Centre County District Attorney Stacy Parks Miller is suing the Centre County government.
Parks Miller has been at odds with the Centre County Commissioners for months over the handling of allegations that she forged a judge’s signature – but her latest court filing is a whole new fight.
She claims that the county invaded her privacy as part of a politically motivated conspiracy to publicly embarrass her, and she wants the court to intervene.
Her lawsuit, filed in the Centre County Court of Common Pleas on Monday, centers around alleged violations of Pennsylvania’s Right to Know law – raising concerns that mirror a similar lawsuit against the county from two county judges. She says the county illegally released her phone number and phone records to the public, only to have those records wrongly used against her in court.
Over the past several months, local defense attorneys have used records of text messages between judges and prosecutors to allege bias in favor of the DA’s office. None of the records obtained spoke to the content of the messages, and only listed the times they were sent and received.
Some of the attorneys who were involved in those cases – including local defense attorneys Andrew Shubin, Sean McGraw and Bernard Cantorna – are listed as defendants alongside the Centre County government.
Centre County Solicitor Louis Glantz has told StateCollege.com that the county released the phone records because they involve county-provided phones, making them public county financial records. Bruce Castor, an attorney for Parks Miller, says this is inaccurate.
Castor explains that District Attorneys are permitted by law to purchase work-related items with funds seized from criminals during investigations. He says Parks Miller's phone was paid for in this way, meaning the county has no ability to release her phone records as county financial records.
Parks Millers' complaint also notes that the Right to Know law clearly prohibits the release of “all or part of a person’s… cellular or personal telephone number. Parks Miller claims she should have been notified when a Right to Know request was filed that involved her or members of her office. Because the county did not notify her, she says she was deprived of her chance to object to the requests.
Parks Miller also says the county government wasn’t the proper authority to handle the requests to begin with. Each government office has a designated Right to Know officer, and Parks Miller says she’s the designated officer for the DA’s office. Parks Miller says she should’ve been forwarded any requests about her office, and that the county purposefully and maliciously chose to keep those requests away from her.
She goes on to allege that the county also wrongly obtained access to Parks Miller emails, which contain confidential information related to law enforcement investigations. Castor says this is a violation of not only the Right to Know law, but also the Criminal History Records Information Act. Castor and Parks Miller have previously criticized the county and the Bellefonte police department for their handling of sensitive information, such as a publicly released search warrant for Parks Miller's office that included the name of a police informant.
“The county officials are sworn to uphold the law, and their violation of it is intolerable,” Parks Miller's civil complaint reads.
Parks Miller asks for the court to force the county to return all records collected from her and to destroy any copies; to force the county to forward all future Right to Know requests involving the DA’s office to her; and to force the county to pay for attorney’s fees and compensatory damages.
Centre County Solicitor Louis Glantz denies the existence of any conspiracy, and calls Parks Miller’s latest move “over the top and absurd.”
He says the county properly responded to requests for specific records involving specific county employees using county-provided cell phones, and did not fill any overly broad or unnecessary requests.
“If there was going to be a perfect example for a law student about abuse of process, this would be it,” Glantz says.
Shubin, McGraw and Cantorna did not immediately respond to requests for comment. McGraw and Shubin are being represented by the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania in similar litigation being brought by Centre County Common Pleas Judge Jonathan Grine and Magisterial District Judge Kelley Gillette-Walker.
This isn’t the first time Parks Miller has alleged that attorneys and county employees have conspired against her. In filings with the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, she argued that she was being targeted by the county commissioners through an illegal criminal investigation over personal and political disagreements with the commissioners.
Parks Miller has strongly denied allegations that she forged a judge’s signature on a fake court order. Multiple sources have confirmed that the Pennsylvania Office of the Attorney General is investigating the allegations, but the OAG has denied repeated requests for comment on the status of that investigation.
Editor's note: This story has been updated to include comment from Bruce Castor.
Penn State VP: Greek Life Under Review By University Administrators
Order Limiting Right to Know Requests Temporarily Lifted; ACLU Joins Lawsuit Between Judges & County Government
Penn State Football: Beaver Stadium Press Box Set For Minor Facelift
Penn State Researchers Are Revolutionizing Solar Panels
Blue-White Game Countdown / 26 Days: Penn State’s Need For Explosive Plays & Play-makers