A high-ranking official hired by Attorney General Kathleen Kane's predecessor may be trying to derail her efforts to air her office’s dirty laundry, the special prosecutor in the case charged.
First Deputy Attorney General Bruce Beemer, who was hired by former acting AG Linda Kelly and is the highest-ranking official in Kane’s office with a law license, told the special prosecutor appointed to investigate the Porngate scandal, Douglas Gansler, to return an encrypted hard drive with roughly one million emails just before the holidays, Gansler said.
"Mr. Beemer has been trying to undermine the investigation from the beginning," Gansler said, "To me [it] begs the question of why he simply doesn't leave his position. I'm not going to speculate on whether he's tied to what the emails might divulge regarding his involvement."
The request gives a window into an apparent power struggle in the Attorney General’s office over the office’s emails, as Beemer is refusing to sign a contract to pay Gansler until the emails are returned.
“He doesn't have the authority to do that,” Gansler said. “The Attorney General outranks him. He was just spewing his silly legal theories in an effort to obstruct the investigation."
Gansler, the former attorney general of Maryland, and his team of lawyers from D.C.-based law firmBuckleySandler are currently beginning an investigation into emails exchanged at the AG's office, Gansler said.
The team is using algorithm-based searches to ferret out any obscene or inappropriate content that may have been exchanged by state employees at the Attorney General's office, he said.
The investigation follows Kane's release of hundreds of offensive emails sent and received by state employees in the scandal now known as "Porngate." She has claimed her discovery of these offensive emails led to a conspiracy to oust her from office — and appointed Gansler to investigate all emails to find out if even more prosecutors were involved.
Attorney General's office spokesman Chuck Ardo said the request to return the hard drive was made due to concerns that it is not legally appropriate for Gansler to review the office's emails, as they contain confidential information and legal communications.
"There is a whole panoply of protected material," Ardo said. "There continue to be questions because there is no executed contract between Mr. Gansler and the office, nor is he an employee of the office."
Kane doesn't agree that Gansler needs to return anything.
"Certainly, the Attorney General believes she has all the authority she needs to appoint Mr. Gansler to his position," Ardo said.
In the meantime, the signing of a contract to ensure Gansler gets paid a $70 per day feehas been held up.
"The idea is that she [Kane] doesn't have any authority to appoint me or hire me to do a job," Gansler said."He knows there's no possible legal theory under which we should return the emails ... That begs the question of what he [Beemer] is trying to hide from everybody. I'm not going to speculate on that."
Ardodenied that anything besides legal concerns motivated Beemer's request.
"Accusing the first deputy attorney general or any of the executive attorneys general of attempting to undermine the investigation is factually wrong," he said. "There is no attempt by the first deputy or the executive deputies to protect themselves. They are trying to protect the best interests of the office."
Beemer did not respond to a request for comment.
However, it does not seem thatKane and Beemer are issuing parallel directives to Gansler, rather than discussing his appointment with each other.
"Communications between the sides are strained to begin with. Ihave heard of no attempt by the sides to mediate their differences," Ardo said. "It comes as no secretthat there are avariety of disagreementsas a result of the current situation here."