HARRISBURG - Saying he's "tired of explaining the inexplicable," Chuck Ardo, the spokesman for Attorney General Kathleen Kane, said Friday that he is quitting.
Like Kane's seven previous press secretaries, Ardo is leaving his job, widely thought to be one of the toughest in state government.
In an interview, Ardo said he told Kane late this week that he wanted to end his contract with the Attorney General's Office to act as her top press aide. He said he was simply exhausted by having to defend his boss.
He said the turning point came earlier this month, when Kane loudly objected as he was giving a reporter a tour of the executive offices.
"I have a philosophy, I try to be open, transparent, and honest, and that seems to rub some people the wrong way," said Ardo, whose previous bosses include former Gov. Ed Rendell.
"I just don't have any gas left in the tank to do this job," he said. "It's by far and away the most difficult job I've ever had."
Kane could not be reached for comment Friday.
Her top deputy, Bruce L. Castor Jr., called Kane "a good boss."
"I have nothing negative to say about her management style," said Castor, whom Kane hired in March as the solicitor general to help with executive decisions - and to serve as an ally in an office where many top aides have been witnesses against her in grand jury investigations.
Castor views the office in a positive light.
"I went into the office with the same perception that a lot of people had - that it is a dysfunctional place," he said. "I don't see that. I see a group of professionals doing quality work."
Ardo, 69, came out of retirement in April of last year to take the $120,000-a-year job as Kane's spokesman. He has been the attorney general's voice during some of her most politically trying moments. In all, he has hung in for 13 months, the longest run of any of her press aides.
Kane was charged last summer with perjury, conspiracy, and other crimes for allegedly leaking confidential grand jury information to a newspaper in a bid to embarrass a foe. She has admitted leaking the material, but said she did so in a lawful way.
Shortly after the criminal charges were filed, the state Supreme Court suspended her law license, prompting the state Senate to launch hearings on whether to remove her from office.
As Kane's legal troubles mounted, she largely stayed out of the spotlight, and Ardo had to step in even more as her surrogate, fielding barrages of difficult questions. What became exasperating, he said, was that he no longer had good answers.
He cited as one example Kane's decision to promote as her chief of staff a man whom two women in the office had accused of sexual harassment.
And for nearly two years now, Kane has been under pressure to make public a trove of emails containing pornography and offensive jokes that she discovered had been swapped by prosecutors, agents, and others in her office using state computers.
Her critics have accused her of only making public emails that were embarrassing to people she considered enemies or critics.
"Her position on a number of issues is out of the mainstream, and she reacts differently than any politician that I have ever worked with," Ardo said.
Since Kane took office 31/2 years ago, she has gone through eight press secretaries - Ellen Mellody, Dennis Fisher, Joseph Peters, J.J. Abbott, Renee Martin, Aaron Sadler, Carolyn Myers, and Ardo. Martin is the only one who has remained with the office.
Many stayed in the post less than three months. The revolving door also was marked by a pattern in which Kane's aides have had to retract or amend their statements.
After serving as spokesman for the attorney general of Arkansas, Sadler came north to handle the same task for Kane. He quit after two months, returning south to serve as press secretary for Louisiana's attorney general.
In testifying before the grand jury that later recommended she face criminal charges, Kane said she had bypassed her press operation in leaking the confidential material in 2014. She described her press staff as "young and inexperienced" and said, "Our team just wasn't up to the job."
One early press secretary, she said, "was a disaster." So was another, she said.
Summing up with a joke, Kane said she was "the Murphy Brown of press secretaries" - a reference to the 1980s sitcom character who went through scores of secretaries.
As for Ardo, he, too, faced criticism from Kane while on the job. Last fall, she suggested to a judge that he was to blame when she was criticized for suggesting that a political enemy had leaked confidential information.
Asked about that, Ardo said at the time, "I think it exposes the challenge of speaking for the Attorney General's Office at this point in time."
In the interview Friday, Ardo said the "straw that broke the camel's back" was Kane's outrage that he would give a tour of the office to a journalist.
The reporter was doing a story on low morale in Kane's office. Ardo said his goal was to demonstrate that people there work hard and were proud of what they do.
While on the tour, he said Kane called him, and her angry words were so loud that they were audible to the reporter.
Her reaction, he said, "exemplifies the difference between her philosophy and mine."
If he feels bad about anything, he said, it is leaving the office at a difficult time. Kane's criminal trial is scheduled for this summer. And next week, she is expected to unveil the preliminary findings of her investigation into the pornographic email scandal.
Ardo praised the work of many of the lawyers, agents, and others who work in the nearly 800-person office.
"I feel as though in some ways I am abandoning them," he said. "But it's come to the point where I can't sacrifice anymore. I've given as much as I've got."