Wolf strips state police protection from Stack
HARRISBURG — Amid an investigation of claims that Lt. Gov. Mike Stack and his wife repeatedly mistreated state employees, Gov. Tom Wolf on Friday abruptly yanked the Pennsylvania State Police detail assigned to his second-in-command and scaled back staffing at the Stacks’ taxpayer-funded residence.
The extraordinary move, one with no recent parallel in Harrisburg, means the lieutenant governor and his wife immediately lose a perk that has been in place for decades — being escorted by troopers and chauffeured in a state-police SUV equipped with emergency lights and sirens. Housekeepers and state maintenance employees will now come to their home near Fort Indiantown Gap only at arranged times and work under supervision.
Mr. Wolf personally delivered the news to Mr. Stack on Friday, according to the governor’s spokesman. The eight-line letter he gave the lieutenant governor did not explain the
reasons behind the step.
“I do not delight in this decision, but I believe it is a necessary step to protect Commonwealth employees,” the governor wrote.
The move comes amid a state inspector general’s investigation, requested by Mr. Wolf, of complaints that Mr. Stack and his wife, Tonya, repeatedly verbally abused members of the state police detail that protected them and staffers at the lieutenant governor’s residence.
It is not clear when the probe by Inspector General Bruce Beemer will be completed or whether its results will be made public. By revoking Mr. Stack’s police protection, the governor seemed to signal the information he has received so far could be troubling.
In a statement Friday night, Mr. Stack said he concurred with the governor’s decision.
“I recognize, as does my wife, that certain behavior while dealing with the staff of the Lieutenant Governor’s residence and the Pennsylvania State Police Executive Detail who protects us, is unacceptable and were symptoms of a larger problem,” his statement said. “Today, in meeting with Gov. Wolf, I apologized directly to him for any embarrassment this situation has caused, discussed with him some of the reasons for what has occurred, and reiterated our commitment to addressing the causes forcefully and fully.”
Still, the move opened a new and dramatic front in what has been a simmering — if not publicly known — rift between the state’s two top Democrats, men ostensibly expected to run as a team next year.
They ran as a ticket in November 2014. But Mr. Wolf did not choose Mr. Stack, a 53-year-old state senator from Northeast Philadelphia, as his running mate — and their relationship since has been distant and chilly, according to sources.
After news of the probe surfaced last week, Mr. Stack apologized and pledged that he and his wife would try harder. He did not describe what behavior he was apologizing for, saying only that he sometimes gets stressed and snaps “in anger and frustration.” He called such an outburst a “Stack moment.”
Sources have confirmed that before requesting the formal inquiry, Mr. Wolf’s office had repeatedly warned the lieutenant governor that there were complaints about his and his wife’s behavior. And in an interview with reporters, Mr. Wolf said he also had personally warned Mr. Stack.
Pennsylvania has offered its highest elected officials a police detail since the early 1940s. But for the lieutenant governor, that protection has been provided as a courtesy, according to Mr. Wolf’s office.
In the 2015-16 fiscal year, the state spent $5.2 million on the state police executive detail, which protects the Wolfs and the Stacks, according to a legislative study released this year.
The Philadelphia Inquirer and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported this week that Mr. Stack spent roughly $19,000 on travel and other expenses in his first two years in office. That does not include airfare for various state-funded trips he took to destinations inside and outside Pennsylvania.
About $4,200 was billed for overnight stays in Philadelphia hotels — at a point when the Stacks still owned their house in the city. Most of the trips were described as business trips to attend events or meet with constituents. The Wolf administration pressed Mr. Stack to repay about $1,800 in expenses, apparently concerned that they conflicted with state policy barring elected officials from hotel stays within 50 miles of their homes. Mr. Stack’s office did repay the money but defended the expenses, and said the couple had actually moved all their belongings to the Fort Indiantown Gap property right after his 2015 inauguration, and considered it to be their residence.