Leslie Anne Miller, general counsel to the commonwealth, has resigned due to an appearance of conflict of interest her job created with a lawsuit she filed that is intended to stop Pennsylvania State University from dissolving the Dickinson School of Law's board of governors and creating dual campuses.
Miller released a statement explaining the reasons for her resignation. She said Dickinson Law's long-term existence at its Carlisle campus would be threatened if Penn State opened a second campus in State College.
'In order to fulfill my fiduciary duty as a member of the board of Dickinson School of Law, I shall continue to participate as a plaintiff in the lawsuit,' Miller said.
She went on to say that she enjoyed her two years as Gov. Edward G. Rendell's general counsel but that 'Dickinson School of Law's survival is more important to me and my family than my job.'
Kate Phillips, a spokeswoman for Rendell, said the governor 'reluctantly' accepted Miller's resignation Tuesday. She said that the governor was not angry with Miller and that she had served the administration well for the past two years.
Miller, the former president of the Pennsylvania Bar Association, attended Dickinson Law and sits on its board of governors. After the Dickinson Law board gave preliminary approval for two campuses, Miller and two other board members - her father, Harrisburg lawyer G. Thomas Miller, and Philadelphia lawyer Thomas Monteverdi - sued Penn State, University President Graham Spanier, Dickinson Law Dean Phillip McConnaughay and Dickinson board of governors chairman and Berger & Montague partner Laddie Montague in Cumberland County Common Pleas Court last month.
The suit says the aim is to suspend the plan until, among other things, Penn State supplies more details about the two-campus plan.
Miller, the chief legal adviser to Rendell, offered to resign if the governor felt there was an appearance of a conflict. Last week, the Dickinson Law board gave final approval, in a 20-14 vote, to allow for the second campus. Miller voted against the plan and said she is scheduled to testify in a hearing today in Cumberland County.
Miller said she does not oppose the concept of dual campuses. She just believes the addition of a second campus in State College would cause irreparable financial harm to the law school that would lead to the closure of the current Carlisle campus.
'What we are trying to do is protect both campuses,' Miller said. 'We are making sure there are significant funds so that the school stays in existence. Penn State agreed to keep the Carlisle campus open when it merged with Dickinson.'
Phillips said that one of Miller's deputy general counsel, Scott Roy, will serve as interim general counsel. But she was quick to point out that Roy was not serving as acting general counsel and that the governor would be searching for a replacement. Roy is one of four deputies and is a holdover from the Ridge administration. He is in charge of administration and mediation.
The three other deputies include former Dickinson Law Dean Peter Glenn, in litigation; former Buchanan Ingersoll partner Nora Winkelman, in legislation; and former deputy attorney general David DeVries, in government contracts.
One name that is bound to surface as a possible replacement is Hangley Aronchick Segal & Pudlin partner Mark Aronchick, who was chief counsel to Rendell's gubernatorial campaign in 2002 and a close personal friend. Aronchick was Philadelphia's city solicitor during the administration of Mayor Bill Green in the early 1980s.
'I have not had any conversations with the governor and if I did, they would remain private,' Aronchick said. 'But anyone who knows me knows that I value public service and always urge others to pursue it. But right now my law practice and my firm are my primary focus.'
Miller, who lives with her family in Montgomery County, said her long-term career goals include returning to the practice of law at a Philadelphia firm.
Before joining the governor's staff as general counsel, Miller was a partner at McKissock & Hoffman in Philadelphia.
'I just found out about it today,' McKissock & Hoffman partner Peter Hoffman said. 'We have kept in touch but I haven't spoken to her in the last two or three weeks since this whole thing with the law school started. I'd love to have her back, but I don't know what her plans are.'
Before departing for Harrisburg in early 2003, Miller had begun to shift her practice focus from defense litigation work to mediation. In 2001 she was named interim president of the Regional Performing Arts Center as it prepared for its grand opening.
All the while, she maintained her status as a partner at McKissock & Hoffman. Miller was PBA's first female president in 1999 and has been honored with the Philadelphia Bar Association's Sandra Day O'Connor Award and the PBA's Anne X. Alpern Award.