D.A. makes staff changes, but controversy lingers
Seth Williams hired an integrity chief. City Council women still want 3 attorneys fired.
GOT A COUPLE of minutes to review all the Porngate-related news that came out of the District Attorney's Office yesterday?
Yeah, we thought you would.
The morning began with the office announcing that prosecutors Frank Fina, Marc Costanzo and Patrick Blessington finally had received the sensitivity training that District Attorney Seth Williams called for in September, after the public glimpsed hundreds of pages of pornographic, misogynistic and racist emails that they'd received - or, in Fina's case, sent and received - while previously working for the state Attorney General's Office.
Several female City Council members effectively rolled their eyes over the reported sensitivity-training session, and renewed their calls for the men to be fired.
Later in the day, Williams announced a handful of personnel moves, including one that might raise a few eyebrows.
Longtime First Assistant District Attorney Ed McCann resigned his post and was replaced by George Mosee Jr., who has served as the deputy district attorney in charge of the office's Juvenile Division since 2002.
Williams also announced that he hired former Pike County Assistant District Attorney Kathleen Martin to fill a newly created position of chief of staff, general counsel and chief integrity officer.
Martin is married to Robert Levant, a lawyer who represented infamous lobbyist Tyron B. Ali, whose name should be immediately familiar to anyone who has even paid brief attention to the never-ending political soap opera that stars Fina, Williams and state Attorney General Kathleen Kane.
And Levant's law firm, Feldman Shepherd Wohlgelernter Tanner Weinstock & Dodig, is representing Fina, Costanzo and several others in a defamation lawsuit filed earlier this month against Kane and the Daily News.
The Inquirer previously reported that Ali was hit with a raft of criminal charges in 2009 for allegedly stealing from a federally funded state program that helped impoverished seniors and youth. He agreed to serve as an undercover operative in a Fina-directed state corruption investigation that ultimately ensnared a handful of local black politicians.
Kane later declined to prosecute the case, claiming it had been tainted by racism, and then engaged in a public war of words with Williams, who took on the case.
The D.A.'s office referred to Martin's husband - but not by name - in a news release about her hiring yesterday. Williams' spokesman, Cameron Kline, did not respond to several requests for comment.
Martin, a Temple University School of Law graduate, assisted Pennsylvania State Police during a monthlong hunt last year for Eric Frein, who is charged with fatally shooting a state trooper and critically wounding another in September 2014.
She was quoted in the release as praising Williams for having "an incredible reputation of being an accomplished prosecutor who isn't afraid to take on crime and corruption regardless of where the facts may lead him."
City Councilwomen Marian Tasco and Cindy Bass are among those still arguing that the facts surrounding the Porngate email scandal should lead Williams to dismiss Fina, Costanzo and Blessington.
"How can they prosecute individuals in this city when their own ethics are in question?" Tasco asked.
"They're lawyers. They should know right from wrong," she said. "Would [sensitivity training] help? I don't know. What does it really do?"
Bass said people have lost faith in the D.A.'s office in light of Williams' decision to stand behind the three prosecutors. "It really is a problem, and we're still waiting for Seth to do something," she said.
Paul Meshanko, the lecturer and author who administered the daylong training session Friday, said about 14 prosecutors participated - including Fina, Costanzo, Blessington and Williams.
"Everyone was a little apprehensive for the first 20 minutes, but once they realized that we weren't there to beat them up, they got into it," said Meshanko, the president and CEO of Legacy Business Cultures.
"People by nature do stupid things, but some just happen to be more public than others," he said. "You don't want to totally harpoon somebody for being human."
The session focused on moving forward, and ended with the co-workers crafting a code of cooperation to help build a better work environment. Meshanko said he would probably revisit the office in a month to check on the group's progress.
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