Lancaster County DA files lawsuit against County Commissioners, claiming they’re encroaching on his powers

Lancaster County District Attorney Craig Stedman

LANCASTER COUNTY — Lancaster County District Attorney Craig Stedman is suing the Lancaster County Board of Commissioners, claiming that they “have embarked on a two-part plan to encroach upon the independent powers of the District Attorney” in a lawsuit filed Thursday in Commonwealth Court.

Stedman says Lancaster County commissioners Josh Parsons, Dennis Stuckey, and Craig Lehman “are attempting to interfere in District Attorney Stedman’s use of funds exclusively committed to his control by the General Assembly under Act 13 of 2017…(and) are attempting to interfere with District Attorney Stedman’s independent statutory rights to control human resource matters within his office.”

The lawsuits stems from the County Commissioners’ attempt to investigate Stedman’s use of drug forfeiture proceeds, including the use of more than $21,000 in forfeiture funds to lease a Toyota Highlander for his own, work-related use.

READ: Application for Summary Relief

READ: Petition for Review Filed

The commissioners also overstepped their authority by issuing recommendations on personnel matters within the district attorney’s office — including the suspension of prosecutor Mark Fetterman, which the Lancaster County’s Office of Human Resources determined was “related to political campaign activities,” according to a LancasterOnline report.

In that same review, the Office of Human Resources recommended Stedman discipline First Assistant District Attorney Christopher Larsen for attending a meeting of county Republican leaders brandishing a confidential file “relating to a coworker, for political purposes,” LancasterOnline reported.

Stedman argues in his filing that the District Attorney is “an independent constitutional officer,” and therefore “is not a county employee or person subject to review or investigation by the Lancaster County Board of Commissioners or the members thereof.”

Stedman is empowered by the County Code to “appoint such number of assistants, licensed to practice law in this Commonwealth, to assist in the discharge of duties,” and further, “employees hired by the district attorney, who is an independent county officer, are exclusively subject to his hiring, discharging and supervising rights.”

As a result, Stedman’s filing argues, “the Commissioners are without legal authority or power to investigate District Attorney Stedman’s employment actions and, accordingly, District Attorney Stedman is entitled to relief from the Commissioners’ illegal and unlawful encroachments as a matter of law.”

A spokesperson for the Lancaster County Board of Commissioners issued the following statement in response to the lawsuit:

“Having had no opportunity to fully review or consult with our legal advisors, we can at this time offer only this preliminary statement.

The hallmark of this Board of Commissioners has been fiscal responsibility and good stewardship of taxpayer money. We are extremely disheartened that significant county resources will be expended not only to bring this lawsuit that seeks to silence us on essential County government matters, but also to defend against it as we must to ensure the fiscal integrity, transparency and good government owed the citizens of Lancaster County.”

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