News that Lt. Gov. Mike Stack and his wife, Tonya, are under investigation for alleged uncouth conduct toward domestic staff and troopers assigned to their care and protection raises oh so many questions.
Like: We have a lieutenant governor? What’s that? Sounds like the governmental version of a crossing guard -- or an executive mini-me.
And, wait, a Northeast Philly pol and his bride and joy possibly acting crassly? Who’d believe that? And how’s that merit an official probe?
Well, reports have the LG and Mrs. LG under scrutiny by the state inspector general on orders from Gov. Wolf. Stack’s office confirmed contact from the inspector general regarding “staffing issues,” but offered no further comment.
They conjure images of staff enduring hurled obscenities and flung flatware in the lovely stone mansion that taxpayers provide the LG and family.
They make one wonder if chauffeured Stacks demanded troopers use sirens and flashing lights (in violation of the vehicle code) to transport, say, him to some event Wolf declined to attend; or, say, her to an outlet mall.
But even if these or similar scenes are confirmed in a soon-expected inspector general’s report, then what?
Two counts of Loutish Behavior, carrying a minimum of up to three nights without dessert? Multiple counts of Annoyance in Office, punishable by nothing?
The Office of Inspector General’s prime directive is “investigating fraud, waste, abuse and misconduct in executive agencies.”
Do tantrums or juvenilia meet that standard? Or is there more in play here?
Stack and Wolf are the oil and water of Pennsylvania politics. Their personalities clash. Think of Wolf as an Ivy League professor. Think of Stack as a Vegas act.
In 2014, they were running mates by definition, not design. We vote for Guvs and LGs separately in primaries.
So would Wolf prefer no Stack around for a reelection bid next year? Should some Western Pennsylvania Democrats start polishing resumés?
OK, let’s talk about immediate impact.
This story likely will anger many taxpayers for several reasons.
It involves a $162,373 salary for an office with, face it, limited responsibility. Heck, five states (Arizona, Oregon, Tennessee, West Virginia, Wyoming) don’t even have LGs.
Stack’s duties include the largely ceremonial gig of presiding over the Republican-controlled Senate, where he was a 14-year Democratic member. He also chairs the Board of Pardons and the Emergency Management Council.
As someone who, in another life, worked in the LG’s office (under GOP Lt. Gov. Bill Scranton), I can attest the stress level is somewhat less than air-traffic control.
And the 1940s-built LG mansion with pool, pool house, and five-car garage on the grounds of Fort Indiantown Gap, 22 miles from the Capitol, is a sweet retreat. Especially since it comes with a staff of five to cook, clean, and crisp the sheets. All at a staffing/maintenance taxpayer cost last year, according to the Department of General Services, of $452,920.
Then there’s security. At a time when state police protection is a state budget item that could cost citizens in 1,200 or so municipalities more money, some might question why any low-profile elected official and family gets a security detail.
And a final question: Will the inspector general's report be made public? Wolf touts transparency, so you’d think so. But it could be major-league embarrassing to Stack, whom Wolf might have to tote through an election cycle.
The problem here is, this kind of stuff, if proven, can be defining. Many folks don’t get every nuance of government and politics. But everybody gets entitled and/or brutish personal behavior.