The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Local News

August 23, 2013

Some question promotion of attorney general’s sister

HARRISBURG — Ellen Granahan, a deputy attorney general, 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 elected 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, also is 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 they report directly to a relative, 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 and is not bound by that directive, he said.

Peters said that one of the first tasks undertaken 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 of her management to Adrian King, first deputy attorney general, Peters said. King then decided that Granahan should be promoted, he said.

State Ethics Commission Executive Director Robert Caruso said that there is nothing in the state ethics act that would have dealt with the situation in which 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 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 the 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 was 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.

Text Only | Photo Reprints
Local News
  • Home is Where The Tribune-Democrat is Delivered!

    Here are the names of the 10 entrants that were chosen today-April 24, 2014.  If you see your name, call the Circulation Department at 814-532-5000 (#1) or 1-866-307-0905 to verify your information.

    April 24, 2014

  • WilliamsA ‘I thought I was going to die’

    Hornerstown resident Robert “Bobby” Williams said he endured two hours of surgery, suffered a heart attack and fears he may never again be able to fully use his right arm.

    April 23, 2014 3 Photos

  • Home is Where The Tribune-Democrat is Delivered!

    Here are the names of the 10 entrants that were chosen today-April 22, 2014.  If you see your name, call the Circulation Department at 814-532-5000 (#1) or 1-866-307-0905 to verify your information.

    April 22, 2014

  • JFD traing Firefighters practice river rescues

    Johnstown Fire Department members lift a “victim” out of the rescue basket during training Wednesday along the Stonycreek River flood-control wall

    April 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • sewer meeting map Sewer work will tie up traffic

    Brace yourselves.
    This summer’s sewer main replacement project will delay traffic with detours, closed streets and lane restrictions through one of Johnstown’s notoriously snarled neighborhoods.

    April 23, 2014 2 Photos

  • USS Somerset USS Somerset arrives at San Diego homeport

    The USS Somerset is home.
    The amphibious transport dock ship named in honor of the passengers and crew of United Airlines Flight 93 arrived at its new homeport of Naval Base San Diego on Monday.

    April 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • Jablonski, Stephen Charges filed in courthouse bomb threat

    A Johnstown man was charged by Ebensburg Borough police Wednesday with threatening to blow up the Cambria County Courthouse, a call he admitted to Ebensburg police he made Tuesday.

    April 23, 2014 2 Photos

  • Vizza, Peter Vizza voted deputy mayor

    The top vote-getter in last year’s Johnstown City Council election is now also the city’s deputy mayor.

    April 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • Conemaugh Township rezoning opens business possibilities

    A portion of South Main Street in Davidsville will be rezoned to give greater allowances to the businesses along the road.

    April 23, 2014

  • Sculptor’s work to be raffled off

    The work of a local sculptor will be raffled off during the Art in Bloom show.

    April 23, 2014

Poll

Would you like to see the Johnstown Community Corrections Center remain open after its lease runs out on Oct. 11, 2015?

Yes
No
I'm not sure
     View Results
House Ads