An article appeared in the December 14 edition of the Daily Local, ‘Chief suspended after son crashes police car’ . According to the article, Tredyffrin’s Chief of Police Andy Chambers was suspended for 4 days as a result of allowing his 16-yr old son to drive a township police car and was subsequently involved in an accident with the vehicle on November 23.
First off, let me say that I like and respect Andy Chambers – he’s one of the ‘good guys’ — someone who supports the residents of Tredyffrin Township and cares about this community. Was this simply one of those dumb lapses of judgement that as parents we sometimes have? You know one of those times when something seemed like a good idea at the time but in hindsight, we realize it wasn’t too smart.
The story as reported in the paper explains that an Emergency Vehicle Operator Course (EVOC) training was held in Bridgeport,and Chamber’s son (with a learner’s permit) was allowed to drive a Tredyffrin Township police cruiser on the training course. In driving the car on the course, the kid somehow had an accident with the police car which caused enough damage that the car had to be towed. The accident also slightly injured a trainer who was in the car with Chamber’s son.
There is an upcoming supervisors meeting on Monday, December 19. Will the supervisors inform the township residents of the situation and of Chamber’s 4-day suspension? It’s important that the facts surrounding the matter are fully understood. Otherwise, the rumor mill will churn out its own version of the story unless the supervisors present the timeline of events and the facts.
Although Chambers paid for the towing and repairs to the township vehicle, there remain questions surrounding the incident. Assuming that the Daily Local is correct, it is unclear when the Tredyffrin Board of Supervisors were notified of the incident as no police report was made at the time of the accident. Did the supervisors only learn of the accident from the Daily Local reporting?
Having read the article in the Daily Local, John Petersen wrote the following email to Tredyffrin’s Board of Supervisors and copied myself as well as the writer of the Daily Local article Jennifer Carboni and Susan Greenspon, editor of the Main Line Media News. Assuming that the information is correct in the newspaper account, John makes some very interesting legal and liability points concerning this incident. John also states that he likes Chief Chambers and like me, considers him one of the ‘good guys’.
I am disappointed in Andy Chamber’s actions but at the same time I feel sorry for him — we’ve all had those momentary lapses of judgment. This incident just proves that even the good guys can make mistakes.
To: Tredyffrin Township’s Board of SupervisorsSubject: Cover up???
Clearly, WAY more to this story. If this reporting is accurate, then it appears clear that the BOS (as a body) – didn’t know about this until the letters were emailed by the DL. That does not negate the possibility that one or more supervisors knew what happened. What is interesting is the citation to the Motor Vehicle Code. It appears clear that there was an affirmative duty to report the accident. That may be something that Risa Ferman may have to deal with. I have but one question in this whole thing – “When did Andy tell you guys about this?”
Based on Donahue’s interesting word choice that Andy “admitted” what happened, that would lead one to conclude that he [Andy] was confronted with the information. The lack of a police report supports that conclusion. If that is the case, then that is a fireable offense.
As the old saying goes, it’s never the underlying issue, it’s the cover up that gets you. Let’s remember, this was township property. Who in the world would permit a non-township employee, let alone a 16-year-old pre-licensed driver to drive a police cruiser – regardless of whether it was on a closed course. As Howard Baker in 1973 during the Watergate Hearings asked [slightly paraphrased] “What did they know…and when did they know it?” That is the question – when did Andy tell you guys on the BOS? Again, if he didn’t tell you until the DL made you guys [as a board] aware, then that is most definitely a fireable offense. On the other hand, if the board knew back on 11/23-24, then why wait so long to suspend him.
The other disturbing aspect of this, if true, is that this was driven by un-named members of the TTPD. The timing of the letters is interesting. The first one was the Friday before the BOS meeting of 12/5. Clearly, nothing happened – which prompted another letter on 12/8. It’s all rather peculiar, and admittedly, speculation on my part..
Finally… I like Andy. He’s a good guy. And yes – he as given loyal service to the Tredyffrin Citizens over these many years. I supported his succession to chief in 2008. However, those in leadership have to live to a higher standard – a point I’ve made clear to all of you in the past vis-a-vis St. David’s, fire funding, etc. If this was all duly reported, then I agree with the sanctions as levied.
However, the timing and information contained in the aforementioned news article, if accurate, indicates that the events were not duly reported – and that transgression is far worse than the substantive issue. And let’s also remember that Andy allowing his son to operate a township vehicle put the township in harm’s way. The township was opened to liability – and it is far from certain that the terms and conditions set forth in the policy (the township is self insured) would have covered the liability. What if somebody was run over, permanently injured or worse, killed?
I fully expect the BOS to brief the public on what happened. This is where it counts to be fully transparent. And – this is why we need a properly functioning press so that matters like this get the spotlight they require.
Many thanks to the Daily Local for their reporting. I trust the reporting is accurate. And if so, I trust the BOS to do the right thing.
John V. Petersen
Former Member, Tredyffrin BOS