The last two weeks have been pretty miserable for Lt. Gov. Mike Stack, the Philadelphia politician who — along with his soda-throwing wife, Tonya — has been accused of mistreating state employees and using taxpayer dollars to cover questionable expenses.
Since April 10, there’s been a steady drumbeat of bad headlines revolving around Stack, the former state senator from Northeast Philly. So what’s it all mean for the political futures of not only Stack, but also Gov. Tom Wolf, the Democrat who’s in the midst of a bid for re-election?
Political watchers in Pennsylvania have said we’re in “uncharted territory” and pointed to the fact that it’s Wolf who ordered a state investigation into Stack’s treatment of state employees in his police detail and home. And it was Wolf who decided to yank Stack’s State Police detail entirely.
It would be understandable if you’ve missed a step or two in the Stack saga over the last couple weeks. So here’s a breakdown of what’s gone down so far:
April 10 – ‘Abusive treatment of staff,’ and an investigation
It all started April 10 when The Caucus, a print-only publication, via LancasterOnline and ABC27 (the Harrisburg-area ABC affiliate) reported Wolf asked the Office of the Inspector General, run by former acting attorney general Bruce Beemer, to investigate “numerous complaints about the Stack’s abusive treatment toward staff.” That staff included members of his State Police detail and employees at the taxpayer-funded lieutenant governor’s residence. According to the TV station:
One complaint involves the Stacks ordering troopers to use lights and sirens while traveling in non-emergency situations, which is against Pennsylvania State Police policy and a violation of the vehicle code. When troopers refused to obey the Stack’s commands, they were verbally berated with expletive-filled language, especially by Tonya Stack, ABC27 has learned.
Sources told ABC27 that the investigation was near completion. The Office of the Inspector General is tasked with investigating fraud, waste and abuse at the state government level. It’s unclear if the Inspector General’s report will be made public, but ABC27 reported Wolf will receive a full report on what the Office finds.
Throughout the day on April 10, other news organizations confirmed the existence of a probe into Stack’s behavior. All said the alleged verbal abuse was reported by multiple Stack employees.
April 12 – Stack says he’s sorry
As you can see in the above video, Stack held a rare press conference in his own office two days after the first reports came out that detailed his and his wife’s alleged mistreatment of state employees.
Stack said he sometimes snaps “in anger and frustration” and offered an apology during an “unusual” news conference, The Inquirer and The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported. But Stack stopped short of revealing anything he or his wife actually said to the employees, instead painting the transgressions as part of his fiery personality.
“Everyone who knows me knows that I will occasionally have a ‘Stack moment,'” he said, later adding: “I apologize for all those things I have ever said, and I will do better.”
April 14 – Stack was warned: ‘This was not a surprise’
Sources told reporters at The Inquirer and The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that aides who work for Wolf had notified Stack on numerous occasions that employees — both state troopers and those who worked at his residence — complained of how they were treated by the Stacks. The complaints reportedly continued; Wolf then asked the Office of the Inspector General to launch an investigation.
“This was not a surprise,” a source told The Inquirer and The Post-Gazette. “The lieutenant governor was very aware of the situation.”
April 19 – Stack’s staff of 5 now down to 1
The Department of General Services, which oversees the mansion in Fort Indiantown Gap that’s afforded to the lieutenant governor, told PennLive that “what once was a five-person crew at the so-called ‘State House’ has been reduced over the course of the last six months to one full-time maintenance/repairman.” The Department didn’t release other details about what happened with the four former employees at the Stack residence, citing personnel issues.
April 19 – Hey, taxpayer: You paid for a hotel… and he lives here
As if an official state investigation into Stack’s behavior wasn’t enough, The Inquirer and The Post-Gazette reported last week Stack billed the state in 2015 for thousands of dollars in hotel stays in the city of Philadelphia — while he owned a home here.
Stack apparently tried to expense $4,210.69 in Philly hotel stays between January 2015 when he first took office as lieutenant governor and February 2016 when he sold his home in Northeast Philly. Then, Wolf administration officials actually asked Stack to pay back $1,800 dollars of that.
In 2015 and 2016, Stack expensed more than $18,000 worth of travel costs — about half of which was for hotels and meals in Philadelphia.
Another fun nugget in this story? Stack is still registered to vote in Philadelphia, even though he insists he lives in Lebanon County now at the state-provided residence. His chief of staff told the Inky he uses his mother’s address for his voter registration which is, oddly enough, allowed under state law.
April 20 – Trying to avoid Eagles traffic?!
Sources told ABC27 that an Office of the Inspector General report “will flesh out specific instances of behavior that are at the least embarrassing, and at the worst career threatening to Stack.” The TV station reported the allegations aren’t criminal. The story detailed a specific instance of alleged verbal abuse by Tonya Stack:
One instance followed a Philadelphia Eagles game that Mrs. Stack attended in Philadelphia. She allegedly wanted to avoid postgame traffic by using lights and sirens. Her assigned trooper refused. Tonya, according to sources, got angry and left the car. She called headquarters in the Midstate and asked that a different trooper come from Harrisburg to Philadelphia to pick her up and bring her home.
April 21 – Wolf personally strips Stack of his protective detail
Things went from bad to way worse on Friday when Gov. Wolf’s office confirmed to The Inquirer the governor pulled Stack’s State Police detail — a perk the lieutenant governor has had for decades — and reduced staffing at his residence. Wolf reportedly personally delivered a short letter to Stack that read:
“After consultation with the Commissioner of the Pennsylvania State Police and the Secretary of General Services, I write to inform you that, effective immediately, you and Mrs. Stack will no longer be afforded the protective detail provided to you as a courtesy of the Pennsylvania State Police. In addition, the Department of General Services will provide limited cleaning, grounds keeping and maintenance at The State House and only under supervision at prearranged times.
“I do not delight in this decision, but I believe it is a necessary step to protect Commonwealth employees.”
Stack released a statement that said he agreed with the decision, saying: “I recognize, as does my wife, that certain behavior while dealing with the staff of the Lieutenant Governor’s residence and the Pennsylvania State Police Executive Detail who protects us, is unacceptable and were symptoms of a larger problem.”
April 21 – Also taxpayers, I’d like to see racecars on your dime
City and State PA reported that on top of alllllllll that, Stack in 2015 tried to bill the state $240 for two tickets to see an IndyCar race at the Pocono Speedway. He was denied, but at least he had fun.