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Pa. AG settles with law firm over porngate email review bill

Written by The Associated Press | Jan 11, 2017 3:59 PM
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Photo by AP Photo/Matt Rourke

Pennsylvania Attorney General Bruce Beemer speaks during a news conference at the state Capitol in Harrisburg, Pa., Tuesday, Nov. 22, 2016.

(Harrisburg) -- The Pennsylvania attorney general's office said Wednesday that it settled a dispute with a Washington, D.C., law firm over its bill for reviewing explicit and objectionable emails on state-owned computers.

The agency will pay an additional $1.4 million to BuckleySandler, about $400,000 less than it said the firm had sought. That's on top of about $380,000 already paid to BuckleySandler.

Attorney General Bruce Beemer said the deal will help in the transition to a new attorney general, Josh Shapiro. Shapiro, a Democrat elected in November, will be sworn in next week in Harrisburg.

Shapiro's communications director, Joe Grace, said that they were "encouraged" by the settlement and that residents are "ready for their top lawyer to be focused on the pressing issues facing their communities."

A team from BuckleySandler, led by former Maryland Attorney General Doug Gansler, reviewed more than 6.4 million documents and emails from a seven-year period that ended in 2015.

The report released in November flagged 38 people as high-volume senders of inappropriate emails, including 13 senior government officials or judges. Two state Supreme Court justices had previously resigned as a result of the scandal, and dozens others, inside the attorney general's office and elsewhere within state government, lost their jobs or were disciplined over their participation in the email exchanges.

Beemer said in November the BuckleySandler report found no evidence of inappropriate communication between judges and the office's employees about cases or the justice system. He was critical of the report's methodology, saying some "high volume" senders had sent no emails with images or racist content.

He said at that time that the BuckleySandler review turned up previously unknown emails and that others could face punishment.

The report itself characterized the volume and nature of the emails among judges, prosecutors and others as a "significant problem."

Gansler said a few hundred thousand dollars of the cost was for outside vendors. He said it is not unusual to negotiate a bill when the client is a government agency.

BuckleySandler was hired by then-Attorney General Kathleen Kane in December 2015. She called the outside review "a unique opportunity to see the problem, hidden away for many years, address the problem and progress as a commonwealth."

The emails had come to light during a separate internal investigation into how state prosecutors had handled the Jerry Sandusky child molestation investigation.

Kane, a Democrat and the state's first elected female attorney general, resigned in August after being convicted of perjury and obstruction charges for leaking secret material to a newspaper and lying about it. She is free on bond while appealing a 10- to 23-month sentence.

Beemer also said Wednesday that two of his top lieutenants in the attorney general's office, First Deputy Robert Mulle and criminal law division head Lawrence Cherba, will be retiring in the coming days after lengthy careers. Beemer will resume his duties as Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf's inspector general, the post he held before being appointed attorney general in August, following Kane's conviction and resignation.

Beemer praised Shapiro's transition process and endorsed his recent appointment of the agency's first chief integrity officer, House Democratic caucus lawyer Eric Fillman.

An earlier story is below:

The state attorney general's office says it's settled a dispute with a Washington, D.C., law firm over its bill for reviewing explicit and objectionable emails on the agency's computers.

The office says it will pay an additional $1.4 million to BuckleySandler, about $400,000 less than the firm had sought. That's on top of about $380,000 already paid to it.

Attorney General Bruce Beemer says the deal will help in the transition to a new attorney general, Josh Shapiro. He'll be sworn in next week in Harrisburg.

A team from BuckleySandler reviewed more than 6.4 million documents and emails from a seven-year period that ended in 2015.

The report released in November flagged 38 people as high-volume senders of inappropriate emails, including 13 senior government officials or judges.

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