Supervisor Lamina, Kampf, Olson, Richter Vote to Return St. Davids Escrow Continues to Provide Commentary From Residents

Looking at the viewership statistics from yesterday, I am pleased that many residents have watched the February 8 Board of Supervisors meeting YouTube video clips and have continued to weigh in with personal comments. I would encourage you to email the Community Matters link to your neighbors, co-workers, friends in the township; failure to follow policy and procedure by our elected officials is an important issue and one that we need to keep in community discussion.  A comment from Township Reader, ” . . . Is there anyone out there who is a lawyer who can tell us if there is any basis whatsoever to do a recall of 1)the vote or 2)the supervisors?” has sparked comments from others, including a couple of attorneys.

JudgeNJury and John Petersen, offer their legal opinions and case studies that speak to the specific problem of recalling both the vote and supervisor(s).  Reading through the following commentary, it is obvious that legal recourse would not be a simple, inexpensive road to take.  However, I am one of those who believes that justice will win and that the wrong will be righted as it pertains to the vote to return St. Davids escrow.  Public scrutiny of the situation, compelling commentary from residents, and continued light on our elected officials will hopefully encourage the supervisors to ‘right the wrong’ at the February 22 Board of Supervisors meeting.

Please read through the following commentary from local attorneys:

JudgeNJury, on February 15th, 2010 at 10:48 PM Said:
As I see it, there are two options for “undoing” the vote: (1) a majority of the Board votes to undo it, or (2) a court orders the Township to undo the vote. Given what we’ve seen so far, option 1 does not seem terribly likely. Therefore, you’d have to pursue option 2. But a court will not do anything unless and until someone brings and prevails upon a suit (which, as a general rule, can take months or years to resolve). This previous thread discussed the legal precedent: https://pattyebenson.wordpress.com/2010/02/07/home-rule-charter-violations-legal-cases-from-philadelphia-and-erie-county/. In short, where a municipality takes an action that violates its Home Rule Charter, the proper course of action for those who want to challenge the decision appears to be a declaratory judgment action to declare the municipality’s action null and void (or “void ab initio,” as they say) and/or an injunction action to prohibit the municipality from enforcing its decision. There are two main problems with bringing suit, one legal and one practical.

First the legal problem: Only a person with “standing” may bring this kind of suit. In Cohen v. Rendell, 684 A.2d 1102 (Pa. Commw. Ct. 1996), the Philadelphia City Council passed 28 ordinances in one “block vote” (i.e., it passed all 28 ordinances in one vote). Philadelphia’s Home Rule Charter, however, provided that ordinances had to be voted on individually, not in a block (I am oversimplifying a bit, but that’s all you really need to know for purposes of this discussion). Therefore, arguing that the vote violated the City’s Home Rule Charter, three private citizens and Philadelphia City Councilman David Cohen brought an action against the City for a declaratory judgment that the ordinances were invalid and for an injunction to prohibit the City from enforcing the ordinances. The Commonwealth Court (one of Pennsylvania’s appellate courts) held that, although Councilman Cohen had standing to challenge the ordinances, the private citizens did not. Here is a quote from the opinion (I cannot find a copy of this opinion on any of the free legal reference sites, so I cannot provide a link to it):

“As to the standing issue, Private Citizens contend that each have standing to maintain the action since each has an interest in Council following the Charter’s procedure for adopting ordinances. In order for Private Citizens to have standing as ‘aggrieved’ citizens, they must assert more than the common interest of all citizens in procuring obedience to the law. See William Penn Parking Garage, Inc. v. City of Pittsburgh, 464 Pa. 168, 346 A.2d 269 (1975). ‘Standing is the requirement that the person bringing the action be adversely affected by the matter they seek to challenge to assure that they are an appropriate party to bring the matter to a judicial resolution.’ Drummond v. University of Pennsylvania, 651 A.2d 572, 577 (Pa.Cmwlth.1994). A person who is not adversely affected in any way by the matter he seeks to challenge cannot be ‘aggrieved’ and, thus, has no standing to seek judicial resolution of his case. William Penn, supra. Rather, he or she must allege a ‘direct’ interest by which he or she demonstrates the causation of harm to his or her interest by the matter of which he or she complains. Id. Private Citizens clearly do not possess the type of interest in the result of the ordinances necessary to obtain standing because they have not asserted anything more than an interest common to all citizens. Though they contend that Cronin and Haver [two of the private citizens] represent citizens of the City of Philadelphia who ‘would be affected by the various passed Ordinances’, they have failed to specifically allege that any interest of either Cronin or Haver has been directly affected here. And, though they contend that Shigaki [the third private citizen] was directly affected because one of the 28 ordinances affected ‘streets in the area in which Shigaki lived and encompassed by members of his civic group’, Private Citizens have not pled any facts that would show that he is specifically aggrieved.”

What this means, I think, is that a generic Tredyffrin resident would not have standing to sue the Township to undo the St. David’s vote. Rather, the plaintiff would have to be an individual (or a group of people) who can allege that he or she will be directly and negatively impacted if the Board’s vote is left to stand. And since the vote did not actually kill the sidewalk (although that may be the practical effect, all the vote actually did was release a letter of credit), finding someone who can say they are “aggrieved” by the vote may be difficult.

The second problem – the practical problem – is money. Unless you can find a lawyer to do this for free (not terribly likely, I’d think) you would need to pay for a lawyer to bring this suit, which would not be cheap. This is not the type of case that a lawyer will take on contingency, as there is little chance the court will award monetary damages and, even if it did, they won’t amount to much.

  • Ray Clarke, on February 16th, 2010 at 9:37 AM Said:

    So, if councilman Cohen had the standing to challenge the ordinances in the case cited, would we have to look to one or more of the Supervisors in our situation?

    • JudgeNJury, on February 16th, 2010 at 9:57 AM Said:

    • Yes. This analysis from the Cohen case seems to suggest that one of the Supervisors would have standing to mount a legal challenge:

      “Councilman Cohen, however, as a Council member, possesses the requisite standing to bring the complaint against the City. In Morris v. Goode, 107 Pa.Cmwlth. 529, 529 A.2d 50 (1987), we considered whether individual members of a city council have standing to seek injunctive relief based on council’s failure to comply with the voting procedures mandated by the Charter. In Morris, we held that the plaintiffs, as council members, possessed a legal interest granted by the Charter in having a quorum present to vote on council resolutions. Id. 529 A.2d at 53. In other words, council members individually possess a legal interest in enforcing the voting procedures established by the Charter, and have standing to seek declaratory relief when such procedures are violated.

      And, in an analogous situation, in Zemprelli v. Thornburg, 47 Pa.Cmwlth. 43, 407 A.2d 102 (1979), we held that a Pennsylvania State Senator’s right to have Governor’s nominations to vacant appointed offices submitted within the constitutional period conferred a legal interest upon him by which he possessed standing to seek a judicial remedy against the Governor when he failed to submit such nominations. Because Cohen, as an elected, voting member of Council, has a legal and direct interest in ensuring that Council follows the procedures set forth by the Charter, we hold that he does possess standing to bring his case against the City.”

       

    JudgeNJury, on February 16th, 2010 at 10:28 AM Said:By the way, I was curious to see what the ultimate resolution was in the Cohen case so I pulled the docket from the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas:

    “30-SEP-1999
    03:44 PM WSFFD – FINDING FOR DEFENDANT GLAZER, GARY S 30-SEP-1999
    03:47 PM
    Docket Entry: IT IS ORDERED THAT THIS COURT, IN THE EXERCISE OF ITS EQUITABLE POWERS, FINDS THAT ALTHOUGH THE HOME RULE CHARTER WAS VIOLATED BY THE USE OF THE CONSENT AGENDA, THE NULLIFICATION OF THE 28 ORDINANCES, PASSED BY CONSENT AGENDA BY THE CITY COUNCIL OF PHILA ON 6/22/95, WOULD IMPOSE GREAT HARDSHIP ON ALL INDIVIDUALS AND BUSINESSES AFFECTED. THEREFORE, THE RELIEF REQUESTED BY THE PLTF IS DENIED, AND A FINDING IS ENTERED ON BEHALF OF THE DEFTS IN THE ABOVE CAPTIONED MATTER. BY THE COURT ….GLAZER,J 9/30/99″

    So even if you can prove a violation of the HRC, that is no guaranty that the Court will award relief.

  • John Petersen, on February 15th, 2010 at 11:04 PM Said:

    This link may help..

    http://www.lgc.state.pa.us/deskbook06/Issues_Governance_08_Removal_from_Office.pdf

  • Not good news… In PA, we simply cannot recall an elected official. There must be a crime of some sort. Is there underlying criminal activity re: the St. David’s vote? As outrageous as many of my comments appear to be, even I wouldn’t go that far as to allege a crime was committed here. Bad judgment and bad political calculations. Put it this way, if there was a cognizable crime here, I would be shocked. And for the record, not much shocks me…

    Tredyffrin Board of Supervisors Meeting, 2-8-10 . . . YouTube Video Part VI: Final Citizen Comments, Loss of Trust in Elected Officials

    This last video clip of the February 8 Board of Supervisors meeting is important to watch.  Many more residents speak including Lou Erdelan, Marie Thibault and Carol Clarke.  What is striking in this part of the meeting is that many residents are now speaking to an overriding concern . . . the loss of trust in our elected officials.  Pay close attention to Lou’s remarks, he says that he has worked on committees with Warren (Supervisor Kampf) and that he thought he could trust him. 

    There is a sadness when you have people who represent organizations, committees, groups, standing up and questioning the actions of our elected officials.  What happens to a community when the residents don’t feel that their elected officials can be trusted? 

    Folks, the clock is ticking on this situation and we need resolution and answers which we did not receive at the last supervisors meeting.  In my opinion, Supervisors Lamina, Olson, Kampf and Richter have one more chance to correct the trust issue and that will happen at the February 22 Board of Supervisors Meeting.  Here’s hoping that they find the courage to do what is right.

    To watch the final video clip: YouTube Video Part VI: Final Remarks, Loss of Trust in Elected Officials

    Tredyffrin Board of Supervisors Meeting, 2-8-10 . . . YouTube Video Part V: Residents Pattye Benson, Liz Feinberg & Supervisor DiBuonaventuro’s Response

    As I have said from the beginning, for me the decision to return St. Davids escrow is not about sidewalks.  It is about the failure of certain supervisors (Lamina, Kampf, Olson, Richter) to follow the policies and procedures as set forth in Tredyffrin’s Home Rule Charter.  I find it remarkable that as elected officials they make the choice to disregard the rules (deciding instead to govern as they please), apologize for their actions and then expect the community to  just move on.  I stand behind the comments that I make in this video clip.  The actions of Supervisors Lamina, Kampf, Olson and Richter have now set precedent; with liability to the taxpayers for lawsuits as a result of this vote. When asked at the January 25 supervisors meeting, township manager Mimi Gleason agreed that the return of St. Davids escrow has now set precedent for future developers doing work in Tredyffrin. 

    Supervisor DiBuonaventuro’s response is an interesting section of this video clip.  His comments and understanding of the citizens stands in stark contrast to remarks made by Supervisors Lamina and Kampf.  I know many of us thank JD for hearing the residents and trying to ‘right’ the wrong of the decision to return St. David’s escrow.

    Please watch this video clip:  YouTube Video Part V: Residents Pattye Benson, Liz Feinberg & Supervisor DiBuonaventuro Response 

    Tredyffrin Board of Supervisors Meeting, 2-8-10 . . . YouTube Video Part IV: Residents Speak Out

    Residents continue to offer their opinion on the St. Davids escrow return at the February 8 Board of Supervisors Meeting.  Please note that the community members who attended the meeting and offered their remarks where not ‘arranged’ in advance. 

    If you recall, there was a small group of St. Davids neighbors contacted for the January 25 BOS meeting.  It was at that meeting that St. Davids Golf Club did not appear on the agenda, no public notification and yet some of Supervisor Olson’s constituents in the St. Davids area somehow knew to show up (some even had written comments) and support Olson’s motion.  Supervisor Olson was absent for the February 8 meeting.  Interestingly the small Olson support group also did not attend that meeting. 

    At the February 8 meeting, one after another resident offered commentary and asked questions of the supervisors. For the most part, their questions were unanswered, citing legal reasons.  Chesterbrook Jim Bailey did not expect to speak but was so troubled by the treatment of Supervisors Lamina and Kampf towards resident John Petersen, Jim was compelled to speak.  He also offered that he was a Tredyffrin Republican committeeman; highlighting that the issues/concerns with certain elected officials was not about one political party vs. another. 

    Please watch this video clip, Part IV:  Part IV: Residents Continue to Speak Out

    Tredyffrin Board of Supervisors Meeting, 2-8-10 . . . YouTube Video Part III: Citizen John Petersen

    The next to take his turn to present comments was John Petersen. The audience witnessed an amazing exchange between John and Chairman Lamina and Supervisor Kampf.  John attempted to ask questions of the supervisors but was quickly interupted by Lamina and Kampf.  It was obvious that they had come to the meeting prepared to ‘take John on’ .  It appeared to me that Lamina and Kampf were not about to let John make his comments without intervention.  Although John tried to ‘plow’ on through, at one point Lamina is heard to say that John would not be allowed to speak again.  The behaviour of these 2 elected officials calls in to question a citizens right to freedom of speech. 

    The interchange between John and Lamina and Kampf is one that all residents need to watch; YouTube video clip, Part III: Citizen John Petersen

    Tredyffrin Board of Supervisors Meeting, 2-8-10 . . . YouTube Video Part II: Christine Johnson

    One of the most moving moments of the Board of Supervisors Meeting was when Mt. Pleasant resident Christine Johnson took her turn to speak.  Christine eloquently spoke of her community, Mt. Pleasant as not being a sidewalk to nowhere as is often referred to by Supervisor Olson.  Christine is a research librarian and she put hours in to research, providing copies of minutes from Board Meetings, Planning Commission meetings, STAP meetings, etc. Please watch Christine’s passionate delivery of information . . . and please watch as virtually no response is offered from Chairman Lamina. 

    Please watch this video clip:  YouTube Video Part II: Christine Johnson

    Tredyffrin Board of Supervisors Meeting, 2-8-10 . . . YouTube Video Part 1: The Apology of Lamina, Kampf & Richter

    The Board of Supervisors Meeting on February 8 was important for many reasons. I wrote about the meeting in my post, United in their Resolve, Residents Speak Out.  Many residents attended that Board of Supervisors meeting and I know that many watched at home.  But I thought it was important to capture some of the important commentary of that evening, so my husband Jeff has kindly put together sections of the supervisors and citizens comments from that meeting and is in the process of uploading them to YouTube.  As they are uploaded I will post them on Community Matters.  I added a new page to the front-page of Community Matters,  If you look across the top, you will see a tab for YouTube Videos.  Going forward, you will be able to locate all relative videos by clicking on that tab.  Hopefully, this will make it easier for residents to review.

    YouTube Part 1: Tredyffrin Township Supervisors Apologize . . . Lamina, Kampf & Richter   Supervisors Lamina, Kampf and Richter make their apologies for the vote of January 25.  Their apology is followed by citizen comment.  First to speak is Dariel Jamieson, newly elected chair of the Tredyffrin Township Democrats.  Ms. Jamieson speaks to the issue of Supervisors Olson and Lamina speaking disparagingly of Democrats in the newspaper, in emails and also at the January 25 board meeting.  Supervisor Lamina had little response for Ms. Jamieson in regards to his actions.

    Attorney-Client Privilege . . . Understanding the Relationship Between Elected Officials & Township Solicitor. . . Where Does that Leave the Residents?

    I know that many residents in the audience at the February 8 Board of Supervisors Meeting were confused and frustrated when they would pose specific questions to our elected officials and receive no response.  The supervisors would turn to the Township Solicitor Tom Hogan for an opinion on a legal question and he would say that he could not answer, invoking attorney-client privilege.  In conversation with residents since the meeting, there has been much discussion on the attorney-client privilege shared between Mr. Hogan and the supervisors.  I know Tom Hogan personally; he’s one of the good guys and I need to believe that he would have given the residents his opinion (if permitted).  But the fact remains that the public has legal questions in regards to St. Davids Golf Club, the return of the escrow, precedent set by the vote, ongoing liability to the township and its residents, etc. 

    If we cannot receive answers from our elected officials or township solicitor, where do we take our unanswered questions? Do community members have to hire their own attorney to receive answers?

    I was greatly interested to received the following information from a reader, JudgeNJury on the subject of attorney-client privilege. I do not know the identity of this reader, but I am guessing that he/she could be a municipal attorney. An interesting read.

    JudgeNJury 2010/02/10 wrote:

    Under an opinion issued by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court on Jan. 29, it is far from clear that Hogan’s invocation of attorney-client privilege is correct. A link to a detailed article discussing the case follows, but this quote from the article is the main point: “The court issued a per curiam order in Nationwide v. Fleming Friday, upholding a Superior Court ruling that attorney-client privilege only applies to information given to the attorney by the client, not the other way around.”

    (http://www.law.com/jsp/article.jsp?id=1202441905939&Pa_High_Court_Justices_Cant_Agree_on_AttorneyClient_Privilege_Dispute).

    In other words, there is a good argument to be made that the Supervisors can invoke the privilege to refuse to answer questions about what they told Hogan, but Hogan cannot invoke the privilege to refuse to answer questions about what he told the Supervisors. Personally, I think the court’s decision is absurd. But the law is the law.

    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.

    Main Line Suburban Reporter Blair Meadowcroft writes . . . “Tredyffrin Residents Blast Supervisors Over St. Davids Vote”

    Main Line Suburban reporter Blair Meadowcroft’s account of Monday night’s Board of Supervisor Meeting is published today (article below).  Sometimes when you are in the midst of a situation, you can loose your objectivity . . . but after reading Blair’s account of the meeting, I am convinced that the residents were right in their united message.

    I do need to recognize the ‘Citizen Supervisor’ of the night . . . John DiBuonaventuro.  Supervisor DiBuonaventuro heard the residents, agreed with them and stated, “I’d like to reverse the decision, start over and follow by the rules.”  The problem of course is that he could count on Supervisors Kichline and Donohue votes to reverse the decision, but we know that Supervisors Lamina, Kampf and Richter still don’t get it!  For the record, Paul Olson was not at the meeting but it is clear how he would not have supported a vote to reverse the decision (considering, he is the one who made the original motion). 

    I still remain convinced that with help (and encouragement) from the public, township manager and township solicitor, we will see our elected officials back on track at the February 22 meeting.  I’m looking forward to seeing St. Davids Golf Club on the meeting agenda, and the re-institution of policy and procedure for Tredyffrin Township’s government.

       Tredyffrin residents blast supervisors over St. Davids vote

    By Blair Meadowcroft

    At the Tredyffrin Township Board of Supervisors meeting Monday night, three of the board members took to the microphone in an effort to apologize for their previous actions.

    Since last meeting’s whirlwind vote was approved in favor of releasing $25,000 from an escrow account to the St. Davids Golf Club, residents have been expressing their confusion and dislike. In response, and after discussion with various members of the community over the last two weeks, three of the four board members who voted in favor of the motion in question publicly apologized. The fourth board member who voted to pass the motion for St. Davids was Vice Chair Paul Olson, who was not at the Feb. 8 meeting.

    “All here tonight acknowledge that the process utilized was less than perfect,” said Chairman Bob Lamina. “I could have done a better job; I could have insisted on more public comment, or agreed with Supervisor Michelle Kichline to table the issue. The board plans to learn from this and we plan to figure out a better way in the future of dealing with this sort of issue.”

    Supervisors Evelyn Richter and Warren Kampf agreed, echoing Lamina’s sentiments and adding a few of their own.

    “I should have agreed to a delay; there was no rush on this,” said Richter. “And this should have been put on the agenda. I’ll work towards not allowing this to happen again.”

    “A lot of thought has gone into this and in hindsight the motion to table the issue should have been considered, and announcing this in advance should have been done,” said Kampf.

    While their apologies were appreciated by those in attendance, the three board members quickly learned that an apology would not be enough. Member after member of the community came to the microphone during a public-comment session to express their disgust at what had been allowed to happen at the previous meeting, questioned what sort of example the board members were setting, and demanded an answer as to what would be done to fix the problem.

    “I want to understand how the meeting and the vote made does not set precedent for the future,” said Pattye Benson. “Township Manager Mimi Gleason said that it does. What will stop another developer tomorrow from saying no to doing something they once agreed to do? What you did was absolutely outrageous. You made an apology but that does not right the wrong.”

    Agreeing, Matthew Valocchi, vice president of the Berwyn Fire Company, said that while the apologies were nice, there is still a “big problem” that needs to be taken care of. “This has been a heated political issue and it is a problem when a vote like this gets rushed by,” said Valocchi. “The letter of credit was a guarantee that something was going to be done. There was no request from St. Davids for this exemption and the board did not refer the matter to the township engineer before taking the vote.”

    As the night went on, regardless of the decision made previously by the board members, the residents in attendance continued to fight for the sidewalks in question. They explained how they were necessary, how they would not affect trees or add to storm- water issues and that if put in place they would not be “a sidewalk to nowhere.”

    “When the Sidewalks, Trails and Paths Committee put together their plan it was to allow residents to walk carefully through the township,” said one resident. “That part of the path was put there specifically to help that purpose. The question is what do you want Tredyffrin to be like in the future? If you want it to be walkable, we need the sidewalks to be put in.”

    Although various points were made in their defense Chairman Lamina explained that in his opinion the sidewalks weren’t necessary and that was why he voted the way he did. “Who are we to insist a sidewalk go somewhere that a community doesn’t want?” asked Lamina.

    As the meeting unfolded, residents asked repeatedly in a variety of ways for the township supervisors to reverse their vote, put it on hold, discuss it more in depth, anything to undo what was done. One supervisor voiced his opinion and agreed with the residents. “Maybe there is a way to start over and do this the right way,” said Supervisor John DiBuonaventuro. “I’d like to reverse the decision, start over and follow by the rules.” While the residents’ comments were heard, along with DiBuonaventuro’s request for a reversal, by the end of the meeting no change had been made to the previous vote.

    While those in attendance were disappointed, the conversations remained calm throughout the meeting until John Petersen, Tredyffrin resident and one-time supervisor, approached the microphone. After asking the board members a few questions, including one to Kampf, the response he got started a heated argument.

     “The audience in this room needs to know who this man is at the microphone,” said Kampf. “He sent an e-mail to each member of the board today saying, ‘You’ve asked for war, and war is what you will have. I’m going to get you. I am coming after you.’ I think his attacks are personal.”

    The discussion that followed involved Petersen criticizing Kampf on his leadership skills and on the board’s actions in general. “Instead of defending your actions you are attacking me,” said Petersen. “You have no defense; you broke the faith and all you can do is hide. You are held to a higher standard and it is about time you started acting like it.” In response to his comments, Lamina ended the discussion by telling Petersen “You will no longer be recognized here.”

    In other news at the BOS meeting, the supervisors thanked the public-works team for their efforts put forth to handle the weekend’s snowfall as well as to prepare for the upcoming storm. “This was the second largest snowstorm in Tredyffrin Township’s history; we got 20 inches,” said public-works director Steve Norcini. “The public-works crew did a fantastic job. They worked nonstop from 5 p.m. Friday until 3 a.m. Sunday. And as soon as that ended, they started preparing for the next storm, which we are ready for.”

     Additionally, DiBuonaventuro commended the local fire companies for their courageous work done to fight a three-alarm fire that took place at Strafford Station Apartments Saturday, Jan. 30 at 9:25 a.m. The fire caused $1.2 million in damage and was determined to have been started by a fire in the utility closet at the complex. Along with thanking the firefighters, DiBuonaventuro thanked the local churches, the Red Cross and T&E Care for their efforts in helping and temporarily adopting the affected families.

    Local Attorney Weighs in on the Recent Actions of Tredyffrin Supervisors Lamina, Kampf, Olson and Richter . . . and Will Bring it to the Supervisors Meeting Tonight!

    Paoli Attorney John Petersen sent the following email this morning to Supervisors Lamina, Olson, Kampf, Richter, Donohue, Kichline and DiBuonaventuro, Township Solicitor Tom Hogan and Township Manager Mimi Gleason. Although I was copied on the email, I assumed that this was priveleged information and not intended for  public consumption.  However, I have received a call from John Petersen stating that he intended the email as public record and asked that I post it on Community Matters.  The following is an unedited email that details some of John’s thoughts on the recent actions of some of our elected officials; he plans to deliver his message at tonight’s meeting. 

    I am hopeful that at the meeting tonight we will see recent Board decisions examined (and corrected) and that we can look forward to our elected officials steering the township under the rules of the Home Rule Charter and the Administrative Code of Pennsylvania.  Tonight’s meeting is important to all residents, please come to the meeting at 7:30 PM at the Township Building or watch it from home.

    John Petersen’s email from 2-08-10:

    http://www.celdf.org/HomeRule/PennsylvaniaandHomeRule/tabid/116/Default.aspx

    Pretty simple… Authority in the HRC (Home Rule Charter) derives from the voters.

    “The basic concept of home rule is relatively simple. The authority to act in municipal affairs is transferred from state law, as set forth by the General Assembly, to a local charter, adopted and amended by the voters.”

    This is why changes to the home rule charter have to be a placed on the ballot.

    Home rule is pretty broad:

    “Municipalities shall have the right and power to frame and adopt home rule charters… A municipality which has a home rule charter may exercise any power to perform any function not denied by this Constitution, by its home rule charter or by the General Assembly at any time.”

    We pretty much knew this. The key of course, is if it is stated in the home rule, they MUST follow it.

    OK then..How do we get from the Home Rule Charter to the Administrative Code:

    The HRC is like our constitution – and is ratified by the voters. In Section 212 B and C, the HRC state:

    B. Adopt an Administrative Code defining the organization and assignment of duties and responsibilities of
    Township officers and employees.

    Before going further, the oath that each supervisor took pledged to uphold the terms and conditions of the US Constitution, the PA Constitution and the laws of the township – which includes both the HRC and the Administrative Code.

    Now… if you go to the Administrative Code, the first section, Section C – references the HRC.  In very real terms, the HRC specifies the what. The Administrative Code specifies the How. In any case, the Code specifies the parameters upon which something in the HRC can be carried out. So with that, let’s go to relevant section in the Code re: escrows (Section 181-34 G)

    As the work of installing the required improvements proceeds, the party posting the financial security may request the Board of Supervisors to release or authorize to be released, from time to time, such portions of the financial security necessary for payment to the contractor or contractors performing the work. Any such requests shall be in writing addressed to the Board of Supervisors, and the Board shall have 45 days from receipt of such request within which to allow the Township Engineer to certify, in writing, that such portion of the work upon the improvements has been completed in accordance with the approved plans. Upon such certification, the Board shall authorize release by the bonding company or lending institution of an amount as estimated by the Township Engineer fairly representing the value of the improvements completed. The Township Engineer, in certifying the completion of work for a partial release, shall not be bound to the amount requested by the applicant, but shall certify to the Board his independent evaluation of the proper amount of partial releases. The Board may, prior to final release at the time of completion and certification by the Township Engineer, require retention of 10% of the estimated cost of the aforesaid improvements as per § 181-34D of this chapter.

    ———————–

    Just looking at the first sentence, sure enough, the word [may] appears. However, it is followed by an [or]. In this case, we know the club did not request. The club didn’t authorize the release either. Therefore, you never get to the second sentence. But, even if we did get to the second sentence, it states:

    Any SUCH requests shall be in writing….The problem here is a bit of in-artful drafting of the Home Rule Charter. Most definitely, the word [may] has the connotation that something may not be required. The word [may] should probably be replace with [shall either]. However, in this context, the focus on the word [may] alone is to ignore the context of the first and second sentences. Even if we were to concede the requirements set forth in the first sentence which go to initiating the process, once the process has been initiated, there must be a writing. And as we now know, there was no writing.

    Using the language within the four corners of the Home Rule Charter and the Code, there is no question that a violation has occurred. And therefore, the vote was void ab initio.By analogy, consider when Bill DeHaven resigned and the work that had to be expended to try to stay within the framework of the HRC. Technically, that didn’t happen. BUT – a compromise that facilitated due process and notice was achieved. Nothing of the kind occurred here.

    Then there is the agenda – Section C-16 – which is the HRC section in the Admin Code:

    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 information, 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.

    We now know that the Supervisor Lamina was deliberately indifferent to placing the matter on the agenda. Then of course, there are the cases that are posted on Pattye’s blog.

    —————————-

    You see, I don’t even need to get to Bob’s email or any of the comments that target Democrats as a political group under color of local law. I can reference that email, comments and newspaper qjuotes. That however, ratchets things up into the federal arena. Seems like we may very well have Section 1983 violations here – in addition to some First Amendment and Equal Protection Clause issues.

    ——————————

    Bottom line, at the very least, Bob and Paul need to step down from their leadership positions. Ideally, they would simply resign altogether from the board. Warren and EJ should follow suit. But – at the end of the day, the leadership is responsible. That however, does not remove the culpability that Warren and EJ have.

    Otherwise, I can almost guarantee the Kampf, Lamina, Olson and Richter – along with the township – will be sued under the aforementioned grounds.

    I would rather not see tonight turn into a circus.

    Regards,

    John V. Petersen, Esq.
     

    Tredyffrin Twp Board of Supervisors Meeting Tonight . . . St. Davids Sidewalk Issue, a Photo Essay

    Tonight’s Board of Supervisors meeting is shaping up to be one for the history books.  It would appear that some of our elected officials have become entangled in quite the spider’s web.  The actions taken at the January 25 Board of Supervisors meeting, the resulting vote to return St. Davids escrow, the newspaper articles, Letters to the Editor, discussion on Community Matters, etc. have left many residents pondering the state of our local government.   

    I have remained consistent in saying that the sidewalks are not the issue; however, I believe that many people probably do not understand the bigger picture and the ramifications of the Board’s actions to our township and its residents.  Having said that, I think it would be helpful for people to look at this photo essay.  Thank you to the local TTDEMs for helping the community better understand through photos and description this section of the township, which Supervisor Olson consistently refers to as ‘sidewalks to nowhere’.  A special thank you to Sean Moir for his mapping skills, which clearly show the section of the St. Davids sidewalk.

    Here is the Board of Supervisors agenda for tonight’s meeting.

    Home Rule Charter Violations . . . Legal Cases from Philadelphia and Erie County

    I received fascinating information (see below) from JudgeNJury citing 2 examples of cases of violations to Pennsylvania’s Home Rule Charter.  It is reassuring to know that others have fought the battle (and won) using the basis of procedures contained in the Home Rule Charter.  This supports the notion that a declaratory judgment action rendering the St. Davids Golf Club escrow vote null and void would be successful.  My question is would an individual have to file (and win) a declaratory judgment to force the supervisors to follow the Home Rule Charter.  If the Home Rule Charter states that supervisors must publicize all agenda items at least 8 hours in advance, shouldn’t that be followed?  Why do we have to spend time and money to force Home Rule Charter procedure to be followed?

    We know that Chair Lamina believes, and states to the Main Line Suburban Life newspaper, that  “Under our current rules, any supervisor is free to offer any motion he chooses at any time, . . . 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 . . .” 

    I would hope that with review of the Home Rule Charter, counsel from the township solicitor and the citing of Pennsylvania cases, that Chair Lamina and Supervisors Kampf, Olson and Richter would acknowledge their ‘miss-step’.  I think that it would bode far better for them and the residents of this township, that our elected officials could just ‘fix’ their mistake without requiring a declaratory judgment action.  Perhaps township solicitor Tom Hogan could review the procedures contained within the Home Rule Charter and offer guidance to our Board of Supervisors.  Based on the actions taken on January 25, and the prevailing attitude of Chair Lamina, no motion is off-limits, including those not publicized. 

    Please take the time to review these cases below provided by JudgeNJury:

    JudgeNJury, on February 6th, 2010 Said:  

    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

    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?

    Save Ardmore Coalition’s Readers are Now Following Supervisors Lamina, Kampf, Olson & Richter!

    Save Ardmore Coalition is following Tredyffrin’s Lamina, Kampf, Olson and Richter.  Yes, our own YouTube stars are playing to a larger audience — the Board of Supervisors meeting clips are now on Save Ardmore Coalition’s website.  www.saveardmorecoalition.org   I thank Carla for presenting our local stars with greater play time.   And remember, Warren Kampf, one of the infamous ‘4’ is now in the race for State House 157.  To go directly to the YouTube post on Save Ardmore Coalition site, click on this link:

    http://www.saveardmorecoalition.org/node/4114