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

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  1. Thank you Jim Bailey for standing up for what you believe! As a TTRC committee person, your words spoke volumes – you are a Republican that we can be proud of!

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  2. One continuing question we non-lawyers are struggling with: WHY is this a done deal? Since St. Davids did not request the return /release from the obligation in writing, why cannot this be a procedural error and reversed? The “township” has already reacted to it — so what? If the Township sends me a bill for something and the number is wrong, the township will most certainly correct the bill and send me a new one. WHY — absent any formal request for this release — are we bound by two arrogant (one in Hawaii or it would be 3) people? And if we call for anyone’s resignation, it should be EJ — because as much as she tried to be earnest, she is swimming with sharks and has no clue what to base her decisions on. In an economic downturn, she didn’t think it was fair to make St. davids….ST. DAVIDS — how many members of St. davids live in Tredyffrin township — and why would they care at all about our sidewalk policy. They care about their dues….
    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?

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    JudgeNJury Reply:

    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: http://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.

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    Ray Clarke Reply:

    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?

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    JudgeNJury Reply:

    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.”

    Ray Clarke Reply:

    I’d think that JD and Michelle would be able to count on a huge amount of community support. Is there any chance of them taking this on?

    Sarah Reply:

    Phil, JD and Michele have no incentive to taking on a sitting majority — further marginalizing themselves. If they want any vote to count, they need to count votes themselves. It takes 4. No ambiguity there.

    JudgeNJury Reply:

    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.

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    Howard in Daylesford Reply:

    At this point, I think we would all agree that the only thing to do is to get the vote out next election.

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    Malvern Republican Reply:

    Unfortunately voting them out hasn’t worked yet…. Anyone who has been paying attention knows that what happened here wasn’t the slightest bit out of character for LOK. The arrogance has been plainly visible for years.

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    Malvern Republican Reply:

    John – Is the endorsement vote of the committee people secret ballot, or can we see how each votes on the 20th?

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  3. Here is a slightly different take on available options which do not involve a lawsuit. Under Tredyffrin’s HRC (C-64), a supervisor who violates C-63, Conflicts of Interest section, may be deemed unqualified to hold the supervisor position and dismissed. One way a dismissal can occur is a petition signed by 100 township electors presented to the BOS who would then be required to appoint a Citizen Board to adjudicate the matter (essentially decide if C-63 was violated). See the Charter sections here: http://www.ecode360.com/?custId=TR1485

    Interestingly, the accused supervisor could not participate in appointing the Citizen Board which may create a deadlock of Lamina, Kampf and Richter v. JD, Michelle and Phil. However, if EJ votes with JD’s contingent, they could make appointments which may actually produce a just result.

    Now, the tougher part – was there actually a violation of C-63? Let’s see what Mr. Olson has to say about the origin of this matter and specifically who he spoke to, etc. regarding this release. There is most likely some conflict of interest between Mr. Olson and a person or entity at the bottom of this.

    With a legitimate conflict of interest, a group of 100 citizens could present this petition to the BOS to remove Olson and it would have to at least be pursued to some extent. Also, this reading indicates that a violation of the law is not necessarily required to remove a supervisor under our HRC.

    I may be way off base but I will reserve final thoughts for after next Monday. I believe JP and a number of others had discussed conflict issues w/r/t the fire donations but I’m not sure if anyone has considered it for this context. Thoughts?

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