I just received some new Right to Know Law (RTKL) documents in relation to the Perry County Auditors’ lawsuit against Perry County Sheriff Nace, which result in far more questions than answers.
In a letter dated “June [sic] (July) 21, 2014,” Attorney Craig Staudenmaier informs Perry County Commissioners Benner and Rudy that his clients “continue to be dismayed and disappointed in [their] continued harassment of them,” relating to the Commissioners’ request that the Auditors withdraw their frivolous lawsuit against Sheriff Nace. Interestingly, Attorney Staudenmaier then claims that the Auditors could have brought a contempt petition against Sheriff Nace for his failure to comply with the subpoena. While I have not reviewed the subpoena, I understand from the Sheriff’s Solicitor that the subpoena was not properly executed and therefore was ignored. But, I guess we’ll ignore that legal issue, much like the Auditors like to ignore 18 Pa.C.S. § 6111(g)(3.1).
The letter also goes on to claim that, “It is not my clients’ litigation that is ‘frivolous’ as you state, but the arguments and forces aligned against them which have totally misconstrued and misinformed the public as to what the true issue is here and the reasons for the declaratory judgment action…They have been and continue to be subjected to vicious attacks by you and by members of the community for absolutely no reason.” Now, before anyone goes reaching for a tissue box, I assure you, as is shown below, it appears the Auditors have some support, from somewhere, even if it is miniscule, and there is significant reason, such as the likely criminality of the Auditors’ action, for the outrage.
Let’s talk about lies and misinformation. Auditor McMullen previously told Reporter Sauro that “concealed firearms information was available to the public under the right-to-know law…However, last year, rules were established to exclude this information from public view.” However, when I submitted a RTKL Request for that information, the Perry County RTKL Officer responded back that the Auditors’ Solicitor responded, “the auditors do not have in their possession any records which would be responsive to Mr. Prince’s RTKL request.” Prior to my representation of Sheriff Nace and in relation to the same RTKL request, Sheriff Nace also issued a response stating, “NO ONE outside of the Sheriff’s Office has had or will have access to License to Carry Firearms Application or to any information regarding Licenses to Carry Permits.” Moreover, Perry County RTKL Officer responded back, “As of May 21, 2014, no RTK requests have been made to the Office of Open Records of the County, as well as no inter-office department or other disclosures of any nature.” Hmm, just who is providing the community with misinformation?
Maybe we should talk about the misinformation being sworn to, subject to the penalties of perjury, by the Auditors that they have been provided unredacted LTCF information in the past. Sheriff Nace has steadfastly denied this allegation. Of course, maybe it is just one of those statements like Auditor McMullen’s statement to Reporter Sauro….a little misinformation never hurt anyone, right?
We won’t even touch on the misinformation that has been given by the Auditors in relation to 6111(g)(3.1). For those unaware, Section 6111(g)(3.1) (which is dealt with in extreme detail in our Brief in Support of our Preliminary Objections) provides:
Any person, licensed dealer, licensed manufacturer or licensed importer who knowingly and intentionally obtains or furnishes information collected or maintained pursuant to section 6109 for any purpose other than compliance with this chapter or who knowingly or intentionally disseminates, publishes or otherwise makes available such information to any person other than the subject of the information commits a felony of the third degree. (emphasis added)
It would seem that by the Auditors bringing this action against Sheriff Nace, they are likely in violation of the criminal law prohibiting solicitation and conspiracy. 18 Pa.C.S. § 902, Solicitation, provides:
(a) A person is guilty of solicitation to commit a crime if with the intent of promoting or facilitating its commission he commands, encourages or requests another person to engage in specific conduct which would constitute such crime or an attempt to commit such crime or which would establish his complicity in its commission or attempted commission.
18 Pa.C.S. § 903, Conspiracy, provides:
A person is guilty of conspiracy with another person or persons to commit a crime if with the intent of promoting or facilitating its commission he:(1) agrees with such other person or persons that they or one or more of them will engage in conduct which constitutes such crime or an attempt or solicitation to commit such crime; or(2) agrees to aid such other person or persons in the planning or commission of such crime or of an attempt or solicitation to commit such crime.
I wonder if the Perry County District Attorney is aware of the filings in this matter. It would seem based on the pleadings and the Auditors’ own admissions that this would be a pretty simple prosecution.
But, let’s not overlook a very interesting issue – the issue of funding. The Perry County Commissioners only originally authorized a $2000 expenditure for research into this matter, which was authorized long before the litigation was instituted. (The Commissioners have consistently stated that this litigation in frivolous). The first billing from Nauman Law Firm was April 14, 2014, in the total amount of $1,435.00. Provided the authorized expenditure, it was paid. On June 2, 2014, a new invoice was submitted in the total amount of $2,456.75 for April billings. This resulted in Perry County Commissioners’ Solicitor Blunt’s June 16, 2014, letter advising that the County would not be paying any amounts over the agreed upon $2000.00. Accordingly, the County paid the difference of $565.00 for a total expenditure of $2000.00 and leaving an amount putatively owed of $1891.75. On June 16, 2014, a new invoice was issued from Nauman Law Firm in the amount of $1803.00, which does not appear to relate to any of the previous billings of the June 2, 2014 invoice, as these billings were all related to May. However, the back owed amount of $1891.75 is not listed. On August 14, 2014, a new invoice would be received from Nauman Law Firm, this time in the amount of $2,237.32 for services rendered in July. Once again, the past owed amounts of $1,891.75 and $1,803.00 (for a total of $3,694.75) are not reflected. So, who is paying the Auditors’ bills? The County has stated that it has not issued a payment since reaching the maximum provided for by the fee agreement. As the RTKL, Section 506(d)(3) requires 3rd parties to produce “public records” for which financial records, including receipts and disbursements, are part pursuant to Section 102, it should be interesting to see just who is funding this litigation….