Former Centre County assistant district attorney Karen Arnold calls for legal scrutiny of Bruce Castor appointment

A former Centre County assistant district attorney urged county commissioners Tuesday to dig into the legality of Bruce Castor Jr.’s appointment as special district attorney.

Castor has represented District Attorney Stacy Parks Miller since forgery allegations against the district attorney went public in January. Parks Miller appointed him to the special district attorney position Friday.

According to the oath of office, his duties in that capacity will “extend only to cases involving efforts to disqualify the district attorney of Centre County and her assistants from prosecuting cases, and such other matters as the district attorney might assign to me from time to time.”

No petition requesting payment for Castor’s services has yet come before the salary board, commissioners said, indicating that he is not technically an employee of the county and wouldn’t necessarily need to come before the salary board.

Castor is an option afforded to the district attorney by which she can contract for assistance for a limited duration, Vice Chairman Chris Exarchos said. This provision is spelled out in the county code and is different than the employment process used to hire permanent employees for the county.

Former assistant district attorney Karen Arnold attended the meeting and encouraged commissioners to investigate whether that provision has been used appropriately. In most cases when special assistance is appointed, she said, it’s because of personnel shortages, which the county judicial system does not have.

Commissioners have the right to get an interpretation of whether the appointment is under the actual application of the county code, she said, and if it is a legitimate use of a special assistant prosecutor.

“You folks need to talk to your attorneys about the case law that’s involved with this,” she said, “that it’s not just putting your finger on a provision and saying, ‘I can do it,’ but finding out what the purpose is and if it’s a legitimate purpose.”

Exarchos said they would pass her comments on to their legal teams.

Castor was also recently quoted in The Philadelphia Inquirer about his role in the county, saying Republican commissioners were “trying to score points by battling with a Democratic DA” — a quote Chairman Steve Dershem called “patently ridiculous.”

“I don’t think there’s anyone in Centre County who would believe that,” Exarchos said. “But Mr. Castor is entitled to his opinion.”