Tax Cash Waste: It’s #YouToo
As state legislative leaders vocally have condemned sexual harassment in the Capitol and other work places, they much more quietly have paid for the legal defense of a former Senate security chief accused of sexually harassing two women subordinates.
The Philadelphia Inquirer, using data obtained from public records requests, reported this week that Senate Pro Tem Joseph Scarnati, a Jefferson County Republican, has signed off on $23,355 in legal bills for Justin Ferrante.
Ferrante, who resigned in 2017, is being sued by two Senate staffers who contend that he had sexually harassed them, including by texting offensive images.
Attorney Drew Compton, Scarnati’s chief of staff, told the Inquirer that Scarnati decided to pay the legal bills because the Senate also is a defendant and that some of the allegations in the lawsuit might not be true.
In that case, Scarnati should move in court to have the Senate removed as a defendant, and then let the court be the finder of fact regarding the Ferrante allegations.
State Victims’ Advocate Jennifer Storm was not swayed.
“I’m a little hard-pressed to understand where the Senate feels obligated to cover legal bills of a former employee when sexual harassment is not part of his official duties,” Storm told the newspaper.
The Senate policy covering use of taxpayer money for employees’ legal expenses says it is permissible when employees take action “in good faith” and in their “official capacity,” neither of which seems to describe Ferrante’s alleged conduct. The policy says taxpayer money also can be used for workers who have information “regarding activities under investigation,” but the Senate is not paying the legal bills for the two women.
Meanwhile, the Senate and the House have failed to move on long-stalled measures to deal with sexual harassment in the state government. Legislative leaders should adopt them. Doing so would make for better workplaces and spare the taxpayers of paying legal bills flowing from sexual harassment allegations.