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Stack apologizes for an occasional 'Stack moment'

Under scrutiny for his dealings with state employees, Lt. Gov. Mike Stack said he sometimes gets stressed and angry, and apologized if he offended anyone.

HARRISBURG – He's not perfect. He gets angry and stressed, and, yes, sometimes snaps "in anger and frustration" at the troopers who drive him and his wife or the state workers who maintain the 2,500-square-foot taxpayer-funded home the couple occupy outside the capital.

But Lt. Gov. Mike Stack is sorry -- and he will try harder.

That was the message Stack delivered Wednesday in an unusual news conference at his Capitol office, after a flurry of reports that he was the subject of an inquiry by the Office of the Pennsylvania Inspector General, which investigates government fraud and waste.

In response to questions from reporters, the Northeast Philadelphia Democrat would not describe any of the things he or his wife, Tonya, allegedly said or did that prompted the review, and acknowledged he did not know its details. He also would not address speculation that Gov. Wolf, with whom he was expected to run for reelection next year, initiated the investigation.

Instead, Stack portrayed the imbroglio as a character misstep that he'll work to avoid in the future.

"Everyone who knows me knows that I will occasionally have a 'Stack moment,' " he said. He described long days with the state police detail that ferries him around Pennsylvania, likening them to family members: "There are times they see the best of Mike Stack and times they see the worst of Mike Stack."

Stack conceded he's "not a perfect human being," and gets stressed and angry like everyone else. "I apologize for all those things I have ever said, and I will do better."

The news conference was the latest chapter in a political mystery that still is unfolding. State Inspector General Bruce Beemer's office has declined to confirm or deny the investigation. Wolf has remained equally silent. Pressed twice at public events on Wednesday, the governor would not discuss the case. After Stack spoke, his office said he would have nothing to say until he receives and reviews a report from Beemer.

Wolf and Stack have been expected to share the ticket in a 2018 reelection bid. Wolf did not choose Stack, a longtime legislator, for his ticket in 2014, and the two are said to have an awkward relationship, rarely meeting or appearing together in public. In Pennsylvania, candidates for governor and lieutenant governor run independently of each other in party primaries and then together in the general election.

The governor has limited political options if he wants Stack off the ticket. He could wait to see how the case plays out, or decide to endorse another candidate for lieutenant governor ahead of the 2018 primary -- a drastic step.

Stack's political future became part of the discussion during his 36-minute meeting with reporters. Asked about reports that Wolf spurred the investigation, Stack said: "I sort of don't want to even analyze that."

Stack said he and the governor last spoke a few weeks ago. "He's busy, I'm busy," he said. "It's not like we've ever talked around the clock or meet daily."

Still, he said he plans to run for reelection as a "unified team" with the governor. "We have some issues that need to be addressed, and I'm a big boy and a grown man and I'm a leader, and so I know I need to do better."

When in Harrisburg, Stack and his wife live in a 2,500-square-foot fieldstone house on the grounds of historic Fort Indiantown Gap, northeast of Harrisburg. Two state employees manage the property, and a detail of state troopers escort and protect the lieutenant governor and his wife.

Stack didn't confirm reports that he and his wife had ordered their security detail to activate the SUV's emergency lights and siren for routine travel, but said that if he had acted inappropriately around the troopers, he was apologizing.

"The state trooper is absolutely the boss," he said. "If I've ever said something in anger or frustration, being in a rush or something like that, where a state trooper thought that I was telling them how to drive or how to operate their emergency response procedure, if I ever gave that impression, I was wrong, and I apologize.

"These folks are like our family, and you say things around your family that you wouldn't necessarily say to anybody else in the world," Stack said. "And you're always grateful for your family because they're stuck with you, right, so you can say things, and one way or another you're going to have to see them at Thanksgiving, so they have no choice but to forgive you."

He also apologized for his wife. "She is a human being, and also gets stressed and may have times in the cycle of a 24-hour day when she's not her best person. And I know she's sorry."

Last year, Stack drew criticism when the Inquirer and Daily News reported that he requested language in a draft of the state budget authorizing state police who drive him and other "dignitaries" to use flashing lights and sirens to clear traffic.

Current law allows such warnings only in emergencies. Wolf administration officials asked lawmakers to strike the provision.