As I See It: Control of Tredyffrin Township is Now in the Hands of Four People . . . as published in today’s Main Line Suburban Life

In today’s Main Line Suburban Life newspaper is my As I See It article, “Control of Tredyffrin Township is now in the hands of four people”.  Since Tredyffrin’s Board of Supervisors meeting on January 25, I have continued to do research on the motion to return escrow to St. Davids Golf Club.  I have now determined that Tredyffrin Township has  (1) historically not returned escrow without a written request; and (2) has not returned escrow without the completion of the project and review by the township engineer.  That is until January 25, 2010. 

Based on the actions of 4 supervisors (Bob Lamina, Warren Kampf, Paul Olson and E.J. Richter) precedent has been now set for all unfinished projects (and the outstanding escrow) as well as all future projects in Tredyffrin Township.  For those who did not attend or watch the Board of Supervisors meeting, I would encourage you to catch a re-run.  I hope to have YouTube sections of the St. Davids Golf Club section of the meeting containing the motion to return escrow, available later today.

 Please understand that this issue is not sidewalks; it is about government policy and procedure and what can happen when control is placed in the hands of a few people.

   As I See It: Control of Tredyffrin Township is now in the hands of four people

Published: Wednesday, February 3, 2010

By Pattye Benson

I preface the following article by saying that there are very few times in my life that I have been left speechless but Tredyffrin Township’s Board of Supervisors meeting of Jan. 25 was one of them. For me, that meeting represented community injustice of the worst kind.

I attended Tredyffrin Township’s Board of Supervisors meeting on Monday, Jan. 25. In the days leading up to this meeting, there had been scuttlebutt that Supervisor Paul Olson would once again bring up St. Davids Golf Club and the sidewalk issue. The word on the street was that Supervisor Olson intended to make a motion to return the $25,000 escrow to St. Davids. As part of St. Davids Golf Club’s 2005 land-development contract with the township, the country club was to build sidewalks. Since July 2008 St. Davids had been in default for failure to build the sidewalks. The St. Davids sidewalk issue had been thoroughly discussed at the Board of Supervisors meeting of Dec. 7. At the December meeting, questions had swirled about a suggested $50,000 cash offer from St. Davids Golf Club contained in the BAWG (Budget Advisory Working Group) report. Although there was no written evidence of the offer (which was to exchange $50K in lieu of building sidewalks), there was public outcry from many in the community about the St. Davids offer and the message its acceptance would send to contractors and builders doing business in Tredyffrin Township.

I did not think with the St. Davids Golf Club sidewalk history and community debate that it would be possible for Supervisor Olson to make a motion to return St. Davids’ escrow. There had been no notification to the public and the topic did not appear on the meeting agenda. Yet under “new” supervisor matters, Supervisor Olson did make a motion to return the escrow; Chair Bob Lamina seconded the motion and called for a supervisor vote. Supervisor Michelle Kichline attempted to offer her opinion on the motion but Chair Lamina silenced her and instead went to the audience for comment.

Bob Whalen, chair of the Planning Commission, explained that the sidewalks were part of the 2005 contractual agreement with St. Davids for their land-development project. He offered that representatives from the country club had returned to the Planning Commission asking for forgiveness on the sidewalks but the Planning Commission, considering precedent, voted against the club. Mr. Whalen further explained that there are currently at least six other projects in the township with unreturned escrow due to unfinished projects. To return escrow to St. Davids would now “open the floodgates” for contractors to request the release of escrow without completion of projects. Mr. Whalen adamantly opposed the motion. I then asked the supervisors if St. Davids had presented a written request to return their escrow. Although Supervisor Olson offered that he had “talked to some people at St. Davids,” the other supervisors confirmed that there was nothing in writing; in other words St. Davids Golf Club never asked for the return of their escrow!

Other audience members said passionately that supervisors cannot make a motion on a matter that was not on the agenda … that procedurally you must advertise the matter to the public … that you cannot just gift the country club with $80,000 (the estimated value of the sidewalk project). Several in the audience suggested that Supervisor Olson orchestrated the motion on Jan. 25 to coincide with the important Tredyffrin/Easttown School District meeting held at the same time; therefore expecting fewer residents in attendance at the supervisors meeting. Remembering that St. Davids Golf Club and the return of the escrow were not on the supervisor-meeting agenda; Supervisor Olson (and other supervisors) might have concluded that residents would attend the important school-district budget meeting in lieu of the township meeting, thus allowing for less opposition. But to those of us who did attend the supervisors meeting, it was obvious that Supervisor Olson (and possibly other supervisors) had contacted a few local St. Davids residents who opposed the sidewalks, as they came prepared with written statements of support for the motion. One of my many questions is: why should a select group of residents receive preferential notification of the meeting rather than full and public disclosure to all?

Following resident comments, Supervisor Kichline, a municipal attorney and former member of the township’s Zoning Hearing Board, spoke passionately about procedural law and the inappropriateness of Supervisor Olson’s motion, and moved to table the motion until these serious legal and procedural questions could be answered by the township solicitor. Chair Lamina again dismissed Supervisor Kichline and would not allow her motion “to table the discussion” to come to vote. Supervisor John DiBuonaventuro likewise argued against the return of St. Davids escrow, citing multiple reasons as to why the Board of Supervisors should not pass the motion. Township Manager Mimi Gleason added, when asked, that the passing of this motion would set precedent for all future township projects.

Having heard the comments from the residents and stated objections from Supervisors Kichline and DiBuonaventuro, Chair Lamina called for a vote to return the escrow to St. Davids Golf Club. Supervisor Phil Donohue along with Supervisors DiBuonaventuro and Kichline voted against the motion, and Supervisors Paul Olson, Bob Lamina, Warren Kampf and E.J. Richter voted for the motion. The motion carried 4-3 in favor to return the escrow to the country club.

Tredyffrin’s Board of Supervisors meeting of Jan. 25 was a rude awakening for me … I learned that in our township it is OK for four individuals (Olson, Lamina, Kampf and Richter) to make up the rules. At one point, when Supervisor Kichline offered that in Tredyffrin Township, the Planning Commission actually had the “last say” on the land-development process rather than the Board of Supervisor, Chair Lamina declared that he thinks that the Board of Supervisors will take back their control. Supervisors DiBuonaventuro, Kichline and Donohue did not watch silently as the “Bloc of 4” (Olson, Lamina, Kampf, and Richter) acted against Tredyffrin’s operating principles. Supervisors DiBuonaventuro, Kichline and Donohue understand that personal responsibility means doing the right thing when others do not.

The issue is not sidewalks; it is about following government policy and procedure. Historically Tredyffrin Township has never returned escrow without written request. In addition Tredyffrin Township has never returned escrow without completion of the work and review by the township engineer. That is until now. However, I like others on Jan. 25 discovered that our government policies and procedures do not apply if you are Supervisors Olson, Lamina, Kampf and Richter.

This is a sad reality … but if you are the “Bloc of 4,” you rule the township. Your other fellow supervisors do not matter, the public does not matter, the Planning Commissioners do not matter, the township solicitor does not matter and the township manager does not matter. These four will get to make the rules (or break the rules) as they see fit. As a government, its elected officials are to guide Tredyffrin Township. While politics play an important role in choosing our leaders and charting our priorities, politics should play no role in the rules of governing. The community entrusts the supervisors to care for its assets and its reputation. Our elected officials must conserve and enhance it, or they fail in their fundamental responsibility as evidenced by the decision of Supervisors Lamina, Kampf, Olson and Richter to return the escrow to St. Davids Golf Club.

What does the action of Supervisors Lamina, Kampf, Olson and Richter say for the future of Tredyffrin Township? What does it say to the residents or to all the many volunteers who serve on our township boards and committees? To take advantage of loopholes, quick fixes and shortcuts that will compromise the public trust … To base decisions such as the unprecedented return of escrow to St. Davids Golf Club on how much you can get away with … Integrity in the broadest sense should lead the actions of our elected officials. A moment of choice is a moment of trust and it is the testing point of character and competence.

If Tredyffrin Township’s Board of Supervisors meeting of Jan. 25 is any indicator, I question the transparency of Tredyffrin’s local government, fair dealing practices, full disclosure of information and public communication. Don’t the residents of Tredyffrin Township deserve better from some of its leaders?

Pattye Benson lives in Tredyffrin Township.

Advertisements

3 Responses

  1. How we got there….

    November, 2005 – Paul Olson loses his bid for re-election to his at-large seat.

    Also in 2005 – St. David’s land development project is approved. And like other land development projects, the St. Davids project has a side walk component to support the township’s master plan and strategy. St. Davids agreed to the deal.

    2007 – Paul Olson runs for District 1 seat (occupied by Brooks Keffer). Olson beats Ellen Brotman by a convincing margin. It should also be noted that Kampf and Lamina ran in this race and Olson’s margin accrued to their benefit as well. Olson, in addition to running under the banner of no tax increases, coins the phrase “sidewalks to nowhere..”

    January 2008 – Paul Olson sworn in as the new District 1 supervisor

    At this point, the make up of the BOS is still not where it needs to be to alleviate St. Davids of its sidewalk obligation…..

    October/November 2008 – Master plan discussion occur and at this time, pressure is put on the planning commission members to approve a change to the St. Davids plan. Such change would eliminate the St. Davids sidewalk obligation. During this time, there was a heated exchange between Bob Lamina and Bob O’Leary (Planning Commission Chair).

    November, 2008 – The BAWG is authorized. Tom Colman is appointed as first member and chair.

    July 2009 – Warren Kampf states his intention to run for the 157th Pennsylvania House Seat (held now by Paul Drucker).

    July-November 2009 – It begins to surface about a “deal” from St. Davids to the township of $50K. Such deal is meant to be a settlement in lieu of St. Davids needing to put in sidewalks. It turns out, BAWG member Rob Betts is both a member of the Tredyffrin Township Republican Committee and a member of St. Davids Golf Club. This “deal” ends up in the final BAWG Report.

    November 2009, EJ Richter is elected to the BOS. Paul Olson was her single larges contributor- having donated at least $750 to her campaign. Warren Kampf, both personally and through his committee, donated several hundred dollars as well. Sam Shipley, close Olson friend and GOP benefactor, donates $500 to Richter’s campaign.

    December, 2009 – 2010 budget discussion occurs and Tom Colman formally presents the BAWG report to the BOS. One of the items in the report suggests that the township accept the “$50K deal”.The problem is, there is no official offer. At the 12/21/09 meeting, Olson contends there is an offer, he knows about it as well as other supervisors. Supervisor Dibounaventuro contests Olson’s assertion.

    January 2010, EJ Richter sworn in as new at large supervisor.

    January 2010, Lamina and Olson are elected as chair and vice chair respectively.

    January 2010, Lamina, Kampf, Olson and RIchter, in an unprecedented manner, vote as a block to release $25K of escrows that secured St. Davids Golf Club Sidewalk obligation under the tems and conditions of its 2005 land development agreement with the township. Donahue, Kichline and Dibounaventuro voted against the motion – cting among other things – a breach of policy and procedure relative to other escrow releases.

    You can see the debate here:

    —————————————————————————-

    In summary…

    Kampf gets Olson’s support for the 157h.
    Lamina gets the chair position
    RIchter got generous campaign donations

    And Olson….gets to repay certain benefactors for his 2007 election….

    It really is that simple…….

  2. The Main Line Suburban Life reader tredyres posted the following comment on line to this article. Doesn’t it say it all!

    tredyres wrote on Feb 3, 2010 10:27 AM:

    ” This is an outrage.

    I’m left wondering what we can do about such a blatant disregard for the well-being of the township and the rights of all its members. “

  3. Pattye,

    A great “As I See It”. Hopefully the readers of MLSL will know what’s going on since there was no reporter at the Jan 25th meeting. I have heard that Dan Christie, DLN news reporter, has received an enormous number of calls on this matter. I trust he will keep it on the “front burner” of the DLN, so the CCRC sees what’s going on in the eastern part of the county.

    Also glad to see John’s timeline. It will also help our constituents know what’s happened with elections & SDGC for the last couple of years.

    I have heard scuttlebut that Paul Drucker would rather run against Warren – the reason being Paul has all the ammunition he needs to beat Warren. Many of us knew Paul would beat Guy 2 years ago, since the committees didn’t back Judy.

    Time will tell what will happen. Tonight (Feb 3rd) is candidate interview night. Will anxiously await the results. If it doesn’t tonight, maybe constituent pressure will prevail prior to the county convention. If the committees back Warren, Paul will retain his seat & the Rs will not get it back until he retires. Of course we all know that the CCRC has a habit of putting up “loyal” followers and not always the best qualified.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: