Records raise questions about Stack’s Philly hotel stays

Lt. Gov. Mike Stack asked the state to reimburse him for $4,210.69 for hotel stays in the city between January 2015 and February 2016.

HARRISBURG -- Since taking office in early 2015, Lt. Gov. Mike Stack billed the state for thousands of dollars in hotel stays in Philadelphia at the same time he owned a home there, newly released records show.

Stack, a Democrat from Northeast Philadelphia, asked the state to reimburse him for $4,210.69 for hotel stays and incidental expenses in the city between January 2015, when he was inaugurated, and February 2016, when property records show he sold the house he owned in the city with his wife, Tonya.

He later reimbursed the state for about half of that amount, according to the records, which were requested by the Inquirer and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette under the state's open-records law.

Wolf administration officials said Stack was asked to pay back just over $1,800 in reimbursements he collected during a time he had not officially switched his permanent address from Philadelphia to the taxpayer-funded, Harrisburg-area residence where the lieutenant governor stays. He did that in mid-2015.

Matt Franchak, Stack's chief of staff, defended the spending reimbursements. In a statement Wednesday night, he said that although the Stacks owned their Philadelphia property along Wayside Road until early last year, they had moved their furniture and their belongings to the 2,400-square-foot lieutenant governor's residence in Fort Indiantown Gap, outside Harrisburg, right after he was inaugurated.

"He then immediately began the process of vacating and selling his home in Northeast Philadelphia, ultimately closing on the sale of the house in February of 2016," Franchak's  statement said.

He added: "This is consistent with what past Governors and Lt. Governors have done. The Lt. Governor follows the exact same procedure as any other Commonwealth employee does when traveling for state related work. Every stay is reviewed and approved by a department independent of the Lt. Governor's office."

Stack is still registered to vote in the city, using his mother's address, which state law permits, Franchak said.

Questions about the 53-year-old lieutenant governor emerged last week, after reports that the state’s Inspector General was investigating complaints that Stack and his wife had repeatedly mistreated state troopers who protect them and household staff.

Without going into detail, Stack apologized and pledged both he and his wife would try harder. Later, sources confirmed that Wolf's office had repeatedly warned the lieutenant governor.

Wolf, a Democrat, in an interview this week, said he himself told Stack numerous times to remedy the situation. The governor asked Inspector General Bruce Beemer to launch the inquiry into the complaints about mistreatment of employees. It's not clear if or when Beemer's report will be publicly released. 

In all, Stack's expense records show he received reimbursement for just over $18,700 in travel and other expenses in 2015 and 2016. About half was for hotel stays and meals during business trips to Philadelphia.

In February of last year, Stack reimbursed the state for $1,892.93 for lodging and meals during three trips to the city in the first four months of 2015.

Wolf administration officials said Stack was asked to do so because he only formally submitted a request to change his permanent address to Fort Indiantown Gap in May 2015.

At the time, the officials said, he asked to have that designation apply retroactively to his inauguration. But the administration did not appear to grant that request, flagging three expense reports that included overnight stays at Philadelphia hotels. Those are the ones Stack repaid.

There are other hotel stays in the city during that time period that do not appear to be flagged. 

Though the two are not believed to be close, Stack, a longtime state senator before becoming lieutenant governor, has been expected to share the ticket with Wolf during what is likely to be a tough gubernatorial race next year.