Mr. Corbett, It’s Time to Clean House

Those "racy" emails deserve a firm response — from you — and soon.

Tom Corbett

It’s time for Gov. Corbett to clean house.

That’s an odd thing to say about an elected official who gives every sign of being a lame duck. But Corbett has got a few months and a little bit of power left, and he should use them to immediately rid state government of all his former subordinates who were trading pornographic images on their state computers while they were working for him in the attorney general’s office.

He should do this for a couple of reasons:

• Using state-owned computers for such purposes is plainly against the rules — with potential consequences including termination — and the attorney general’s office, more than any other, is charged with ensuring that the rules are followed, particularly within state government. The rule-breaking here was so widespread — at least eight officials named, with dozens of others implicated — that only a widespread housecleaning is appropriate to restore trust.

• Second, the emails went well beyond standard raciness, to the point that every woman who works as a subordinate to these men has legitimate reason to wonder if they’re seen as equals with their male co-workers.

Consider again the Inquirer’s description of the images passed around the attorney general’s office:

The e-mails include photos and videos of women and men engaged in oral sex, anal sex, and intercourse. The videos have titles such as “Cigar,” “Chin strap,” “Golf Ball washer,” and “Rocking Horse.” The photographs included naked women and motivational posters, with slogans such as “Devotion” and “Willingness,” that depicted women performing sex acts on their male bosses.

Emphasis mine. There’s no “sex-positive” way to spin this: The last set of images plainly and simply reduces the female employees of powerful men to sex objects. It’s misogynistic, and the women who work in state government ought to receive ample assurance that they’re seen as equal contributors, that they work with men who can value their contributions on their own merits.

So who should go? After all, every man who received a pornographic email may not have been a willing recipient. So let’s agree there are a couple of criteria for dismissal: One, a employee can be demonstrated to have sent or forwarded one of the emails in question. Second: An employee received enough of the emails that even if he didn’t pass them on, the weight of received emails suggests he should’ve reported the issue.

Here’s AP:

Police Commissioner Frank Noonan received 338 pornographic emails and sent none, and Environmental Protection Secretary Christopher Abruzzo received 46 and sent eight, Kane’s office said. Noonan was the office’s chief of criminal investigations, and Abruzzo formerly supervised the attorney general’s drug strike force section.

The man who sent more than three dozen porn emails and received 436 was identified as Randy Feathers, a former agent Corbett appointed to the Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole. He didn’t respond to requests for comment.

Noonan, I suppose, could plausibly claim he never saw the emails. Abruzzo and Feathers, having sent emails, have far less wiggle room.

This has become a political issue — Gov. Corbett is up for re-election in just a few weeks — but it’s hard to feel too bad about that: If you don’t want your political opponents to make hay with the amount of pornography being consumed and passed around your office, don’t consume and pass around pornography. It’s really that easy.

Anyway: Corbett has said he never saw the emails and never would’ve tolerated them. Good. It’s still not too late for him to prove that. Clean house, Mr. Governor. Do it now.

Follow @JoelMMathis on Twitter.