Tredyffrin’s Lamina, Olson, Kampf & Richter . . . Another ‘Legal Loophole’? . . . Maybe not!

I had an interesting comment that arrived overnight in regards to the St. Davids escrow vote from the Board of Supervisors meeting.  I’m thinking that the person who sent in this comment (posted below) is probably an attorney (and quite possibly a municipal attorney).  Give this a read and see what you think.  It appears that based on the Home Rule Charter, the St. Davids escrow vote was indeed null and void because it was not listed on the agenda. 

When the supervisors take their oath of office, they pledge to uphold the Home Rule Charter and the Administrative Code of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. It is obvious that this information is not known (or if known, not followed) by Supervisors Lamina, Kampf, Olson and Richter.  In this week’s Main Line Surburban Life, Chair Lamina defends the St. Davids Golf Club motion not appearing on the agenda.  “Under our current rules, any supervisor is free to offer any motion he chooses at any time,” said Lamina. “It is not unusual at all for board members to offer unpublished motions during discussions at our meetings and I believe it’s reasonable and appropriate for our board to have this flexibility where needed in its proceedings. . . ” 

So the residents are left wondering, when the supervisors take their oath of office to uphold Tredyffrin’s Home Rule Charter, doesn’t that oath matter?  Don’t they ever read what it is they have agreed to uphold?  If they don’t have a personal copy of the Home Rule Charter, it is on the www.tredyffrin.org website.  Apparently based on his comments in the newspaper, Lamina has been working under this misconception for some time.  How long has he served as supervisor?  Do I want to believe that Olson who has served as supervisor for 30 years still doesn’t know what the Home Rule Charter says? And let’s not forget Supervisor Kampf (remembering he is also an attorney) didn’t he feel compelled to read the Home Rule Charter that he took an oath to uphold?  And Ms. Richter, newly elected supervisor . . . does she take an oath of office to uphold the Home Rule Charter without a peek at its contents? 

I do not attest to being a legal authority, but my guess is that the residents of Tredyffrin Township have real grounds to ask that this latest motion be thrown out on procedural error.  But I am betting that when the ‘spin doctors’ read this post, they will try to wrangle a legal loophole! (Here’s hoping that it may not be possible). 

I know that we had a ‘substitute’ township solicitor from Lamb McErlane serving at the last meeting, and I also understand that the solicitor serves at the pleasure of the board but wouldn’t it be the responsibility of the solicitor to point out the procedural error of Olson’s motion (and the 4-3 vote to approve)?  Perhaps Township Solicitor Tom Hogan could have a look at the Home Rule Charter before Monday night’s meeting and offer his opinion to the supervisors. 

The way I read it is the motion to return escrow to St. Davids Golf Club  (and vote to approve the motion) don’t count . . . and the supervisors cannot make a new motion on Monday night because it would have to be placed on the agenda.  The St. Davids vote should simply be thrown out. If after further discussion with the township solicitor, a supervisor decides at some future meeting to make a similar motion, it needs to be placed on the agenda at least 8 hours in advance.  Comments?

JudgeNJury, on February 5th, 2010 wrote,

Tredyffrin’s Home Rule Charter requires the Board of Supervisors to list all matters to be considered at a Board meeting on the agenda for the meeting: “The Board shall cause to be prepared for each regular meeting an agenda of matters to be considered by the Board at such meeting, including pertinent background, which agenda, along with a copy of financial and other activity reports, shall be distributed to the public at the start of the meeting. The agenda shall be available at least eight hours prior to the start of the meeting.”

Township of Tredyffrin Home Rule Charter § 211(C) (http://www.tredyffrin.org/pdf/ordinances/home-rule-charter.pdf).

It seems to me that there is a good argument to be made that introducing and voting on the escrow issue without including it in the agenda violated the Home Rule Charter and, therefore, the vote is null and void.

All we’d need is a plaintiff with standing (a Township resident who would benefit from construction of the sidewalk might be the best bet) to file a lawsuit against the Board. The plaintiff could request (i) a declaration from the court (“declaratory judgment”) that the vote is null and void and (ii) an injunction prohibiting the Board from raising or voting on non-emergency matters that are not specifically included in the agenda for a meeting. Who’s game?

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7 Responses

  1. If I’m correct, the money/letter of credit has already been processed and returned through the escrow agent. Maybe someone can ask Mimi Gleason what the service standards are for doing the bidding of her bosses — but I’m guessing it’s a done deal.

  2. Following the logic of JudgeNJury — there are some spots in the charter that also say that the Supervisors can do whatever they want as long as it’s not illegal….but here is one spot that may be helpful:

    Regarding the Solicitor:
    Serve as the legal advisor to the Board and the Manager and to other township officers, departments,
    boards, commissions, authorities and agencies, unless such desire independent counsel. It is the intent of this Charter that only one person shall be the legal advisor of the township, but the Board may authorize temporary assistants for special purposes from time to time.

    My non-legal reading of this is that the various boards and commissions (STAP, Planning) are free to ask the solicitor for a ruling on escrow funds etc. He is specifically said to serve the Board, the Manager and ….. Thoughts?

    • That is interesting Sarah. Based on that information, I guess I could ask for clarification from the Township Solicitor as a member of HARB (Historic Architectural Review Board).

  3. I think if an error was made (and I agree Pattye, it certainly looks like it based on the Home Rule Charter) I think that the township solicitor should give his legal opinion the supervisors. After hearing the legal opinion, it should be obvious to the supervisors that they need to retract the motion (or whatever the legal term is called) and restore the esrow to the St. Davids Golf Club.

    The actions of Olson, Lamina, Kampf and Richter are wrong on so many levels. But the sheer arrogance of Olson and Kampf to say that it’s only the Democrats that care about sideswalks I find insulting and degrading to members of this community. They were elected to serve ALL the people of Tredyffrin, not just the Republicans!!

  4. If you read through the HRC, you will find many areas where there are holes. For example, the way vacancies are dealt with is problematic. When Bill resigned, a strict reading of the HRC required that a special election be held in May – with another election to follow in November. Clearly, it was in the best interest of all to AGREE to depart from the HRC. This is a point that should be brought up Monday. Essentially, the two political parties agreed to a caretaker (John Shimrak).

    The key to all of that was the fact there was a recognized issue with the HRC. In this case however, no such care was taken. I’m not sure how much more evidence we need to all agree that this was all done in the dark. Pretty much all of Olson’s assertions from that Monday meeting have been contradicted. Where Olson said there were meetings with the club, the club president denies that.

    Next, when you tack on the political motivations behind Olson’s and Lamina’s actions – it becomes clear this is more about political favoritism. Although, I will have to say, there is no clear-cut deal here. Whatever the issue is, it is not self-evident. Lamina and Olson have created a lot of smoke. We know there is a fire based on that. I think the timeline I posted leads us all in the right direction.

    A few years ago, Lamina made the statement that the Tredyffrin BOS protects its residents from its neighbors to the west and north. This was in reference to Willistown and Upper Merion respectively.

    My question is this – who protects us from Lamina, Olson, Kampf and Richter?

  5. Here are two cases worth reading. Neither is directly on point, but they both provide some flavor:

    City of Philadelphia v. Weiner (http://scholar.google.com/scholar_case?case=15768620678301027768&q=550+A.2d+274&hl=en&as_sdt=800000000002): Philadelphia’s Home Rule Charter contains a provision requiring the City to give public notice when it intends introduce a bill. The Philadelphia City Council introduced a bill to amend the City’s real estate transfer tax. However, City Council did not give public notice of the new proposed tax rate contained in the bill and the new rate never was discussed at a public hearing before the bill was adopted. Several parties, including a consumer group and an association of realtors, sued to enjoin the City from enforcing the bill because City Council did not follow the procedures set forth in the City’s Home Rule Charter. The trial court granted the injunction, and, in the opinion cited above, the appeals court affirmed the injunction.

    Here, like the City of Philadelphia in the Weiner case, the Board of Supervisors did not follow the procedures in its Home Rule Charter. Specifically, the Township did not include the escrow motion on the agenda for the January 25 Board meeting. So the Weiner case would seem to support an argument that the Township can be enjoined from acting on the motion (assuming it has not already).

    County Council v. County Executive (http://scholar.google.com/scholar_case?case=3165189562536297706&q=600+A.2d+257&hl=en&as_sdt=800000000002): The Erie County Home Rule Charter (apparently – the case is less than crystal clear) contained a provision requiring the County to conduct a performance review of any County employee before it could increase that employee’s salary. The Erie County Executive increased the salary of a County employee without conducting a performance review. The Erie County Council brought a declaratory judgment action seeking to declare the Executive’s action null and void because it violated the Home Rule Charter. A month after Council filed its suit, the employee whose salary was increased retired. Arguing that the retirement made the case moot, the Executive asked the trial court to dismiss the case, which it did. The appeals court, in the cited opinion, upheld the dismissal.

    The ultimate result of the Erie County case, obviously, is not helpful from the perspective of those who would like to challenge the Board’s actions here (though the mootness issues in the Erie County case seem much different than any that might arise here, so the result itself may not be that significant). What is significant, however, is that the case suggests that bringing a declaratory judgment action to declare null and void an action taken in contravention of a Home Rule Charter is the proper procedure in this situation.

    • Thank you JudgeNJury. These Home Rule Charter cases make for an interesting read. Think I will post on the frontpage tomorrow. Thank you for providing the details and the link.

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