A former employee for Sen. Katie Muth alleged in a 2020 Facebook post that the senator bullied her staff, and that the first-term senator was “perpetrating an abusive environment in her office.”
Those allegations against Muth are all the more serious when coupled with other information showing Muth’s office has been roiled by unmatched staff turnover, with the majority of those hired to work for her departing less than one year after they began, according to an analysis of senate documents by Broad + Liberty.
Of the 28 staffers hired by the Montgomery County Democrat since Dec. 2018, six had tenures of 70 days or less. Many of those with the shortest tenures had the highest responsibilities, such as chief of staff, deputy chief of staff, or communications director.
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The records also show in Muth’s three-and-a-half years in the Pennsylvania Senate, she has had four communications directors and four chiefs of staff.
In all, seventeen of the 28 who went to work under Muth departed her employ less than one year after their hire date.
Looking at those raw numbers in one sense, it would not be inaccurate to say that more than half of her staffers have departed in less than a year, but such a characterization would also legitimately understate the matter. Because senate offices tend to have a staff of about 7-10 people, it would be more accurate to say that her office has witnessed something close to 200 percent turnover in her first term.
Angelique Hinton, listed as a former community organizer for Muth, sharply criticized her old boss in a 2020 post on Facebook.
Hinton’s post included a screenshot of a tweet from Muth shortly after the death of baskeball star Kobe Bryant, in which Muth noted the fact that Bryant had been accused of sexual assault early in his career.
“That she would select this moment to deepen the pain being experienced by so many is not surprising to me or any of the people who have worked for her and filed multiple CREDIBLE complaints against her in the Senate,” Hinton wrote.
“Katie should focus on giving those that she bullied & abused in her employ a voice & stop being a hypocrite! She has either fired or forced out at least nine people in her first year. All of those people, including myself, have lost their health insurance, their income, their livelihood… she should focus on helping them instead of hurting others. Abuse is abuse, and she is perpetrating an abusive environment in her office.”
The post was liked by another former staffer, Sharyn “Amy” Menache, who simply said, “Thank you! Signed one of the 9.”
Among Muth’s employees with the shortest tenures are:
- Jennifer Brown, communications director, left after 69 days
- David Cohen, chief of staff, left after 64 days
- Michael Connelly, deputy chief of staff, left after 67 days
- D. H., communications director, left after 41 days
- Sharyn Menache, executive administrator, left after 69 days
- Alia Tanko, chief of staff, left after 70 days
Three former Muth staffers reached for this article declined to comment. Requests for comment to numerous other staff members were not returned or were not successful.
The data becomes even more dramatic when compared to four other Democrat senators, all of whom were first elected in November of 2018 — the same time as Muth.
- Sen. Lindsey Williams: One employee left in under a year. Only one chief of staff hired. No comms directors ever hired.
- Sen. Steve Santarsiero: Zero employees have left in under one year. Two chiefs of staff hired, one communications director.
- Sen. Tim Kearney: Six employees have left in under one year. One chief of staff hired, two communications directors.
- Sen. Maria Collett: Four persons left in under one year. One chief of staff hired, one communications director have departed (possibly two communications directors, depending on if “Communications/social media director” also counts as communications director).
The number of staff who left in under one year under Sen. Muth is 50 percent more than the combined total of her other four Democratic colleagues elected in 2018.
When contacted for comment about the staffing analysis only, Savannah Thorpe, press secretary for Democratic Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa, demanded through an unnamed attorney that Broad + Liberty include the full and unedited quotes of both Sens. Muth and Costa. Although we believe we are under no obligation to honor that demand because the quotes were sent without any prior agreement having been reached, we nevertheless chose to honor it in this instance.
“I’m grateful for the hard work of every staffer who has taken on the challenge of serving our constituents, both legislatively and in our district offices. I was elected to serve the public by promising to work to address the many issues facing our communities, and that mission requires that I hold myself and my team to high performance standards,” Muth said to Broad + Liberty.
“When I ran for office the first time, I committed to taking on the status quo and corruption in Harrisburg, and fighting for real change for working people, no matter who stood in the way. I am proud of the victories my team and I have won for our district, and when I am reelected, my team and I will continue fighting for the residents of Senate District 44 and everyone across the Commonwealth.”
While Muth provided that comment regarding the staffing analysis, she did not provide any comment to follow-up questions about the Hinton allegations. Muth’s office also did not answer a question as to which staffers quit, and which were fired.
Becky Corbin, a Chester County Republican who previously served in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives said the staffing data should be raising red flags in Harrisburg.
“I was sworn in on January first of 2013. I served for six years, my career having ended on November 30th of 2018. During that six-year span, I had four staff members that I started with on January first, 2013, and they were with me when I left office,” Corbin said.
“I had no turnover. I had no one leave. If someone can’t hold on to staff for a period of one year — the way she’s losing people — it’s just appalling to me. I think leadership of the Democratic caucus should be concerned about employees who are unable to continue employment with a state senator,” Corbin concluded.
Only one other state senator out of fifty remotely approaches the high churn of Sen. Muth’s office — but his office turnover rate comes with a huge caveat.
Republican Senator Doug Mastriano, also the party’s nominee for governor this year, has had six staffers leave in less than one year.
Last August, however, as Mastriano feuded with fellow Republicans over the possibility of an election audit in 2021, Sen. Majority Leader Jake Corman reassigned three members of Mastriano’s staff. This is reflected in the data as three Mastriano staffers show end dates of Aug. 19, 2021.
Gauging turnover for senate leadership is slightly trickier, because a senate majority or minority leader has dozens of extra staff under them that serve the party’s caucus as a whole. For example, the website and company Legistorm, which tracks a host of information on congressional members and their staff, refuses to include leadership in their “bad boss” calculations that are based mainly on staff turnover.
If someone can’t hold on to staff for a period of one year — the way she’s losing people — it’s just appalling to me. I think leadership of the Democratic caucus should be concerned about employees who are unable to continue employment with a state senator.
Even before Muth was elected, while on the campaign trail in 2018, there were signals that working for her could be a precarious proposition.
In a 2018 interview with Slate, Muth previewed to the reporter that one of her staffers might be getting the ax soon, and that her campaign had experienced frequent turnover at the highest levels.
When Muth complained to the reporter about a printer that wasn’t working, a staffer tried to turn the situation into a political joke.
“‘Maybe it’s the Russians,’ says Nate Craig, who Muth later whispers may not be destined to last long as her volunteer coordinator. (She’s fired two campaign managers already.),” Slate reported.
Costa said all of Muth’s personnel decisions were about efficiency. He sidestepped questions as to whether his office, as leader of the Democratic senate caucus, had ever received complaints from staffers about the atmosphere in Muth’s office.
“Senator Muth is a hard worker and I’ve been proud to serve alongside her. Sen. Muth won her seat by promising to take on tough fights for her constituents, and thanks to the team she has assembled, that’s what she’s done,” Costa said.
“She expects a lot from herself and her staff, and she’s made personnel decisions that allow her to get the job done. I am grateful for the service of everyone who has worked with her, and I look forward to working with her and her team to continue delivering for the 44th district.”
Although Muth’s office did not return a follow-up request for comment on Hinton’s Facebook allegations, Costa did.
“Senator Muth has never been found in violation of any Senate workplace policy,” Costa said. “Any allegations were met with a thorough standard investigation from Senate HR department, after which no negative findings were ever made, and no disciplinary action was ever taken.”
Senate District 44 is mainly based in Chester County, but also includes portions of Montgomery and Berks counties as well.
Todd Shepherd is Broad + Liberty’s chief investigative reporter. Send him tips at firstname.lastname@example.org, or use his encrypted email at email@example.com. @shepherdreports