Lancaster County DA blasts commissioners’ call for him to drop lawsuit against county

Lancaster County District Attorney Craig Stedman

LANCASTER COUNTY — The Lancaster County District Attorney’s Office Thursday released a scathing response to a media alert the Lancaster County Board of Commissioners earlier this week calling on Lancaster County DA Craig Stedman to drop his lawsuit against the county government.

“We take no pleasure in spending time responding to such baseless nonsense,” Stedman’s office said in a press release. “This ‘media alert’ is a rehash of baseless, inflammatory rhetoric containing fabrications and creations that we have responded to in the past with facts. This collection of fabrications is an utter disservice to responsible government.”

You can read the full statements from both entities below.

Statement from the Lancaster County Board of Commissioners

“The Board of Commissioners has received notice that oral argument is scheduled in the Commonwealth Court on Craig Stedman’s lawsuit against County government. Now is the time for him to drop his frivolous lawsuit.

We are disgusted by the incredible waste of taxpayer money resulting from Craig Stedman’s frivolous lawsuit against County government, and by extension the taxpayers of Lancaster County. The point of his lawsuit seems to be to silence all who dare to express legitimate concerns about his questionable decision making.

Stedman’s problematic actions include his choice to secretly lease a vehicle for himself, using money that is supposed to be used to fund the Drug Task Force and fight drug dealers, despite the fact that he does not have legal authority to sign contracts on behalf of the County.

Even more egregiously, Stedman took approximately $2,000 in taxpayer funded mileage reimbursements, which are only authorized for wear and tear on personal vehicles. That you cannot take mileage reimbursement on a government owned vehicle is among the most basic and simple of concepts in government service. That an elected official would violate this rule is shocking. That he would then sue the Commissioners because we were watching out for taxpayers is nonsensical.

Lancaster County prides itself on fiscally responsible, accountable and transparent government. Craig Stedman’s course of conduct is the exact opposite of those values. With his one-person war against government transparency and financial accountability, he has become a caricature of a politician who has something to hide and acts as though the public purse is his own personal checkbook.

The PA Office of Open Records has ordered the release of Stedman’s drug forfeiture records. Further, another court in the Commonwealth has ordered that such records must be released in a very similar case. Both candidates for District Attorney, one of whom will take office in January, have said they will release these records.

Thus, these records will undoubtably come out for public review next year. Yet Craig Stedman continues to use taxpayer personnel and resources to fight the release. The citizens of this county have a right to ask why?

A person who would secretly lease a vehicle using government funds, then take mileage reimbursement on that leased vehicle, and then when on the verge of being publicly discovered try to clean up his mess while acting as if he is the victim has obviously lost his way.

Further, he has still not paid back all the money that is owed to the County. He has retained hundreds of dollars he claims he spent on gas, although without receipts to prove this no one really knows. This is an unauthorized non-vouchered expense.

In America no one is supposed to be above the law. Craig Stedman is sworn to enforce the law. Unfortunately, it appears he believes he is the law. That is beyond troubling in any elected official, but especially in a District Attorney.”

Statement from the Office of Lancaster County District Attorney Craig Stedman

“Here is our response to the Board of Commissioners’ ‘media alert’ released Wednesday. We take no pleasure in spending time responding to such baseless nonsense. It appears the ‘media alert’ — written in haste (there is a period in the ‘headline’) — is nothing more than an irresponsible set of fabrications and inflammatory language.

We would rather rely on the facts and supporting documents, provided below.

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This ‘media alert’ is a rehash of baseless, inflammatory rhetoric containing fabrications and creations that we have responded to in the past with facts. This collection of fabrications is an utter disservice to responsible government.

Regarding a “secret lease”:  Nothing has been leased in “secret.” In fact, the County Controller specifically authorized the lease in advance in writing and the Board of Commissioners (BOC) know this. Not a single lease or purchase by any District Attorney, past or present, using forfeiture funds has ever gone though county procurement because the law quarantines the BOC from the process. The Controller provided a memo stating this.

Moreover, in the past few months, the BOC signed checks for purchase of five DTF vehicles outside of the procurement process — the same procedure they say was improper regarding the lease, and the existing purchase procedure in this county for thirty years. The county commissioners signed the checks for those vehicles after being informed by the Controller specifically what they regard.

Thus, it is beyond absurd for the BOC to claim improper procurement when this is the way it has always been done — before and after the lease — and up to as recently as a few weeks ago by this very BOC. Many other DAs, to include Dauphin County and Philadelphia, have taxpayer-funded vehicles because they need them to do their jobs because DA’s are on call 24/7 and 365. Similarly, all county detectives, the Sheriff, and the Coroner’s office have taxpayer funded vehicles.

As for the forfeiture records, our accounts are audited every single year by the Lancaster County Controller and state Attorney General. They have found full compliance every year for every single expense, to include the lease. There simply has been no misuse of funds.

A brief glance at these audit records reveals that the BOC absolutely knows that we have been in compliance every year because they are provided a copy every single year. To suggest, as they have done here, that there are improprieties and/or illegalities is not only demonstrably false but a knowing lie to the public.

Additionally, we have opened our boxes of unredacted receipts to the BOC and the media and provided the general public categorized listings of forfeiture expenditures since 2000. If the BOC actually believed there were any improprieties, all they had to was walk over and look for themselves instead of unleashing false accusations.

The BOC suggests this office needs to release all forfeiture records, but ignores the fact that to disclose is all these records is not only prohibited by law but could get someone killed because these records include the names of undercover detectives and other information which, if released, would endanger lives and/or cases and/or simply cannot be released.

Regarding money ‘owed to the county’: this is completely false. There is no outstanding bill for any expense nor has anything been requested. This is just pure fiction. As the County Controller has stated, this matter was satisfied at his direction and there is no outstanding balance. The county solicitor approved said resolution. Further, there is no existing county policy regarding an employee’s paying for gas for a non-personal vehicle.

Also, county employees are not required, or even asked, to submit receipts attached to mileage claims. Thus, this is another stunning accusation.

Finally, the district attorney was provided a fuel card but never used it a single time. There simply was no attempt to receive excess reimbursement and any issue was resolved at the direction and approval of the Controller and Solicitor — and the BOC knows this. It must be made clear that the lawsuit is not for money. There is a clear dispute over lawful authority in certain areas — entirely created by the BOC — and the court is being asked to clarify the issues. The court is taking this so seriously they have listed it en banc: meaning every member of the court will be present. Regardless, once again this is a matter before a court and there is a process.

As a representative of this office, I will avoid responding to all the specific uses of inflammatory language in this ‘media alert.’ Our office deals in facts and it would be disheartening if such baseless claims are taken at their face when we have provided disproving facts.

As to the name calling of DA Stedman, who has devoted his life to keeping the people of this county safe, the victims of crime for which DA Stedman has been a zealous advocate for decades and the police who he works with on a daily basis, would strongly disagree. It would be those opinions which carry much more importance in no small part because those opinions are based on proven accomplishments and actual facts.”

 

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