Impasse ends on legal bills for Pa. porn probe

3 x 2 doug gansler
Washington, D.C., lawyer Douglas Gansler and his firm, BuckleySandler, will be reimbursed $1.8 million in total for their work.

HARRISBURG - The tense standoff over how much to pay a special prosecutor for his investigation into the pornographic-email scandal has ended.

Pennsylvania Attorney General Bruce Beemer announced Wednesday that his office had reached an agreement to reimburse Washington lawyer Douglas Gansler and his firm, BuckleySandler, $1.8 million in total for their work.

That is less than the roughly $2.2 million that Gansler and his firm had submitted in invoices for their months-long inquiry and subsequent report into the long-running scandal that exposed that prosecutors, judges, defense lawyers, and others had for years swapped X-rated and offensive emails on government computers.

"This agreement will allow the Office of Attorney General to move forward," said Beemer, a Democrat who will turn over the office's reins next week to incoming Attorney General Josh Shapiro, also a Democrat.

He added: "It needed to be addressed so that the attorney general-elect will have an opportunity to focus on a whole host of other issues.

Beemer would not give details on how the two sides arrived at that number.

The resolution ends what could have been a nasty court battle that would have further prolonged a scandal that has unfolded in a haphazard and sporadic way over more than two years.

Gansler, a former Maryland attorney general, in an interview Wednesday called the agreement "fair."

The Attorney General's Office had balked at paying Gansler's bill in full because Beemer and other high-ranking officials believed that the final report was ineptly researched, and was careless regarding its impact on people's reputations.

The emails were discovered by former Attorney General Kathleen Kane, a Democrat. The messages included pornographic images and videos as well as jokes demeaning to women, minorities, and gays and lesbians.

Though Kane repeatedly vowed to make all the emails public, she never did. She was convicted last summer on perjury and other charges.

It was Kane who hired Gansler in late 2015 to conduct what she called a comprehensive review of the emails.

His report identified 11,930 inappropriate messages sent by more than 370 employees of the Attorney General's Office, including prosecutors, and more than 25 employees of the judiciary, including judges.

Separately, Gansler categorized an additional 38 people as "high-volume" senders who he said sent more than 50 emails with sexually explicit or offensive content between 2008 and 2015. They included current and retired agents with the Attorney General's Office, a county detective, several clerk-typists, and a PennDot equipment manager.

In releasing the report late last year, Beemer blacked out the email senders' names, citing the prospect of lawsuits and union contracts that bar employees from embarrassment.

He also excoriated pieces of Gansler's report, saying it unfairly singled out people who actually had sent out innocuous messages that were wrongly flagged because of the faulty computer methodology that was used to conduct the email inquiry.

acouloumbis@phillynews.com

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