Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen G. Kane has hired former Montgomery County District Attorney Bruce Castor to fill a newly created executive position in her office.
Kane, whose law license has been suspended as she awaits trial on criminal charges, said Tuesday that she was hiring Castor as her solicitor general to help with executive functions. He will be paid an annual salary of $150,000.
In a news release, Kane was vague about Castor's duties, saying only that his role would be "to strengthen and support the leadership of the executive office and further the initiatives of the attorney general on behalf of the people of Pennsylvania."
Castor's hiring raised the specter of further tension in an office already rife with divisions between Kane loyalists and those counting the days until the end of her term in January 2017. And the choice was striking, in part because Castor is a Republican and Kane a Democrat.
Castor ran unsuccessfully for Montgomery County district attorney last year, losing to Democrat Kevin Steele. Steele is now leading the team that is prosecuting Kane.
Kane, 49, is charged with perjury, conspiracy, official oppression, and other crimes, accused of leaking confidential information to the Daily News in the spring of 2014. She has pleaded not guilty, and her trial is scheduled for Aug. 8.
The campaign between Castor and Steele last year was contentious, dominated by debate over Castor's handling of an alleged 2005 sexual assault by Bill Cosby.
Castor, the district attorney at the time, decided not to charge the comedian, citing insufficient evidence, a choice Steele criticized heavily in campaign ads.
After defeating Castor in November, Steele brought charges against Cosby in the 2005 case.
Castor, a former Montgomery County commissioner now in private practice, did not return calls seeking comment Tuesday. He is expected to continue in his legal practice while working for Kane.
After Kane was criminally charged, the state Supreme Court voted unanimously to suspend her law license, sparking heated debate over what duties she can perform as the state's top law enforcement official.
Kane's hiring of Castor, a lawyer who made an unsuccessful bid for attorney general in 2004, was widely viewed as a way for her to continue exerting power over the key legal and administrative decisions of her office, even as she is barred from some of those duties because of her license suspension.
The move was also seen as a slap at Kane's first deputy, Bruce Beemer. Beemer is among several top aides who testified against Kane in the criminal case and are expected to be called as witnesses against her when her trial begins.
Beemer was also one of three senior lawyers in the office who testified at a Senate hearing last year about whether Kane can remain in office with a suspended law license. Like his colleagues, Beemer disagreed with Kane's assessment that she could continue to carry out the majority of her duties without an active license.
In an interview Tuesday, Kane spokesman Chuck Ardo said Kane believed the new position was necessary to improve the efficiency of her office. He said Castor would effectively serve as a senior policy adviser, helping her to prioritize cases.
Asked whether that would duplicate Beemer's duties, Ardo said: "I don't think it will diminish Mr. Beemer's role, but it will certainly free him up to do more of the things that he is already charged with doing."