Wagner calls for transparency from Wolf, inspector general
Sen. Scott Wagner, a prominent businessman, sits down with The York Dispatch to discuss, among other topics, the potential for conflicts of interest as he runs for governor.
A week after Gov. Tom Wolf withheld the results of an investigation into his second-in-command, state Sen. Scott Wagner announced he will introduce legislation to ensure taxpayers can see the results of any probes they’ve funded.
Wolf said Dec. 12 that he would not release the findings of state Inspector General Bruce Beemer’s investigation into Lt. Gov. Mike Stack, who faced heavy criticism earlier this year following reports he and his wife, Tonya, mistreated state troopers assigned to protect them.
Those allegations prompted Wolf to remove the Stacks' security details in April, in a move that stunned those in the state Capitol. Lieutenant governors have had state police protection for decades in Pennsylvania.
Wagner, R-Spring Garden Township, criticized Wolf’s decision Tuesday, Dec. 19, for using the Inspector General's Office “like a private investigator.”
The one-term state senator, who is challenging Wolf in the 2018 gubernatorial election, said he will be writing a bill to make all of the inspector general’s investigative findings open to the public, taking the decision to release or withhold those reports out of Wolf's hands.
Wagner's bill, if passed, also would require the publication of all reports issued by the inspector general during 2017.
Optional disclosure: Governmental transparency was a key plank of Wolf’s 2014 campaign for governor, leading Wagner and other Republicans, as well as a number of media outlets, to slam Wolf’s decision to withhold the report on the Stacks’ actions.
Wagner applauded Wolf’s February release of an “embarrassing and damning report” after the Inspector General’s Office found evidence of cheating among cadets at the Pennsylvania State Police Academy.
Wagner also pointed to Wolf’s comments from July after he signed Senate Bill 527, which established the Inspector General’s Office as a permanent Cabinet-level post independent from the governor's purview.
After declaring he would sign it, Wolf thanked lawmakers for passing the bill so the Inspector General’s Office could serve “taxpayers with efficiency and accountability,” and Wagner is now looking to hold Wolf to that standard.
“Despite claims for greater accountability, the governor may pick and choose which reports shall be made public if he is the one who requested the investigation in the first place,” Wagner wrote Tuesday, Dec. 19, in a memo to his Senate colleagues.
Lt. gov. under fire: The report that Wolf is withholding came after the Inspector General’s Office investigated Stack over claims he and his wife verbally abused state police troopers assigned to protect them and the people who work in the lieutenant governor’s official residence.
The Stacks live in a state-owned house at Fort Indiantown Gap, the state National Guard headquarters about 20 miles east of the Capitol.
Multiple outlets this spring reported that Stack and his wife might have pressured state troopers to use their sirens when transporting them, and Stack acknowledged he supported a failed proposal to change state law to specifically allow troopers to use flashing lights and sirens when transporting dignitaries such as the lieutenant governor.
“The bottom line is this: If taxpayer resources are used to conduct an investigation, then taxpayers have a right to see the findings,” Wagner said. “If you don’t want something to go public, then do not use taxpayer resources to pay for an investigation.”
During Beemer’s investigation into cheating at the State Police Academy, eight investigators in the inspector general’s office racked up 8,160 work hours, or 1,088 days, according to the official report.
The report does not indicate a total cost for the investigation of the academy, and officials have not released the cost of the inspector general’s investigation into the Stacks.
Reached for comment Wednesday, Dec. 20, Wolf press secretary J.J. Abbott reiterated the governor's statement after deciding not to release the report on Stack.
"My concern back in the summer was to make sure the employees — the police officers and the staff out at the residence — were safe and were not in a bad job situation," Wolf said at the time. "And I took care of that. I don't think anything will be served by piling on top of that."
Noting the Inspector General's Office never released a report or summary of any investigations before Wolf took office, Abbott said "the insinuation that Gov. Wolf is using OIG different than it ever has been is just wrong."
Abbott declined to comment on Wagner's intended legislation, as the bill has not yet been introduced.
"We cannot review what does not exist," Abbott said.