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August 28, 2013

Kane’s sister gets promotion, raise

HARRISBURG — Ellen Granahan, a deputy attorney general in the state attorney general’s office, had more than just a passing rooting interest in the 2012 campaign to elect her boss — Granahan’s twin sister Kathleen Kane was the Democratic candidate.

Kane, a Lackawanna County Democrat, won and became Pennsylvania’s first female attorney general. And her sister’s boss.

Three months after Kane took office, Granahan was quietly promoted and given a $13,652-a-year raise.

“While AG Kane would never promote Ellen because she is her sister, neither would she discriminate against her on that basis,” said Joe Peters, a spokesman in the attorney general’s office.

Granahan was hired in 2008 by Gov. Tom Corbett, then attorney general.

Granahan is not the only well-connected prosecutor in the office. Corbett’s daughter Katherine Corbett-Gibson is also a deputy attorney general. She was hired by Attorney General Linda Kelly after Corbett took office as governor, said Nils Fredericksen, a spokesman in the governor’s office of general counsel.

“(Granahan) was recently selected to head the Child Predator Unit because she is the most qualified and experienced attorney in terms of child sexual abuse matters,” Peters said. “The CPU is a priority for Attorney General Kane and Ellen shares that passion and commitment.”

Granahan is one of 20 chief deputy attorneys general in the office, each of whom leads a division. Granahan’s pay of $83,423 a year is the lowest of the chief deputies, according to a spreadsheet of salaries provided by the attorney general’s office.

The state office of administration, which provides human resources services for some state agencies, does have a management directive barring state employees from being in situations were a relative directly reports to him or her, said Daniel Egan, an office of administration spokesman.

“That’s the minimum standard,” Egan said. “Some agencies go further and prohibit family members anywhere in the chain of command, direct or indirect.”

The attorney general’s office is independent and not bound by that directive, he said.

Peters said one of the first tasks taken after Kane took office was to sort out potential conflicts of interest and come up with a strategy for dealing with them. In Granahan’s case, the solution was to assign all management of her to first deputy attorney general Adrian King, Peters said. King then decided Granahan should be promoted, he said.

Pennsylvania Ethics Commission executive director Robert Caruso said there is nothing in the state ethics act that would have dealt with the fact that Granahan worked in the office before Kane was elected and became her boss. However, the ethics act might be relevant if there are questions about Kane’s role in determining that Granahan deserved the promotion.

The ethics act states public officials cannot use elected office for personal financial gain for themselves or family members.

The approach taken in the attorney general’s office is the typical manner used to try to shield elected officials from perceived conflicts of interest when relatives are being hired in their offices, Caruso said.

Even so, it is tricky to determine whether the public official is still influencing the hiring decision no matter who makes the actual hire, said Eric Epstein, who leads the government watchdog group Rock the Capital.

“The boss may not be the one who made the promotion but in the back of the mind of person doing the hiring, they know it’s the boss’s relative.”

(Email: jfinnerty@cnhi.com)

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