932 in the board position to which Corbett appointed him.
“The governor is calling upon Randy Feathers to resign his position as a board member,” said Jay Pagni, Corbett’s spokesman.
Pagni cited a section of the Prisons and Parole Code that says the governor can remove a board member for cause “with the advice and consent” of two-thirds of the Senate. The justifiable cause would be the pornographic emails, he said.
Erik Arneson, spokesman for the Senate Republicans, said Sens. Joe Scarnati and Dominic Pileggi would “strongly recommend” that the governor’s request be immediately honored.
“We would anticipate strong bipartisan support if a vote is needed,” Arneson said.
Scarnati and Pileggi are the top two Republicans in the GOP-controlled Senate.
The state Senate meets only a few days this month before the Nov. 4 election. The legislative session ends Nov. 30.
Attorney General Kathleen Kane released email strings implicating Feathers, former prosecutor Patrick Blessington, former Executive Deputy Attorney General Rick Sheetz and Corbett’s former press secretary Kevin Harley in the transmission of emails with nude photos and videos of sex acts.
In one email that Feathers forwarded, titled, “What a NASCAR Victory Should Look Like,” a man sprayed champagne onto a nude woman.
Feathers declined to comment when Kane on Sept. 25 named him and seven other men among dozens of employees involved. Kane said Feathers received 436 sexually explicit emails and forwarded 39. At the time, he said through a spokeswoman that showing images from selected emails from 2008 to 2012 was “a political game.”
Harley, who received 29 emails, told the Tribune-Review by text message: “Information regarding my account indicates that I did not participate in opening, originating, forwarding or replying to any message.”
Some emails were sent directly to Harley. One email, from a sender whose name Kane’s aides blacked out, had the subject line: “This is why I like shopping at IKEAXX.”
On Thursday, Corbett accepted resignations from Department of Environmental Protection Secretary E. Christopher Abruzzo and DEP Deputy General Counsel Glenn Parno. Abruzzo was a drug prosecutor, and Parno handled environmental crimes in the Attorney General’s Office.
Corbett, a Republican, was attorney general from 2005 to 2011 and has said he did not know about the email exchanges. Democrat Tom Wolf, a York County businessman, is opposing him in the election.
Kane, a Democrat who took office in 2013, said current and fo rmer employees sent and received pornographic emails. Her office said it would not name about 30 current employees because of an internal investigation and grievance procedures available to union workers.
Corbett reiterated support for one email recipient, Pennsylvania State Police Commissioner Frank Noonan, during a visit to Pittsburgh on Friday. Noonan sent no sexually explicit emails even though he received 338, Corbett said.
At Corbett’s request, Kane first released email strings involving Noonan, Abruzzo, Parno and Chris Carusone, former appeals officer for the attorney general. The governor wanted to verify senders, recipients, dates and other information.
“I have not personally seen the emails,” Corbett said. “My staff has seen the emails. As you know, they were heavily redacted emails, so it makes it a little bit harder.”
Kane’s releasing piecemeal information could be part of a strategy “to keep the story in the news” before the election, said J. Wesley Leckrone, a political science professor at Widener University in Chester. “Or it is just a disorganized operation and there is no grand plan.”
Kane’s aides have said she wants to release the information when it’s ready for distribution, but redacting names is tedious.
Brad Bumsted and Melissa Daniels are Trib Total Media staff writers. Reach Bumsted at 717-787-1405 and Daniels at 412-380-8511.