The Lancaster County Commissioners objected Thursday to District Attorney Craig Stedman's efforts to block their scrutiny of his office, saying he "apparently wishes to silence all his critics at any cost."
In a filing in Commonwealth Court in Harrisburg, the commissioners made preliminary objections in a case Stedman filed against them on March 13.
Stedman has argued that the commissioners are overstepping their authority by attempting to review his use of drug forfeiture funds and his handling of recent personnel issues.
In their 13-page filing, Commissioners Josh Parsons, Dennis Stuckey and Craig Lehman object to Stedman's initiation of the case. They argue that the matter is improperly before the court and push back on the notion that the case is ready for a judge's decision.
"... This is an intervention the court can, and should, decline," the commissioners state in their filing. They argue that a judge allowing the case to move forward would "elevate this local dispute to an unwarranted level." Stedman did not explain what urgent circumstances required a judge's intervention, the commissioners state.
"The District Attorney apparently wishes to silence all his critics at any cost," the legal filing states. The commissioners noted that Stedman's lawsuit came shortly after the board petitioned to intervene in an open-records dispute between Stedman and LNP.
"This lawsuit is just another effort to stop discussion of these important public issues," the filing states.
The commissioners said that after learning about Stedman's lease of an SUV using drug forfeiture funds, improper mileage reimbursements related to the vehicle, and personnel issues within the office — which they said are "related to outside political activities" — Stedman "hired his own personal lawyers from a Philadelphia law firm, who promptly threatened the Board with a defamation lawsuit unless the commissioners immediately stopped discussing their concerns publicly."
In a related move on Wednesday, the commissioners blocked Stedman from using taxpayer money to cover his legal bills in the ongoing dispute.
In a letter to the county's top fiscal officer, Controller Brian Hurter, the three commissioners said they will decline any payment of invoices related to the litigation Stedman initiated against them in Commonwealth Court.
Reporter Sam Janesch contributed to this report.