Editorial: Ethics have to be AG priority
Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro’s office sends out a lot of press releases.
They come when a drug dealer is arrested or when a lawsuit is filed against a pharmaceutical corporation. They come when he releases a grand jury report. They come when charges are filed against an elected official.
So when Shapiro sat down with the Tribune-Review editorial board Tuesday, a recap of those highlights was not surprising.
But the top item on the AG’s agenda was not the number of arrests that had been made. It was a renewed faith in the office.
“We worked really hard to rebuild the office,” he said.
Shapiro inherited an office where the last person elected didn’t finish the term. Kathleen Kane lost her law license and resigned her office following conviction on charges including perjury and obstruction of justice. He walked into a serious personnel problem and said he spent those initial months trying to restaff a department with hundreds of empty slots.
So it is understandable that Shapiro is proud to point to successes like a 39% increase in referrals to his office from counties and agencies across the commonwealth.
But it is all the more important that Shapiro has learned from previous problems in the AG’s office with the creation of the first chief integrity officer.
Eric Fillman’s role is continuing training to keep the top law enforcement agency in Pennsylvania on firm ethical ground. Given the problems in Kane’s tenure and the issues with state court officers under the “Porngate” scandal, ethics are something that can’t be assumed just because someone studies the law.
According to Shapiro’s office, Fillman has conducted 172 ethics trainings totaling 4,831 hours for OAG employees.
Given that the attorney general is responsible for holding other officeholders and public leaders to account in charges of public corruption, it is essential that the office be trustworthy. That means ethics cannot be an afterthought. They have to be the foundation that everything else is built upon.