Centre County District Attorney Stacy Parks Miller joined other county officials in filing a lawsuit against Centre County on Monday.
In filings in Centre County Court, Parks Miller is asking for an injunction from the court due to the “wrongful and illegal release” of her emails and phone records, as well as those of members of her office, by figures in county government in violation of the state Right-to-Know Law.
Parks Miller maintains that county commissioners Steve Dershem and Chris Exarchos, solicitor Louis Glantz and Administrator Tim Boyde conspired with local attorneys Sean McGraw, Bernard Cantorna and the law offices they work for — listed as co-defendants in the case — to release such records without her knowledge so the attorneys could use them in criminal cases.
“In reality, the county actors sought to embarrass the district attorney, the District Attorney’s Office, and certain members of the Centre County judiciary that the county actors considered to be political adversaries,” the filing states.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to the Centre Daily Times
Cantorna and McGraw each used phone records obtained through Right-to-Know requests filed with the county in court filings. Cantorna, representing Jalene McClure, sought a new sentencing for his client because, he said, communication between members of the District Attorney’s Office and Judge Bradley P. Lunsford, who handled McClure’s trial and sentencing, brought up partiality issues.
McGraw made a similar filing on behalf of his client, Justin Blake, earlier this month.
Such disclosures violate the state Right-to-Know Law and county policy because they were done without her knowledge and deprived her of the opportunity to object to the requests, the filing states.
Parks Miller also maintains that the law mandates that government agencies designate an “open records officer” to handle requests, a position she holds within her office, and that all requests should have been forwarded to her.
Releasing the records constituted a violation of her right to privacy because the released records contained portions of her cellphone number and violated the Criminal History Records Information Act because it disclosed sensitive law enforcement information regarding investigations and intelligence, she claims.
Parks Miller is asking that the court order the county to follow the Right-to-Know Law going forward, that all in possession of the phone records and emails return them and that she be awarded monetary compensatory damages plus the costs of the lawsuit and attorneys’ fees, according to the documents. Also listed as defendants are “John Does 1-5,” people or entities unknown to Parks Miller that also have the illegally disclosed materials.
Those named in the lawsuit responded Monday evening.
Glantz said the documents released — phone bills — are financial in nature and thus able to be released under state law, and the county did so after consultation with the state Office of Open Records and attorneys who specialize in Right-to-Know law.
He denies any conspiracy.
“All that I can say is that it’s absurd,” Glantz said.
Cantorna said he doesn’t understand why he’s being sued. He said he filed the Right-to-Know requests in his role as counsel for McClure, who maintains her innocence. The findings of the requests raised serious questions and he filed motions in court on her behalf accordingly, he said.
“I’ll let the courts decide these issues,” Cantorna said of the Monday filing.
McGraw referred questions and requests for comment to ACLU Legal Director Witold Walczak, who represents him and the law office of Andrew Shubin. Walczak said the ACLU is representing McGraw and Shubin because of First Amendment concerns.
Last week, Judge Jonathan D. Grine and District Judge Kelley Gillette-Walker also filed injunctions regarding Right-to-Know requests filed through the county. Shubin’s law office and McGraw are co-defendants in the case initiated by Gillette-Walker.
Parks Miller and the commissioners have been sparring since forgery allegations were made against the district attorney by Michelle Shutt, a former paralegal in her office.
Cantorna presented an affidavit signed by Shutt to commissioners at a January meeting. McGraw is Shutt’s attorney.
Parks Miller, who denies the allegations, has maintained in previous filings in Centre County and the state Supreme Court that she is a victim of a political conspiracy between county commissioners and local defense attorneys.