(The Center Square) — As House Republicans look to expand their investigation of Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner, they say an expanded study and audit was suggested by Josh Shapiro.
The office of the state attorney general and Democratic gubernatorial nominee, however, says that’s not the case.
The House Judiciary Committee held a voting meeting for House Resolution 239 on Tuesday morning, which would direct the Legislative Budget and Finance Committee to investigate how the Philadelphia district attorney office spends funds on victims of crime.
It would also urge the auditor general to perform a forensic audit on how the DA’s office spent funds for the Gun Violence Task Force and “address any improprieties, negligence or misuse of funds.”
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In a motion that failed, House Democrats questioned why it was necessary to pass the resolution before the House Select Committee had released the final report of its investigation and sought to table it until that report’s release.
Rep. John Lawrence, R-West Grove and chairman of the House Select Committee, made references to more information the House might need to review. He didn’t elaborate, frustrating some Democrats on the committee.
“I’m just trying to again zero in on the intent of this resolution,” said Rep. Jared Solomon, D-Philadelphia. “What I’m again trying to get at is what is triggering this resolution? What is the information that we need to know about that will allow us to make an informed decision about being yes or no on this resolution?”
Then, Lawrence alluded to Shapiro.
“It was suggested to the committee to review this, to be candid with you, by the attorney general of the commonwealth,” Lawrence said.
When Solomon asked him to elaborate, Lawrence said, “I’m going to leave it at that.”
The attorney general’s office, when contacted by The Center Square, did not back up Lawrence.
“The Office of Attorney General has not made any request for an audit of the Gun Violence Task Force,” said Jacklin Rhoads, communications director for the Shapiro’s office. “The statement made at today’s hearing is unequivocally false.”
Lawrence did not offer any specifics on the information received by the Select Committee to explain why another report and audit are needed.
“That was definitely a mic drop moment, but we’re not in a mic drop business,” Solomon said. “When you say that, that leads to many additional questions. So I think it’s only fair to the members of this committee to just understand what that comment meant, what is behind that assertion.”
The answer to the question of ‘why now?’ is that, to be candid with you, it’s been brought to the committee’s attention in recent weeks that this is an area of focus that needs to be reviewed. But this has been brought to the committee’s attention as an area that needs additional review…
Lawrence declined to specifically say what the attorney general referred to, pointing back to the Select Committee’s second interim report that was released Monday.
“If you read the report carefully, it talks about the fact that the attorney general has provided information to the committee,” Lawrence said. “I’m also mindful that I do not have all of the information that you’re requesting directly in front of me and I also want to be very careful — it’s a sensitive subject. I’ve answered your question, and I’m going to choose not to answer it further.”
Later, he suggested a review would be focused on ensuring money was spent on authorized uses only.
“The answer to the question of ‘why now?’ is that, to be candid with you, it’s been brought to the committee’s attention in recent weeks that this is an area of focus that needs to be reviewed,” Lawrence said. “But this has been brought to the committee’s attention as an area that needs additional review, which is why, why now — that’s the answer to that question.”
Lawrence described the further review as focused on one program, rather than a wide-ranging inquiry.
“With regard to the specifics of what’s in front of us, this is narrowly tailored,” Lawrence said. “This is not a wide-ranging audit of every nickel that the city has. It’s specifically directed towards the Gun Violence Task Force and the reason it’s specifically tied to that is for two reasons. First, it’s been brought to our attention that it should be reviewed and second, because there are very specific purposes that these funds — you could not use Gun Violence Task Force money to plant a tree or to do some other things that might be a lot more consequential than planting a tree. That’s just the first thing that came to my mind. But there are very specific uses that those funds can and cannot be used for. And that’s what this review would take into account.”
The committee’s interim report criticized Krasner for rising crime rates in Philadelphia, but did not mention impeachment. Krasner called the report politically motivated and accused the committee of wanting to “erase Philadelphia’s votes.”
Anthony Hennen is a reporter for The Center Square. Previously, he worked for Philadelphia Weekly and the James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal. He is managing editor of Expatalachians, a journalism project focused on the Appalachian region.
This article was republished with permission from The Center Square.