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Wolf strips Lt. Gov. Stack of police protection, reduces his staff

| Friday, April 21, 2017, 5:36 p.m.

Gov. Tom Wolf has stripped Lt. Gov. Mike Stack of his state police protective detail and reduced the number of staff at his taxpayer-funded home near Harrisburg a week after Stack apologized for verbal mistreatment of state workers.

“I do not delight in this decision, but I believe it is a necessary step to protect Commonwealth employees,” Wolf said in a letter that his office said he hand-delivered to Stack.

Wolf said the Department of General Services will provide only limited cleaning, grounds keeping and maintenance at the lieutenant governor's state-owned residence in Fort Indiantown Gap, just north of Harrisburg, and will work there only under supervision at prearranged times.

In a statement released Friday evening, Stack said he agrees with Wolf's decision to remove his security and staff.

“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,” Stack said.

“Today, in meeting with Governor 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,” he said.

At a Harrisburg news conference last week, Stack confirmed he and his wife, Tonya, were under investigation by the Office of Inspector General for their behavior toward state workers at the Fort Indiantown Gap residence and the lieutenant governor's state police-provided protective detail.

Stack, 53, a former Democratic state senator from Philadelphia, said he and his wife were both “deeply sorry” for things they said “in anger or frustration or stress” to the state employees who work with them daily.

The Office of Inspector General investigates waste, fraud and abuse in the state's executive branch. Wolf ordered the investigation after hearing complaints about mistreatment.

Wolf spokesman J.J. Abbott said Friday he could not comment on whether Wolf is in possession of the Inspector General's report.

Stack has been under additional pressure over his travel expenses as lieutenant governor. Documents obtained through the state open records law show Stack filed for reimbursements to cover about $4,000 for hotel stays in Philadelphia despite owning a home in the city during his first year in office.

His office defended the reimbursements. Top aide Matt Franchak said Stack moved from his home in Northeast Philadelphia to the state residence near Harrisburg “immediately following his inauguration and began to live there full time.” He also began the process of vacating and selling his home, ultimately closing on the property in February 2016. Stack no longer owns a home in Pennsylvania and is registered to vote at his mother's house, his office said.

The governor's upbraiding of his number two is unprecedented in modern Pennsylvania political history, and it sends a signal that Wolf is looking for a change ahead of next year's gubernatorial election, one analyst says.

“This is now the governor pretty much indicating he's likely — and I use that word — to look for a primary running mate for next year,” said Terry Madonna, political science professor at Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster.

Candidates for governor and lieutenant governor run independently of each other in the primaries in Pennsylvania, and Wolf did not choose Stack as his running mate. Wolf and Stack had a distant partnership during the 2014 campaign and throughout their first term in office.

On Friday, Senate Democratic Leader Jay Costa, D-Forest Hills, a longtime Senate colleague of Stack, said the lieutenant governor has been very active in his role running the Board of Probation and Parole as well as being the governor's liaison to the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency.

“To me, that's what I see when I look at our lieutenant governor,” Costa said, adding he didn't think there was any merit to discussions about Stack's political future in 2018.

Madonna said the governor has “laid down a marker.”

“He has made it very clear that he wants behavioral change and now,” Madonna said. “It's also very clear that under these circumstances that it is going to be very difficult for Wolf to run with Stack next year.”

Kevin Zwick is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-850-2856, or on Twitter @kevinjzwick.

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