Breaking News — Lawsuit Set to be Filed Against Tredyffrin Township and Supervisors Lamina, Olson, Kampf & Richter

Breaking News

The decision by Supervisors Lamina, Kampf, Olson and Richter to return St. Davds Golf Club escrow is now headed down the legal road to the court of law. 

In regards to the St. Davids Golf Club escrow return, I am in receipt of a draft complaint naming John Petersen as the ‘Plaintiff’.  This complaint will be filed by noon tomorrow in the Court of Common Pleas of Chester County, West Chester. 

Listed as ‘Defendants’ in the complaint is Tredyffrin Township and Robert Lamina, Chairman Board of Supervisors, Paul Olson, Vice Chairman Board of Supervisors, Warren Kampf Member Board of Supervisors and Evelyn Richter, Member Board of Supervisors, Individually and as members of the Tredyffrin Township Board of Supervisors.

The complaint seeks Declaratory Judgment and Equitable Relief for the following violations:

COUNT ONE – Sunshine Act

COUNT TWO – Home Rule Charter and Administrative Code

COUNT THREE –Arbitrary and Capricious Action

John provided me with a copy of the draft complaint and asked me to make his intention to file public on Community Matters.  The complaint seeks no monetary damages but seeks to turn the clock back to before the Board of Supervisors vote of January 25.  In other words, the basis of the complaint is to return the St. Davids Golf Club escrow to the township (as if the vote never took place). Once the complaint is filed at the court house, John has given me permission to make the document public on Community Matters. 

Like so many of us in this community, John was disappointed and frustrated by the actions of Supervisors Lamina, Kampf, Olson and Richter with their January 25 decision to return escrow to St. Davids Golf Club.  When given the opportunity at the February 8 meeting to correct their mistake, these supervisors instead offered an apology and the suggestion that they would try to ‘do better’ in the future. Rather than continuing to hope that these elected officials would at some point ‘see the light’ and correct their mistake, John is taking the matter to the court of law with an official complaint.  I support John’s decision to take legal action and applaud his courage to take it to the next level! 

The next Board of Supervisors Meeting on Monday, February 22 just got more interesting!  This is an important meeting for all Tredyffrin residents to attend. 

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26 Responses

  1. Maybe Lamina, Olson, Kampf and Richter are finally going to be forced in to following the rules. It is amazing that it takes a lawsuit to get movement in the right direction. The community members jump up and down, make commentary, send emails, call the township officials — the newspaper editor states the residents deserve better – and still they just dig their heels in as if they were right in their decision. Good for John Petersen – a lawsuit is what these people deserve!

    Don’t get me wrong, I completely support John’s actions – but look at this scenerio, Lamina, Olson, Kampf & Richter first cost the township what $100K in making that gift to St. Davids and now how much are the taxpayers going to have to pay in legal fees to defend their stupidity. Let’s not forget that Warren Kampf thinks he’s headed for the State House — how long does he think he can retain the support of his loyal followers? If I was these committee people, I’d certainly be re-thinking where I placed my vote on Saturday!

    • The Township may well have an insurance policy that covers suits like these (most do), so there may be little if any exposure to the Township directly for legal fees.

      • I believe that the law suit will cost the residents something since I would expect our insurance rates to increase as a result. However, it will be a net win for the residents if LOKR learn to follow the rules and truly represent the residents’ best interests and not their own. (One can dream?!?)

  2. If they are found to have violated one or all of the counts can they be removed from office? I would think a victory in court would lead to this happening. Please provide some explanation.

    • That’s an interesting question — could elected officials be legally removed depending on the results of the lawsuit? Or, if they were to step down from their positions, would they still be held liable in the complaint? I’m fairly sure that once Lamina, Kampf, Olson & Richter are named in this type of lawsuit, it does not matter if they step down or not. Curious question though – I too would like some legal opinions.

      • Maybe it would be worth our efforts to find out how to modify the HRC to include right to recall. Horsham Township has essentially the same HRC in many respects, but click here and you can read their recall process. I don’t know why we don’t have one — we certainly should. How do you amend a document that basically protects citizens FROM their government if the government is the only source of ordinances etc?
        http://www.horsham.org/information/charter.aspx
        Section 503 in the Horsham Charter (though the citizen speech rights precede that and are also quite well written)

        • A legal professional I spoke to who deals with environmental ordinances as they pertain to Home Rule Charters offered to take a look at Tredyffrin’s. She showed it to her colleague who sent me the following:

          “Looking at the Charter for the Township. The Supervisors have all the power, according to the Charter. REALLY A HORRIBLE LITTLE CHARTER. If the citizens want to do anything, they can propose ordinances, and amend the administrative code (Charter) by ordinance. It takes 20% of voter’s signatures to put an ordinance up for a vote by initiative, or to change an existing law by referendum. Same, it seems, for amending the Charter.”

          Although other Charters do contain a recall procedure, I’m under the impression that elected officials can only be recalled by the State. Anyone?

          Has our Charter EVER been amended since it was adopted back in 1975? I think it’s time to review both the Home Rule Charter & the Codebook.

          Perhaps we could start with a Code of Ethics?

          CODE OF ETHICS
          Elected and appointed officials and employees of Tredyffrin Township, Chester County, Pennsylvania bear responsibility for the maintenance of true representative government. All officials and all employees must recognize and acknowledge that the people they serve demand more of a public official or public employee. All officials and employees of the Township must conduct their public lives according to the highest ethical standards.

          All elected and appointed officials and all employees of Tredyffrin Township, Chester County, Pennsylvania, shall:

          1. To the best of their ability, learn the laws governing the conduct of officials and employees of the municipalities of Pennsylvania, and observe both their letter and spirit.

          2 . Perform the functions of their office or employment to the best of their abilities.

          3 . Give first and maximum concern to the advancement of the public interest

          4. Abide by policies and adhere to the standard rules and procedures relating to the performance of Tredyffrin Township governmental functions.

          5. Place competence and effectiveness of public service before the interest of any persons, factions or parties.

          6. Conduct themselves in keeping with the trust and dignity vested in their public service position and serve with justice and integrity.

          7. Deal honestly and fairly with all members of the public and with all other Tredyffrin Township officials and employees.

          8 . Attempt to increase their knowledge and understanding of municipal government and improve their competence in the performance of the functions necessary to the operation of that government.

          9. Respect the Township’s ownership of all Township equipment, supplies, books, records and information.

          10. Not use to their personal advantage, nor to the advantage of anyone else, confidential information to which they have access by virtue of their public office or position.

          11. Not make available to anyone any services, tangible or intangible, are not equally available under the law to others.

          12. Refuse personal gifts, favors, loans, services, payments and other enticements, made either directly to the official or employee or to a member of the official’s or employee’s family, where there is reason to believe such gifts, favors or enticements are offered to influence their official actions in favor of the donor. Any gift, favor loans, services, payments or other enticement with a value over $25.00 shall be presumed to be offered to influence their official actions in favor of the donor and shall be refused or returned. Only token gifts, such as pens, calendars, fruit baskets, and similar items may be accepted.

          13. Not convey to any person any information or advice not generally available to the public in any transaction, negotiation or litigation to which the Township is a party.

          14. Not use, or permit others to use, the power of public office or employment to solicit contributions from employees on behalf of any candidate for political office or any demand or infer that any Township employee should solicit contributions on behalf of any candidate for political office.

          15. Disclose any potential conflict in the discourse of legislative action which would serve to bring some special benefit by the particular vote/action being rendered. Township officials should conduct their official and personal affairs in such a manner as to give the clear impression that they cannot be improperly influenced in the performance of their official duties.

          I have read the policy adopted by the Board of Supervisors of the Township of _________ entitled “Code of Ethics”. I accept the Code of Ethics and agree to comply with the Code of Ethics. I also understand that it is my responsibility to disclose in writing a full description of any activity, interest, or relationship on my part that might create or appear to create a conflict of interest or otherwise violate the provisions of the Code of Ethics or applicable state law as soon as practical after the inception of the activity, interest or relationship.
          To the best of my knowledge and belief, I am not now engaged in any activity, interest or relationship that would create or appear to create a conflict of interest or violation of the Code of Ethics except as indicated below. I expressly agree to act in accordance with the Code of Ethics.

          Date: _________________ Signature: _______________________

  3. Well, this should make Monday’s meeting very interesting indeed. I wonder, though, if the filing of the lawsuit will prevent the board members, especially LOKR, from responding to questions regarding the issue. I could imagine hearing “We cannot respond to questions regarding this due to pending litigation” quite a bit.

    • Berwyn Republican,
      I was wondering the same thing. Will they be able to comment on the issue if there is a lawsuit pending?
      Anybody have an answer?

    • because we’ve had so much luck getting questions answered before!!!! :)

  4. Agenda for Board of Supervisors Meeting for Monday, February 22 now includes St. Davids Golf Club.

    http://tredyffrin.org/boards/bos/agenda.aspx

  5. I would hazard a guess that they will be advised by counsel to not comment on the matter if there is a lawsuit pending. There is no per se “requirement” that they do not comment. However, I would be surprised if they did.

    I am glad to see that the ability of four to walk all over the residents and governing documents has been challenged.

  6. It would be incredibly short-sighted and stupid for any of the TTRC to vote in favor of endorsing Kampf now with a lawsuit pending against him and his actions.

    Regardless of the outcome of this suit, he is now officially politically dead. Buckwalter is the only responsible and rational choice for endorsement. It is no longer an option.

  7. The TTRC should vote for who they want to support. If the “threat of a lawsuit” plays any factor at all, then they are flawed. Our world is too litigious — I don’t have a problem with the filing of the lawsuit, but the “threat of a lawsuit” is not cause to change your opinion about someone. The reasons for the law suit are.
    If you go back and read the minutes of the meeting on the 25th, that should be enough. And one thing occurs to me — the BOS met in advance of this meeting. I’m betting that Kichline and DiB both shared their concerns about this motion — so the apologies become just that much more hollow because they knew the shortcomings of the process before Olson even made the motion. I hope Kampf goes down, but NOT because someone filed a lawsuit. Not in our society.

    • I agree with you on this. Whether there is/is not a law suit, the underlying conduct occurred – and that underlying conduct on the part of Lamina, Kampf, Olson and Richter illustrates what are serious character flaws.

      As I have said before, any committee person that supports Kampf on Saturday is giving a big thumbs up to dishonest government of the worst kind.

  8. Just so everyone is up to date, I’m going to wait to see what to do pending the outcome of Monday’s meeting. If they reverse the vote, then the issue, insofar as the complaint is concerned, is moot because that was the relief I was looking for.

    Now that it is on the agenda, it appears something is going to happen. What that something is….I don’t know. We’ll just have to wait and see.

  9. so has there actually been a lawsuit filed as of yet? or is this just a threat?

  10. If you would like to view the complaint, you can find it here:

    https://docs.google.com/fileview?id=0B6Zn8tqUVSf1NThmOWE3NmEtM2I2Ny00OWEzLTkzNjYtMTY0MDk1MmM5MWNh&hl=en

    • How about an allegation that a handful of Township residents attended the meeting and spoke in support of the motion from prepared statements, followed by an allegation, on information and belief, that Olson, or people acting on behalf of Olson, informed a handful of Township residents before the Jan. 25 meeting that Olson intended to make the motion at the Jan. 25 hearing.

      I’d love to see how they admit or deny that allegation.

  11. I posted this previously — and given John’s comments today….it looks like we great minds think alike. Sit tight John. Smile like a Cheshire cat….let Olson swallow.
    >>>>>
    I hope John is at the meeting and not at the mic — just in the first row. I would rather know he is annoying them while they wait for the shoe to drop — and then not have John give them a target to take on. No deflecting comments about SDGC onto John’s blog and history. Just the facts ma’am.

    Reply
    Township Reader, on February 18th, 2010 at 8:49 PM Said:
    By filing the lawsuit prior to the Monday meeting John, YOU DROPPED THE SHOE. They will definitely refuse to comment on any of this due to pending litigation. Patience my boy….did you file it yet? Once it’s a lawsuit, it’s “out of their hands” and the squirming ends. Hold off it it’s not too late. I’d much rather listen to Paul Olsen stammer about sidewalks and remembering how it was in the 1950s…when men ran things and the rest of us were just kids…<<<<

    Seriously John — good job. But be patient and let things play out. Based on Christine's comments and my own research of the HRC, we do have a crummy one — we need to start to understand how we can change that HRC to take ALL the power out of the hands of our own supervisors. The HRC in Horsham is far more thorough in limiting powers and granting them to the public.

  12. JP made an outstanding tactical move. I’d rather not elaborate because it may give LORK an advantage but this was played perfectly. It’s amazing how intelligent the Tredyffrin residents are in comparison to LORK’s perception of the public.

    I look forward to a discussion with Mr. Olson on Monday. I know no one has forgotten – he made the motion. He left the other three hanging out to dry last Monday and now he alone has to answer for this wrong. The embarrassment he has caused to Tredyffrin and the “assault on Democracy” as was so eloquently stated, must be remedied. Paul must answer for this and no amount of prepared statements or “planted residents” will allow him to hide.

    I guess Tredyffrin’s resident are a little smarter than Bob, Warren and Paul give us credit for . . . .

  13. I could not agree more with Roger and Township Reader — well done. Please be sure we all know the rules regarding “pending” vs. “possible” litigation so that they cannot use that phrase. Likewise the attorney-client privilege that was used last time. Are there any citations you can suggest so that we have the proper language to combat any effort at stalling.

    Another question which I posted earlier and Christine’s research seems to support — our HRC basically has no limits to the power of the supervisors. I don’t mind doing the reserach, but can you guide me as to what the process is to amend the HRC. I know it would be very grass roots, but i believe it is doable. Cynic in means assures me that standing outside a grocery store can generate whole bunches of signatures. I really like the language (referenced above) int he HRC for Horsham — it mirrors the state language on recall. Advice? I’ll pound the pavements as long as what I am doing can result in change.

    • There are limits to what Supervisors can do. You will find those limits spelled out in the HRC, the Sunshine Act and the PA Constitution.

  14. John — how do we protect ourselves from them exceeding their limits absent a law suit. You are a lawyer and can give your time, but should citizens have to spend money (hire a lawyer) to protect themselves. I read the link above and think it would be very useful to us to have a recall provision in our HRC — the one referenced would be difficult (20% of the electorate) but it could be done. Do you think it is worth some research?

  15. I disagree with the St David’s decision, but aren’t we getting a little ridiculous here? A lawsuit? Just to let you know the Township will need to cover the fees for this– even if Kampf, Lamina, etc resign. So this lawsuit will cost taxpayers money.

    I think the way to respond to the actions of the supervisors is through the papers, forums like this blog and by attending meetings and speaking. And when it is time to vote, vote for another candidate. But lawsuits are just a waste of money. And it seems personally motivated because the supervisors and John Peterson clearly dislike each other.

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