Agency that watches for wasteful spending wastes $160K
PHILADELPHIA (AP) — A Pennsylvania watchdog agency tasked with monitoring state misconduct and waste has found itself at the center of a nearly $160,000 gaffe.
The state inspector general’s office purchased pistols, ammunition, and other related equipment, following a law passed in 2017 that expanded the office’s powers to allow it to issue subpoenas and search warrants, Spotlight PA reported. Spotlight PA is a independent, non partisan newsroom powered by The Philadelphia Inquirer in partnership with The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and PennLive.
Jonathan Hendrickson, a spokesman for acting Inspector General Lucas Miller, said that after the purchase was completed, officials realized the law didn’t empower investigators to carry a firearm.
Former federal prosecutor Bruce Antkowiak reviewed the 2017 law and found that it puts investigators in a challenging position.
“Nobody wants to go execute a search warrant and not have a firearm on them,” he said. “I don’t care how benign the crime may be that you’re investigating — the minute you go into someone’s home or business unannounced, under the authority of the warrant, there’s a serious risk you’re going to meet resistance.”
Louise Hayes, a supervising attorney at Community Legal Services, said guns should stay in storage.
“The overwhelming majority of benefits recipients are eligible for the benefits they receive, and most investigations reveal no fraud, but perhaps families struggling to comply with a complex web of rules,” she said in a statement. “The carrying of weapons is intimidating, stigmatizing and unnecessary in this context.”
Hendrickson says the items are being held in a “guarded, secure facility,” and that the office is working to “return or repurpose the firearms.”
This story was first published on Jan. 30, 2020. It was updated on Jan. 31, 2020, to correct the name of the acting inspector general. He is Lucas Miller, not Jonathan Hendrickson. Hendrickson is Miller’s spokesman.