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Kane reshuffles her top staff

HARRISBURG - As she faces a grand jury probe into alleged leaks, Attorney General Kathleen G. Kane is once again reshuffling her top staff.

Pa. Attorney General Kathleen Kane.
Pa. Attorney General Kathleen Kane.Read more

HARRISBURG - As she faces a grand jury probe into alleged leaks, Attorney General Kathleen G. Kane is once again reshuffling her top staff.

On Tuesday, Kane named a former top aide to the Arkansas attorney general as her chief of staff. Kane also said she would be hiring a new communications director - her fourth top communications staffer in less than two years.

According to Kane's office, Blake Rutherford will become chief of staff, a position that Kane's predecessors used but one she chose not to fill after taking office. Rutherford, 36, had been a top aide to Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel, whose term ends next year.

"We are excited about adding Blake to our team," Kane said in a statement. "He has demonstrated his commitment to public service, and he brings extensive experience that will benefit this office and the commonwealth in the coming year and beyond."

His annual salary will be $141,301.

Rutherford, whose wife, Jessica Dean, is a news anchor at CBS3 in Philadelphia, has been described as a strategy and communications adviser. A Little Rock native, he has experience helping embattled state officials. He worked as McDaniel's chief of staff when revelations emerged of a past affair the prosecutor had with a married woman. The news ended up derailing McDaniel's gubernatorial bid.

Rutherford last year became vice president at the McLarty companies, chaired by former Thomas F. "Mack" McLarty, the onetime chief of staff to President Bill Clinton.

Rutherford also was an attorney at the Little Rock law firm of Wright, Lindsey & Jennings L.L.P., where Clinton once worked.

Rutherford could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

Kane also acknowledged plans to hire another communications director, taking over duties of current spokeswoman Renee Martin, who was temporarily doing the job. Kane said she will name her selection "when the employment process is completed."

Sources familiar with the process said a top prospect for the job is another pick from Arkansas - Aaron Sadler, currently a spokesman for McDaniel. Reached for comment Tuesday, Sadler would say only, "I am not in a position to talk about my future employment at this time."

The news landed as Kane awaits a legal decision on whether she violated grand jury secrecy rules by leaking investigative documents.

A special prosecutor, Montgomery County lawyer Thomas Carluccio, is heading up the leak inquiry, which was authorized earlier this year by Supreme Court Chief Justice Ronald D. Castille.

The statewide grand jury hearing the case expires at the end of the year, and is expected to make a recommendation soon.

Kane, appearing before the grand jury last month, acknowledged that certain "information" about a 2009 investigation handled by her predecessors was made public, but said it was done in a way that did not violate any laws. She has not elaborated.

Also in her statement Tuesday, Kane said she recently appointed Mike Stefan as her legislative director and hired Cathryn Hinesley as an assistant press secretary to provide media relations and speech writing.

Leaving Kane's office is another top aide, David Tyler, who served as the chief operating officer and was the office's liaison to the legislature.

Tyler, who will become the chief lobbyist of the Pennsylvania Association for Justice, is the third member of Kane's senior staff to leave this year. Kane's former first deputy, Philadelphia lawyer Adrian King left in June; Kane's senior executive deputy attorney general, Philadelphia lawyer Linda Dale Hoffa, left the office in late September.