Radnor and Tredyffrin Townships . . . Home Rule Charter Issues and Troubling Behavior of Elected Officials

In 1975 the voters of Tredyffrin Township approved the adoption of a Home Rule Charter which tailored the structure of our local government to meet the Township’s current and future needs. The Charter became effective in January, 1976, coincidentally and most appropriately the Bicentennial of American Independence.

In the past, I have referenced problems with the Radnor Township’s elected officials.  Since becoming president of Radnor’s Board of Commissioners a couple of months ago, John Nagle has continuously made headlines with his behavior, most recently his attempt to control free speech of the citizens. If you follow Radnor Township’s issues, a similiarity begins to surface when compared to the behavior of some of Tredyffrin’s elected officials (most specifically, Supervisors Lamina and Kampf at the last Board of Supervisors meeting.)  I thought that this week’s As I See It article (written by a former Radnor Township Commissioner) in the Main Line Surburban offers interesting commentary . . . just substitute Radnor Township with Tredyffrin Township as you read it.  Ms. Williams is concerned about Radnor Township’s reputation and the integrity of its elected officials. She speaks to issues concerning government transparency, public notification procedures, citizen free speech rights . . . any of this sound familiar?

As I See It: Public-comment plan is against spirit of Radnor’s home-rule charter

By Jeane B. Williams

On Nov. 2, 1976, the majority of the electors of Radnor Township, voting on that date, approved the adoption of the proposed Home Rule Charter, as it was submitted by the 11 members of the government study commission of the township, in its report dated May 4, 1976. The yes vote indicated that the charter would become effective (official) Jan. 1, 1977, under the conditions specified in the charter.

Listed among the advantages of the provisions of this document is #2: openness and responsiveness of township government.

The charter guarantees:

A. Open public meetings of the Board of Commissioners with opportunity for citizen discussion.

Because it does not state that a form of gag rule (time or term limit on speakers) is permitted to be imposed as a rule, especially on those opposed to the party-line agenda, does not make it acceptable. I would not support any change to the current open dialogue that follows the provisions and spirit of the Home Rule Charter.

B. Availability of advance meeting and agenda notices to interested citizens.

The purpose of this clause was to encourage public dialogue with the electorate.

C. Public notice, public availability and public discussion of proposed ordinances and proposed budgets prior to adoption.

First public notice of the above, when it appears on the agenda sheets the Friday before the Monday meeting, is not adequate study time.

D. Availability of all township records to interested citizens upon request.

The recent redaction of employee names from the salary list is a violation of the spirit and intent of the charter. The employee names are part of the township records and are paid through taxpayer dollars and are therefore public. The electorate should not be required to resort to requesting the names through a Pennsylvania Right to Know document request.

I will be the first to admit that I did not foresee Radnor Township citizens electing persons to office who do not recognize that Radnor Township has maintained its reputation as a desirable family living area. One of the contributing factors is that its public officials (until 2008) have presented and kept a respectable public reputation. If political vigilance has waned, please reread and remember you still have the HRC at your back! There are more do’s than don’ts in it because elected and appointed officials are expected to have integrity to themselves, their families, their neighbors and Radnor Township.

As one of the 11 home-rule charter study commissioners, I have grateful memories of the hours we spent together crafting a document that could be read and understood by men or women on the street, as well as school students, and also reflect the kind of governmental structure would continue to keep Radnor Township a present-day model of William Penn’s Green Country Town.

Jeane B. Williams is a former Radnor Township resident.

17 Responses

  1. You are right, the current leadership in Radnor and Tredyffrin is similar. It’s like these people get elected and power goes to their head. I know that in Radnor Twp, many of the citizens are on a campaign to rid their community of John Nagle. Some of the residents are trying to figure out legal means to get him removed from office. His behavior has been disgraceful toward the residents at Commissioner’s meetings. The same ineffective leadership is in Tredyffrin. So sad.

  2. Nice post Pattye…

    The irony of course is that Radnor is controlled by Democrats and Tredyffrin is controlled by Republicans.

    Applying simple logic, changing one variable ending up with same result supports the conclusion that party has nothing to do with problems we see in Radnor and Tredyffrin. It’s really about the people in charge and the character therein.

    Lamina, like Nagle I suppose – believes that the char (president in the case of Radnor) – can do whatever that person wants. I can tell you that between Dan Sherry in Radnor and me in Tredyffrin – that won’t happen. In many ways, Nagle and Lamina are like two little kids with a bright and shiny new toy. The oddity is that Lamina has been at this a while. This is Nagle’s first term

    And let’s face it – these speech suppression efforts are directed to specific people: Dan Sherry in Radnor and me in Tredyffrin. Dan by the way, is also a lawyer.

    I would tend to agree that any regulation on time, etc should be a question for the voters. As long as somebody is being civil, there is really nothing the boards can do. Also, the optics are not good when boards attempt things like this when there is more disagreement than usual.

  3. An elected official wishing to curb speech in a public forum, like a BOS Meeting, may have a better argument if an individual was monopolizing the time or “filabustering” for lack of a better term. Even then it would be questionable. However, it is not as if John stood up on Monday to speak for two hours. Every resident has a right to make his or her voice heard. An attempt to restrain any resident’s speech, unless it rises to the level of obscenity, etc. is simply not a solution to end a public debate.

    The importance of civil public discourse cannot be overlooked. Disagreeing and silencing are two completely different animals.

  4. John is right. This isn’t about party per se, but backroom deals and promotion of personal agendas are less likely to slip under the radar when an opposing party is there to witness it and object.

    With one party clearly in control, there’s always pressure to maintain the appearance of party unity.

    And in the case of Tredyffrin, we see a party chair who has operated a machine, keeping members in line, promoting those who support his partisan views and culling those who don’t.

    Interestingly, JD, Michelle K and Phil Donahue are now serving as the opposition. I’m sure this is not the way they want things. They ran as Republicans. I assume they support Republican policies and Republican candidates. The difference between them and LORK – they are committed to representing the entire community and doing business in a transparent way..

    Now if we just had four more like them.

    • I have to believe that all the negativity swirling around Warren Kampf can’t be helping his campaign. His out-of-control attitude and poor leadership performance on Monday night was seen by a lot of people. My suggestion would be that he steps up to the plate, turns St. Davids around, and maybe people will give him a another chance. Otherwise, my guess is that he is going to have a fairly poor showing in May.

      If Warren thinks that people are going to forget about St. Davids by May, I’m one Republican who won’t!

  5. I saw a very positive sign out of EJ on Monday. I have to agree with John, she answered the question. She may not have answered it correctly, but she answered it. On top of that, she appeared to be sincere in what she was saying (re: apologizing for the procedural errors). The four horsemen may turn into a minority very soon if EJ continues to develop.

  6. Paul is EJ’s mentor and he was not there on Monday night. Every reason she gave on monday night was true before she voted — she didn’t know enough about it — she didn’t understand the long-term issue, and she had run with Michele who clearly presented all the reasons to table. And EJ ignored that and voted with Paul.
    BTW – I agree — the only way Warren has a chance of resurrecting his “reputation” — at least the one that had him poll better than Judy — is to step up and turn this St. davids thing around — even at the risk of provoking L&O. They are very good at scripting their meetings — so they better script a turnaround and have Warren appear to have led it.

    • I share your sentiments. If Lamina, Kampf, Olson & Richter care about the reputation of Tredyffrin Township, I hope that they are working on a way to ‘fix it’ and turn around the St. Davids situation. BTW, the next BOS meeting is February 22 (which is after Chester County GOP meeting on 2/20).

    • Understand what you are saying about EJ – but what about Kampf? He’s a lawyer. He should have known, and in fact, he knew better. Nevertheless, he voted for the deal. If I didn’t know better, I would guess that the only infirmity they saw with the vote was the procedure. In other words, because it was not on the agenda, the vote should have been delayed. The one thing we didn’t hear was whether they would have voted differently. After some reflection, I am confident that they would have voted the same way. That of course, still means that they would have violated the Home Rule Charter and Administrative Code.

      Even if Kampf wasn’t running for anything, I still don’t know why he would have voted as he did. I can tell you as a lawyer myself, a yes vote in my mind would be to put my law license at risk. I guess that is something that Kampf is not worried about.

      In terms of reputation and the 157th, Kampf’s only concern is what the 60 committee people think. He does not give a crap about what the general public thinks – for one good reason. The general public, right now, does not hold the keys to his fate. Whether he goes further in the process is up to the 60 committee people. And to some degree, it may also rest with West Chester, the southeast caucus on the PA House GOP Committee. The GOP has to be mindful of what it means to endorse or recommend Kampf. To recommend Kampf could pose problems for Buckwalter. The voters could chose to take their anger out on the GOP as a whole – which would be unfortunate for Buckwalter because – to put it bluntly – does not have the stink of scandal attached to him. The longer Kampf is in the mix, the more he infects the process. If Kampf is endorsed and he turns out to be the guy that Paul Drucker faces in the fall, the PA House Democratic Committee will likely be more than happy to drop a lot of $’s to do to Kampf what they did to Ciarrocchi. I can tell you right now, Kampf’s media guy Jason Ercole will be supremely outmatched in a war like that. Ercole’s skills do not extend much further than copying and pasting from old pieces.

      One other thing to keep in mind… Jason Ercole is the one who put together the negative mailer on Eamon Brazunas. So in a very real sense, by using Ercole, Kampf endorses and embraces the worst kind of campaigning. Who else would try to make the # of years one is married a legitimate campaign issue? Then again, look at the way Kampf acted at the last BOS meeting…..

      Another current news story is the resignation of Tim Carson from the PA Turnpike Commission. There is only so many fronts the GOP can fight on.

      If Kampf were a real team player, he would stand down from the 157th and resign from the BOS. But as we know all too well, it is about Kampf.

      I would guess in the very near future, it will sink in that this issue will not go away.

      Perhaps more ironic is that fact that Kampf is the German word for fight…

      I cannot wait for the 2/22 meeting. Olson is going to be posed some very difficult questions. If Lamina and Kampf are smart, they will assume the role of two potted plants. Then again, they could do what they did at the last meeting. That however, didn’t work out too well for them…;)

  7. Given the law of unintended (?) consequences, I think Kampf will resist any advice you give John…so while I know that jabbing him is fun, his victimization could polarize his supporters so that they don’t see his shortcomings. So — maybe you could focus on the failure of the process (deliberation was lacking — failure to consider table motion) — and let the community continue to identify Warren’s shortcomings. I think he has made it very clear that he does not have the patience to be in politics. What kind of law does he practice? It’s like he’s The Candidate — without a code he is willing to disclose — perhaps a stealth far right wing candidate? Quite a few of them made it to the Great Valley Stakeholders…

    • Not sure where Kampf is getting his advice. It’s all been bad advice. Although, word on the street is that CT Alexander told Kampf to NOT vote for the deal.

      Kampf is a commercial litigator with White and Williams. He’s not a municipal lawyer. Then again, you don’t need to be a lawyer to know and understand that what happened was wrong.

      Word is, Kampf was pretty steamed after the meeting. Supposedly, the biggest sticking point was the TTRC Committee Man agreeing with me!! The irony is that Kampf tried to paint my comments as “personal attacks” In fact, they are legitimate criticisms of his performance as an elected official. What we all know is that Kampf clearly does not see himself as being subject to a higher standard as an elected official. He is not the same guy I knew 6 years ago.

      As far as his supporters are concerned, they could definitely support him and give him the endorsement. That however, would effectively sign the death warrant of the local TTRC. For them to endorse Kampf is to endorse bad government and inside political deals that benefit friends at the expense of the rest of us.

      My guess….I think they all try to lay this off on Olson. Kampf and his chief advoate CT Alexander are out of options. Perhaps they will say something along the lines of Olson not representing the deal in a fair light. It would be a bit of a BS move because there were numerous discussions on the matter. Olson wanted this deal done and Kampf, Lamina and Richter went along with it. Kampf casting a yes vote says one of two things. He either went a long with an inside deal or he made a decision based on a lack of information. Either choice shows a lack of judgment – which is why he is a bad choice for the state house.

      While Olson is definitely the ring leader, the others were more than cooperative. That’s why I won’t allow them to lay this off on Olson alone as an excuse.

      As far as Kampf being a stealth right wing candidate…I don’t think so. He tries to play the role of conservative…but he is not close to being a conservative. True conservatives have core values..just as true liberals and true moderates. I don’t classify Kampf as anything because there is no single identifiable value system that describes him.

      He may take the award for the greatest implosion by a local political figure.

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