Although the agenda for tonight’s Board of Supervisors meeting does not include the policy for the use of the township website by supervisors — the policy will be presented and voted upon tonight by the supervisors. In response to my inquiry to Michelle Kichline, I received an email from Vince Donohue, township solicitor, stating that the agenda will be revised to include a vote on the policy.
It was my understanding that the Sunshine Law required the township to notify the public at least 24 hrs. in advance of a vote. I asked this question of the solicitor and his response was,“The Board intends to adopt a policy by resolution, which does not require any advertisement. “
How much will the public’s opinion matter with regards to the township website — shouldn’t we have a copy of the resolution in advance to review? For those that are just tuning in, the communication policy is a result of John DiBuonaventuro’s use of the township letterhead, township website and township resources for his September 5 letter to the citizens.
As a result of DiBuonaventuro’s letter and personal attack on me and Community Matters (in addition to traditional news sources, including Main Line Media News), my attorney, Sam Stretton, sent a letter to the members of the Board of Supervisors on October 25. Vince Donohue responded to Stretton on November 8 where he detailed the new township policy would include.
According to Donohue’s letter, the communications on the Township website would pertain to Township issues. He also states that the it would be clear about the source of the communication, whether it was from the entire board, a subset of supervisors or an individual supervisor. Donohue writes, “ … The purpose of the policy is not, however, to restrict any Supervisor’s ability to communicate with Township residents on matters each deems appropriate.” If this language is contained in the communication policy, it is problematic. There is nothing to keep any supervisor from using the government website (or any other township social media tool, i.e. twitter, Facebook, etc.) as their own personal ‘bully pulpit’ whenever the mood strikes.
What’s to keep a supervisor from labeling their communication to the citizen as ‘township business’ and then the website becomes theirs to use. Who has the oversight on what constitutes ‘township business’? Read DiBuonaventuro’s letter again — especially where he speaks of my 2009 supervisor race. Yes, I ran for the Board of Supervisors in 2009, three years ago — what in the world constitutes that as ‘township business’ in 2012? So … will this new ‘communication’ policy protect the rights of DiBuonaventuro (and the other 6 supervisors) to use the government website whenever feeling threatened by the local news media, Community Matters or the township citizens. If an individual supervisor is permitted to the use of the government website for whatever he/she feels is township business, how about next year, when three of the supervisors are up for re-election — what keeps them from the use of the website as a campaign platform? If you think the suggestion ridiculous, remember DiBuonaventuro used the government website a personal attack on a private citizen, including a thee-year old political campaign!
We learned in Richard Llgenfritz, Main Line Media article of November 8, ‘Majority of Tredyffrin supervisors may not have approved DiBuonaventuro’s letter posted to website’,that several of DiBuonaventuro’s fellow supervisors had not seen nor approved his letter on the township website. I have subsequently heard that at least a couple of the supervisors would not have approved the letter, had then seen it in advance. So … will the communication policy of the township prohibit something similar in the future? Or will the policy force supervisors to ‘act alone’ without needing the ‘team’ behind them. From my vantage point, I hope that this communication policy contains strict guidelines and oversight or what’s the point?