State House Sound Bites

Capitol reporter Mary Wilson covers Pennsylvania politics and issues at the Pennsylvania state capitol.

Sidelined official was subject of anonymous sexual harassment complaint

Written by Mary Wilson, Capitol Bureau Chief | Feb 1, 2016 4:00 AM
JosephsWolf_WikimediaCommons.jpg

Photo from Wikimedia Commons.


Around the same time the commander of Pennsylvania's military forces was abruptly placed on paid leave without explanation more than two weeks ago, multiple state legislators received an anonymous letter requesting an investigation into him for alleged sexual harassment.

The undated letter obtained by WITF is addressed to "the Army and National Guard IGs," and asks them to "send somebody to investigate" state Adjutant General James Joseph, now conspicuously absent from his position atop the state's National Guard units and military veterans programs.

The assistant inspector general for the Pennsylvania National Guard said the office cannot confirm or deny any submitted complaints.

The missive's author, identified only as an employee of the Pennsylvania National Guard, puts recipients on notice: "I am sending copies of this letter to the Governor, legislators, and others."

Jeff Sheridan, the governor's spokesman, said he personally has no knowledge of the letter, and that the Wolf administration would not elaborate beyond its earlier statement about Joseph's absence.

"I haven't said whether he chose to go on leave," said Sheridan, "or whether he was asked to."

State lawmakers and legislative staff who learned of the letter before or after Joseph's leave was announced came to the conclusion that the two things were not coincidental, raising concerns that the Wolf administration was too vague in its public statement or, conversely, that Joseph was hastily sidelined.

Lawmakers and staff spoke on the condition of anonymity, stressing that they were not consulted about Joseph's sudden leave of absence.

Joseph did not respond to an e-mail seeking comment. He continues to receive his annual state salary of $137,392, according to the Wolf administration.

The announcement of Joseph's placement on leave came in a brief press release sent by the governor's office at 5:11 p.m. on January 14: "Pennsylvania National Guard Adjutant General James Joseph is on a leave of absence and Deputy Brigadier General Anthony J. Carrelli will serve as interim Adjutant General during this time."

The terse advisory was followed by a four-paragraph biography of Joseph's provisional replacement.

The state Department of Military and Veterans Affairs declined to comment on the circumstances leading to Joseph being kept out of the office indefinitely.

"There will be no interruption in the important missions of the Pennsylvania Department of Military and Veterans Affairs and the National Guard," said spokesperson Joan Nissley in a written statement. "We continue our unwavering commitment to ensuring the safety and security of all Pennsylvanians and providing care and services to our veterans."

Joseph was selected to lead the state's National Guard in January of 2015, as Gov. Tom Wolf prepared to take office. He had previously served as an assistant adjutant general for the Pennsylvania National Guard and was director of the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency under former Gov. Ed Rendell.

Published in State House Sound Bites

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