Four city councilwomen say Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams should fire prosecutors who sent or received pornographic email while working for the state attorney general. Williams decided instead to provide them with "sensitivity training," which was a more expensive and disingenuous way of doing nothing.
The most reasonable response is between Williams' nothing and the councilwomen's everything. The latter are right about Assistant District Attorney Frank Fina, whose documented use of a state account to send pornographic, misogynist, and racist emails makes him a poor choice to pursue justice impartially and professionally for the city. The district attorney at least bears the burden of explaining why Fina should remain on the payroll, and he has failed to do so. The case against two other city prosecutors, who reportedly received but did not send such emails, is not as clear.
As with Supreme Court Justice J. Michael Eakin and scores of other officials who participated in Harrisburg's great pornography exchange, determining the most appropriate sanctions requires a thorough, independent investigation and disclosure of the emails along with their senders and recipients. The last person who should lead such an inquiry is Attorney General Kathleen Kane.
Having discovered the offending emails on her office's servers in the course of another investigation, Kane has used them to press an attack on Fina and other enemies for more than a year. At the same time, the Democratic attorney general has continued to employ many of the emailers and refused to disclose much of the email. And it was not until last week - not coincidentally, just after a Senate committee recommended her removal from office in the face of criminal charges and the suspension of her law license - that Kane contrived to appoint a special pornography prosecutor.
In a bizarre event Tuesday at (of all places) the National Constitution Center, Kane accused other officials of having "lost their sense of dignity" and unveiled a special prosecution team led by Doug Gansler, a former Maryland attorney general who unsuccessfully sought the state's Democratic nomination for governor last year. Whatever Gansler's qualifications, his appointment is fatally tainted by his appointer, who is better known for killing investigations than she is for leading them.
What's needed is a truly independent investigation - as a retired chief justice, a former U.S. attorney, and the heads of the Philadelphia and Pennsylvania bars have all noted. The Supreme Court justices who aren't implicated in the scandal should appoint a special prosecutor who can do the job with the objectivity and competence that have eluded our elected officials.