Perceived or Real Conflict of Interest?

I have been open in my concerns related to political committee people who continue to serve in that capacity once elected to the Board of Supervisors.  Currently Tredyffrin Township has three of the seven supervisors (Michelle Kichline, Evelyn Richter and Kristen Mayock) also serving as committeewoman for the Tredyffrin Township Republican Committee (TTRC).

Once elected, township supervisors are elected to serve all the residents, regardless of their political affiliations.  But by remaining in a political party committee position and serving as an elected official there could exist a conflict of interest — if only in perception.  This is certainly not intended as an indictment on the performance of Kichline, Mayock and Richter as supervisors; I have spoken personally to Michelle and Kristen, voicing my concern over this issue.

Michele has served as a supervisor and now as chair of the Board of Supervisors, without any obvious bias towards the political party for which she is a committeewoman.  However, as previously stated on Community Matters, our neighbor Radnor Township takes away the possibility of conflict (perceived or real) — their Home Rule Charter prohibits public elected officials from serving as political party committee people.

The following editorial in the Main Line Suburban by Jerry Kinkead, a former Tredyffrin Township Republican Committeewoman, supports my position and offers personal insight into what could (and has happened) when the lines of separation between a political committee person and elected official blur.  Kinkead not only believes that the current arrangement in Tredyffrin Township is a conflict of interest but is calling for a change in Tredyffrin’s Home Rule Charter.

Conflict of interest

To the Editor:

Thanks to a local Tredyffrin township blog called Community Matters, I have recently learned that three members of the Tredyffrin Township Board of Supervisors (Kichline, Richter and Mayock) are also elected members of the Tredyffrin Township Republican Committee. I believe this to be a fundamental conflict of interest, which could lead to the blurring of allegiance. I propose that Tredyffrin’s Home Rule Charter be amended to disallow this practice.

Community Matters pointed out that Tredyffrin Township’s Home Rule Charter does not address this issue, but that in the Radnor Township Home Rule Charter there is a prohibition against being an elected political official while, at the same time, holding an elected governmental position, as well as a provision for dismissal or termination of appointment should this prohibition be violated.

In Chester County, during the decade of the 1970s, we had a situation whereby the chairman of the countywide Republican Party was also chairman of the Chester County commissioners, which was seen as a conflict of interest by some. As a result, a group known as the Independent Republicans set out to make changes in the local Republican Party, with one of their most pressing goals being the separation of those two jobs. There was a protracted political struggle over this issue, though the County Republican Committee eventually saw the wisdom of the goal, after the indictment of the county chairman. Subsequently, the local Republican Party bylaws were changed to disallow the holding of those two influential offices by the same person.

In the 1970s case in Chester County, the county commissioner was found to be giving out contracts to people who supported the party financially. He did not follow the rules for bidding contracts and was eventually indicted and sentenced for breaking the law.

In my view, the problem with holding a political position and a governmental position at the same time is that the lines can become blurred, and measures may be supported by a government official that are meant to advance the interests of the political party. At a local level, there are decisions to be made about appointments, issuance of building permits, support of local institutions and the like, which should be made by people whose guiding interest is the government they are a part of, and not the party that they also serve.

I suggest that the three Tredyffrin supervisors who now hold joint offices should resign their positions in the local Republican committee, and I urge the Board of Supervisors to take a look at how to change the Tredyffrin Home Rule Charter to eliminate this clear conflict of interest.

With respect,

JERRY KINKEAD
Tredyffrin resident
Former Tredyffrin Republican Committeewoman
Wayne, PA

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14 Comments

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  1. I have received several emails on this topic — suggesting that I need to to update this post in regards to our state representative.

    State Rep Warren Kampf (R-157) served as a TTGOP committeeman while serving as Tredyffrin Twp supervisor. Since taking office as our state representative, Rep Kampf has also continued as a Republican committeeman.

  2. I have no concerns about the integrity of any of the people identified, and I remind us all that voters put them in the committee positions as well as the supervisor position. On their own, none of them can influence an outcome like a bid…it would take 4. And business is not secret.

    Having said that — I support the idea that all four should consider voluntarily resigning their political committee positions to allay the kinds of concerns that Pattye voices. At the very least, they don’t need to run for re-election to the political position. I don’t think it represents a conflict of interest – if anything their membership is likely to keep the party from thinking they can have more influence than they do, but no sense giving anyone something to worry about?

  3. Even though I am a Republican and voted for 2 of these 3 women, I think that they should each step down from their committee positions. Their position with the local gop makes it difficult for them to do their job without a conflict of interest. Respect their role on the BOS and resign from the Rep party committee.

  4. Pattye –

    Committee people are up for election again this spring. Did any of these officials choose NOT to run for reelection as committee members?

    For example, Rep. Kampf was elected to the office of Committeeman before Representative and this would be his first election year in which to choose not to run.

    while I understand he, or others, could resign, I do give any of them credit for fulfilling their terms that the voters elected them to serve.

      1. To clarify — up until 2010, the term for local committee persons was 2 years. Starting in May 2010, the term was increased from 2 years to 4 years. Township supervisors Kichline, Richter and Mayock and State Rep Kampf were elected in May 2010 for their committee seats and have 2+ years remaining until their terms are up May 2014.

        1. Pattye,

          Democratic committee person’s term of ofice is 4 years. Republican committee person’s term is 2 years; thus this year’s primary is when Rep committee candidates run. Nominating petitions were due last Tuesday (14th).

          At present, I do not know if any of the aforementioned did not submit a petition. When an elected official remains on the committee, there may be no candidate who wishes to replace them. Being a committee person is a lot of hard work: registering new voters (easier now with motor/voter), keeping track of your voters, manning the polls all day, puttng out election material, making sure there is a full election panel for each electon, going door-to-door with candidates, and much more.

        2. Pattye —

          I think State Committee members are 4 years, county committee members 2 years.

          I do agree with Libby — it is a tough job and hard to find people.

          1. Another clarification … I have spoken with TTGOP and TTDEM committee people and here’s what I have found. In Chester County, Democratic committee people, starting in 2010, are now 4 year terms. Their current terms run until May 2014. On the Chester County Republican side, I was told that in 2010, they tried to change the terms from 2 years to 4 years but it did not pass. So the terms of TTGOP committee people is 2 years and their terms end with the April 2010 primary. Assuming that this information is now correct, this means that Kampf, Richter, Kichline and Mayock terms as TTGOP committee people are up this year — at the April primary.

  5. Pattye,

    Thanks for the confirmation. I had checked the terms prior to my post.

    I forgot to mention that one aspect of the position, and probably the most important, is to nominate and endorse candidates who represent the ideals of their constituents and to obtain signatures on candidates’ petitions.

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