When he abruptly resigned from the state House last month, Joe Hackett said he was returning to an $85,290-a-year job with the Delaware County District Attorney's Office after a five-year leave of absence.

However, in response to an Inquirer request, the county's open-record office said Tuesday that it had no record that Hackett applied for an extended leave beyond the one granted for his first two years in office under the labor contract between the Fraternal Order of Police and the county.

The records office also said it had no correspondence affirming that the county had agreed to extend the leave.

The agreement was an oral one and discussed in "executive session," said Michael L. Maddren, county solicitor. He said he was not present at the meeting, nor did he know who was, or when the meeting occurred.

Council Chairman Mario Civera said he was unaware that a job had been held open for Hackett while he was in the legislature. Efforts to reach Hackett were not successful.

"This is an area where a verbal agreement doesn't seem right or appropriate," said David Thornburgh, head of the Committee of Seventy, the government watchdog group. "It should have been in writing," he said, adding that any such agreement should have been part of a transparent process.

Hackett is assigned to the White Collar Crime and Senior Exploitation Units in the District Attorney's Office.

District Attorney Jack Whelan said that he was not privy to the decision to extend Hackett's leave but that he did welcome the addition of another detective. "He does bring a tremendous amount of experience," he said.

He said Hackett's salary was not carried on his department's budget; it will come from the county general fund.

Democrats are questioning the circumstances under which Hackett ended up with what they call a "patronage" job.

"The question now raised is: Did someone make this up after Hackett resigned so he could get his old job back?" said David Landau, county Democratic chairman.

Hackett announced April 2 that he was resigning his 161st District legislative seat just three months after he was sworn in to serve a third term and after defeating Democrat Leanne Krueger-Braneky, in a hotly contested and expensive race.

A special election will be Aug. 4 to fill the vacant seat and could cost up to $70,000, according to the state.

Hackett continued to collect his legislative salary - $85,338 annually - for 18 days after he joined the District Attorney's Office on April 13.

610-313-8111 @MariSchaefer