Judy DiFilippo

Tredyffrin Officials Inconsistent in Ethics Decisions . . . Today’s Op-Ed in the Daily Local!

 Tredyffrin officials inconsistent in ethics decisions . . . yes, doesn’t that newspaper headline say it all?  The editorial appearing in today’s Daily Local newspaper offers its reader their ‘take’ on Tredyffrin’s Board of Supervisors meeting.  For the newspaper to have reviewed the Pitcairn vs supervisors solicitation situation, and then to state, ” . . . after a review of both situations, we think she’s [Benson] right. . . ”  — was just the vindication I need!  Thank you Daily Local for this editorial and for really getting ‘it’!   Below is the complete editorial:

Daily Local Opinion

Tredyffrin officials inconsistent in ethics decisions

Published: Monday, April 26, 2010

Do township supervisors’ fundraising efforts in Tredyffrin constitute an unethical conflict of interest for the township — and more to the point, do they do so in the same way that those supervisors decided, some time ago, an “in-kind” gift worth $50,000 would have for the Historic Preservation Trust?

Pattye Benson, the president of the trust, thinks that if the donation offered to her nonprofit organization was unethical, donations for firefighters — especially from companies and individuals that do business with the township — were too.

And after a review of both situations, we think she’s right. If it would indeed have been unethical for the trust to accept the gift, it was unethical for the supervisors to solicit donations — at the very least, donations from businesses, which they did.

Situation 1: In 2008, Pitcairn, a company in a final review of negotiations with the township for a land-development deal, offered the trust an in-kind gift (that is, a donation of goods or services rather than cash).

Benson didn’t know a thing about the deal. But Judy DiFilippo, a board member on the trust, did: she was also a township supervisor. The township, concerned that it would look like Pitcairn was getting the development deal in return for the gift, told Benson she had to turn it down, which she did.

Situation 2: The supervisors were not able to find the funds to budget the normal contribution to the fire companies that serve the township. To attempt to cover the costs, Supervisors Bob Lamina, Warren Kampf and Paul Olson personally solicited cash donations — including from Comcast, which is currently negotiating a contract with the township. They collected $23,200 total.

These are the facts available, and the situations are parallel. Were the donations themselves, both offered and collected, in fact unethical, creating a pay-to-play situation? We’re not sure. Any gift could create that appearance; should, then, businesses never donate to locally beneficial causes?

This seems absurd, suggesting that the potential conflicts of interest should be transparently discussed, but not that they should be universally turned down. And in fact, in this instance, the active solicitation by the supervisors creates much more of a “pay-to-play” aura than the offer which originated with Pitcairn.

The supervisors have claimed that they were acting as private citizens. But in that guise, why didn’t DiFilippo count as a private citizen when Pitcairn offered its donation? And more to the point, are the supervisors seriously suggesting that the companies that do business with the township somehow, on some level, forgot who the supervisors were — something they’re at great pains to establish firmly during elections?

We’re not suggesting it’s bad to collect money for fire companies. We think the donations in question might not be unethical, in both cases. We are pointing out that it is, in fact, inconsistent for the township supervisors to act out of concern for appearances in one instance, while actively creating that appearance in another. The large size of the gift offered by Pitcairn and the fact that fire companies are, for most people, more emotionally charged organizations than historic trusts do not make the situations different at base.

We also think it added insult to injury when Chairman Bob Lamina told Benson, “I’m disappointed in you, Pattye. This was a win-win for the fire companies that one individual here today tried to diminish,” and questioned her motives for challenging the fundraiser. Yes, she might very well be personally miffed. But that doesn’t make her wrong — and in that situation, we might be miffed too.

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Daily Local Runs Article on BOS Meeting

I picked up yesterday’s Sunday Daily Local newspaper and was surprised to see that they too were running the story from last week’s Board of Supervisors Meeting.  Blair Meadowcroft’s article from the Main Line Suburban Life appears in the Daily Local newspaper in a slightly different version with a new headline. 

It has now been a week and I’m still fielding phone calls and emails from people, wanting more details about the Pitcairn Properties offer and an explanation of the difference between that offer and the solicitation of Comcast.  As I explained at the supervisors meeting, I believe that conceptually the Pitcairn offer is the same as the supervisor’s solicitation of Comcast and can offer the residents no further explanation.

Although the Trust board members were left with no choice but to accept the Board of Supervisors decision on Pitcarin in 2008; I have to admit several Trust supporters have suggested that the BOS decision might have been different if the public had been made aware of the offer at the time.  However, for the Trust, it is not about going backwards — we accepted and understand that we can not go back to 2008 and recover that offer from Tony Noce, of Pitcarin.  It is about 2010 and about the process and decisions of our Board of Supervisors. 

From my vantage point, questions remain unanswered by the supervisors responsible for the  Tredyffrin Township Supervisors Holiday Firefighters Fund Drive.  Other than bringing public awareness of supervisors Kampf, Lamina and Olson solicitation of companies doing business in the township or under contract negotiations (such as Comcast) what more can be done? 

Tredyffrin official responds to question about fund drive

By BLAIR MEADOWCROFT, Special to the Local News

TREDYFFRIN — Tension mounted at a township supervisors meeting after Pattye Benson, president of the Tredyffrin Historic Preservation Trust, spoke about funding for firefighters.

Her comments came just after the end of the first quarter and the March 31 deadline for collection of the Tredyffrin Supervisors Holiday Firefighter Fund Drive.

Benson said that after budget cuts to township fire companies, three of the seven supervisors worked on the fund drive, which netted $23,200 for the fire companies.

“I voiced my concern about the solicitation by supervisors to companies that could be doing business with the township, and I cited a specific example from May 2008 and the Pitcairn Co,” Benson said.

Benson explained how in 2008 a vice president for Pitcairn Properties had offered an in-kind donation worth as much as $50,000 to the trust. But the trust later learned it could not accept it.

“The idea was that there could be a ‘pay to play’ perception because of a final review of the land development project between the township and Pitcairn,” said Benson. “Warren Kampf was chairman at the time and he was absolute that I could not accept this offer because this company was doing business with the township. I knew nothing about Pitcairn’s planning commission review, yet I could not accept the offer.”

That conflict of interest, Benson said, is similar to the fund drive in that supervisors were doing fundraising for fire companies.

“The very same people who told me I couldn’t accept the offer from Pitcairn were out soliciting money,” said Benson. “The way I see it is the only difference between the Pitcairn/Trust situation and the fire company solicitation is that one was an in-kind offer and the other was a monetary contribution; both could be perceived as benefiting the township.”

Kampf said township Solicitor Thomas Hogan had advised that the donation could not be accepted because Supervisor Judy DiFilippo was on the trust’s board, thereby creating a conflict of interest.

“The difference as I see it between the situations is that we are supervisors who are free as individuals and who are allowed to accept charitable donations,” said Kampf.

“I do not surrender my rights as a private citizen. When I see a problem that I can help with, I will. We went out, asked for help and were able to raise close to $25,000. And people were free to refuse to donate. There were some who refused, and that is fine; we wouldn’t hold that against them.”

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Judy DiFilippo Officially Endorses Ken Buckwalter for 157th State House District’s Republican Primary

For those who follow closely, a couple of days ago, Judy DiFilippo’s endorsement of Ken Buckwalter for the 157 was on Community Matters briefly and then removed.  The confusion has been resolved — here is her endorsement.
____________________________________________________________________

Former Tredyffrin Township supervisor and candidate for the 157 State House District seat herself, Judy DiFilippo has decided to formally endorse Ken Buckwalter of Phoenixville in the Republican Primary.  Below is Judy’s endorsement statement:

The 157th State House District includes Tredyffrin, the Borough of Phoenixville, Schuylkill Township, and 6 precincts located in Lower Providence and West Norriton Townships in Montgomery County.  Two qualified candidates were recommended by the members of the Chester County Republican Committee in this District for our consideration in the Primary Election.  As voters, we must now do our part and choose the person whom we believe will best represent the Republican Party in the General Election and then serve the citizens of the 157th District.
 
This is not a ‘Tredyffrin seat’ nor is it a ‘Phoenixville seat’.  As candidate – and now U.S. Senator – Scott Brown said, “It is the People’s Seat!”  It is my belief that Ken Buckwalter is running for the People’s Seat.  I have observed that he is guided by principles, not politics.  He has shown his ability to garner support from voters across ‘party lines.’ On behalf of taxpayers, he is capable of making tough decisions about budgets and quality of life issues.  Though in the minority, he has worked with his fellow elected officials for the ‘greater good’ of the community.
 
As a small business owner, he has first-hand knowledge of how the economy affects jobs and our families.  In addition, he understands the benefits of volunteer organizations and has been a volunteer himself.  Ken has reached a place in his life where he can devote himself fulltime as a Legislator. All of these attributes deserve our consideration.
 
While each candidate is qualified, after long and careful thought, I have made my choice.  On May 18, 2010 I will cast my vote for Ken Buckwalter in the Republican Primary, the candidate who will represent the 157th District in the People’s Seat.

Judy L. DiFilippo

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Update from Board of Supervisors Meeting

Last night’s Board of Supervisor meeting went very quickly.  A few updates — The newly formed Sidewalk Committee and the Stormwater Committee are both going to meet this month.  On the subject of the Sidewalk Committee, there were a couple of residents who live on Upper Gulph Road (close to N. Wayne Ave.) who spoke about sidewalks on Upper Gulph Rd.  Neither were fans of sidewalks on their street; explaining that their houses are very close to the road, and in one case a sidewalk could come so close as to effect the foundation of their historic house.  The gentleman with the historic home told the supervisors that a sidewalk would come within 5 ft. of his house and that if a sidewalk was planned for his section of Upper Gulph Rd. he would expect that the township purchase his house.  He distributed photos of his house to the supervisors to make his point.  He also mentioned some email circulating in his neighborhood about sidewalks on Upper Gulph and Paul Olson, . . . I didn’t understand that comment or its significance.  Perhaps someone can offer clarification.

Mt. Pleasant was discussed under new business by the supervisors.  In Mimi Gleason’s absence, Assistant Twp Mgr Tom Scott updated on Mt. Pleasant.  He explained that the demolition had started  for the Henry Ave. townhouse development.  It was obvious that Mr. Scott had not visited Mt. Pleasant because as I have previously indicated on Community Matters  all 4 vacant, abandoned houses are now down and rubble removed at the future townhouse site.  Discussion continues on the Mt. Pleasant Ave. vacant lot; Mr. Scott mentioned that the Chester County Health Department has been notified and there will be follow-up with that organization.  On the subject of the student housing ordinance, discussion is ongoing.  Supervisors DiBuonaventuro and Kichline both spoke about the ordinance and encouraged the residents to get involved in that process and to review neighboring municipality ordinances.  Mt. Pleasant residents Donna Shipman and  Christine Johnson both presented personal comments on their neighborhood; and thanked those involved for attending the town hall meeting.  There are positive changes in Mt. Pleasant and I am encouraged. As an aside, following the meeting, Bob Lamina thanked me for posting the photos of Mt. Pleasant; confirming my belief that pictures do speak a 1,000 words.

Another topic of discussion last night . . .  everyone should be aware of the upcoming clean-up Tredyffrin days on April 17 and 18, 9 AM – 3 PM.  I encourage everyone to get involved in your community. We all know that is was a very long, hard winter and major clean-up is required to get our neighborhoods back in order.  Even if you only have an hour or so to spare, please consider helping with this worthwhile community event . . . Tidy Up Tredyffrin Day!

One of the highlights of the Board of Supervisors meeting was brought up by Supervisor DiBuonaventuro.  On behalf of the Parks Board (he serves as the Board liaison) DiBuonaventuro asked Chairman Lamina about furthering the process to have the gazebo at Wilson Farm Park officially named for former supervisor Judy DiFilippo.  Some of you may recall, that upon the opening of Wilson Farm Park, the Parks Board had asked that the Board of Supervisors officially name the gazebo after  Judy for her hard work and dedication in making the park a reality.  At the time, the decision was made not to move forward on the dedication because Judy was a serving supervisor; rather they made the decision to postpone further discussion until the time Judy was no longer a supervisor.  I’m excited to report that the time has come . . . there will be a ceremony to dedicate the gazebo in Judy’s name.  Biased as I am, I am hoping that we can make the dedication in to a very special celebration!

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Tredyffrin's Republican Candidate for State House 157 Withdraws from Race . . . Leaving me with the Question, Where is the Integrity and Honesty in this Township?

I have really struggled for the last 2 days as to how write this post.  On Wedneday night the TTRC held a straw poll which included the State House 157 race.  There were 3 candidates — Judy DiFilippo, Warren Kampf and Ken Buckwalter.  As a result of the straw poll, Judy did not feel that there was support from the Republican committee for her to continue in this race. 

Challenging myself to remain fair and balanced on issues, I feel compelled to speak out on this topic.  Sure, Judy and I have been the best of friends for nearly 20 years, so I openly admit to bias when I say that many Republican committee people of Tredyffrin Township simply ‘got it wrong’ on Wednesday night.  It escapes me why you would not support the person with the highest level of integrity, honesty and commitment of anyone that I know.  Judy is the kind of person who governed with honesty and fairness, as she did for 20 years as a member of the Board of Supervisors.  Judy doesn’t look at issues based on a political slant, or make decisions based on how many votes that she may ‘win’ or ‘lose’.  Judy didn’t just ‘serve’ the township, she was one of us . . . she loves this community and its residents, not because it was her ‘job’ but because she believed in us! 

But instead, many of the township Republican committee people cast their vote for Warren Kampf. Have you not been watching the actions of Mr. Kampf for the last 2 months; his decisions in regards to the BAWG report, the $50K cash offer from St. Davids, the political ‘cardboard check’ for the firefighters rather than restoring funding to the township budget, and then his latest decision . . . casting out policies and procedures of our local government in lieu of  ‘making up the rules’ and setting precedent for special treatment for a  country club. 

I know many of the Republican committee people personally so I am left wondering, when did integrity, honesty and commitment to this community and its voters stop mattering?  With her withdrawal from the race, Judy is no longer a choice for the Republican committee members. Before you take your vote to Chester County Republican Committee meeting on February 20, I would encourage you to seriously review the actions of Mr. Kampf on the Board of Supervisors (particularly during the last 2 months).  After review, I think that you should then look at Republican candidate Ken Buckwalter from Phoenixville.  I had the pleasure of meeting Ken and he represents that same type of commitment to the community as Judy.  He believes in serving all the residents with equal and measured leadership.  I want to see a May primary between current State House Rep  Paul Drucker (D) and Ken Buckwalter (R); they both represent experience, honesty and integrity.

Even as Judy makes the disappointing decision to leave the State House race, she does so with her brand of honesty and truthfulness.  Below is an email sent to her supporters:

Dear Friends –

As many of you know I have been seeking support as a candidate for the 157th State House District.  I am writing to you to let you know that today I have officially withdrawn my name from consideration. 

A straw vote taken last evening showed that the majority of the Republican Committee members have decided to support one of two other candidates.  I have called both of them and wished them well as they endeavor to win a recommendation or an endorsement.

 I want to let you know how much I appreciate the support you gave me through your words of encouragement, by your willingness to allow me to use your name on my letterhead, or by saying, ‘How can I help?’.  

 I know not what the future holds, but I know I have been blessed with your friendship.

With deepest gratitude,

 Judy

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What is a Leader?

As we close out one year, and begin a new one, we all reflect on our lives.  As I watched the last few Board of Supervisor meetings, I reflected on the effect that Judy DiFillipo’s retirement would have on our community.  Having served this township as a supervisor for 20 years, I wrote the following ‘As I See It’ article for this week’s edition of Main Line Suburban Life newspaper to honor Judy and her leadership qualities that benefited the residents for 2 decades.  And as a means of full disclosure, . . . yes, Judy and I very close friends.

For those who do not receive the paper, here is my article:

    As I See It:

    Tredyffrin lost something special with DiFilippo’s departure

Published: Wednesday, January 6, 2010

By Pattye Benson

Year’s end is always a time of reflection. We look back over the last 12 months and take measure of where we are now in relation to where we were when the year began. As we begin 2010, the residents of Tredyffrin Township will have the opportunity to reflect on what will now be a “missing link” in our local leadership.

What makes a good leader? Not everyone is made to be a leader … there are leaders and then there are followers. Leaders come from all walks of life and economic backgrounds and from either gender. Leadership does not discriminate. For the last 20 years Tredyffrin Township was fortunate to have a “leader” in retiring Supervisor Judy DiFilippo. For many in the community, Judy represented what can and should be “good” about serving as an elected official. Whether you watched the Board of Supervisors meetings from home or sat in the audience, she possessed the ability to transform and command respect from others on either side of her.

Judy guided the township in an orderly and purposeful manner, even in situations of discontent and uncertainty in the community. As a supervisor she was tolerant of ambiguity and remained calm, composed and steadfast to the main purpose… to serve the residents of Tredyffrin Township. We all knew that we could trust Judy; she governed as she lived her life, with honesty, integrity and strong internal guiding principles that she did not compromise. Judy “walked the talk” and in doing so earned our respect and the right to have responsibility for this community. Her “calming of the waters” approach to governing reassured us … we just all knew that it would be OK as long as Judy was guiding the ship.

Judy understood the importance of serving a wider community. We may not have always agreed with her decisions but we could be confident that the community’s best interests were at the core of her decisions. As a supervisor Judy could wade through difficult information, comprehend what is relevant, make a well-considered decision and take action based on that decision. Judy believed her purpose as an elected official was to serve all the community and did so with genuine concern for all of the residents. As a leader Judy inspired others to follow. She led yet people did not feel that they were being led. Judy served as a quiet leader without demanding recognition and praise, a quality that is quite rare among many elected officials.

I understand all too well her many attributes; our friendship goes back nearly as long as she served as a township supervisor. For close to 20 years our lives have been intertwined … standing next to each other as members of the Noteables; co-chairing the Tredyffrin 300 celebration as well as many other events for the Tredyffrin Historic Preservation Trust; together producing the historical documentary, “Tredyffrin … The First 300 Years,” etc. For me Judy has been the one constant friend in my life who would listen first, counsel second and never judge my decisions (even if she did not always agree with them). A true sign of a gifted leader (and close friend) is someone who really listens; the fastest and most effective way to show that you care and that you are competent. Many of us are challenged by the concept of listening but not Judy. I envy this natural talent in my friend and just another quality that sets her apart from many in the world of politics.

A good leader is committed to excellence. Second best does not lead to success. Judy not only maintained a high standard for herself but also was proactive in raising the bar in order to achieve excellence in all areas. Just her presence makes those around her want to be better people.

How will we feel that the person who “set the bar” for 20 years, who created the real “gold standard” for Tredyffrin Township, is no longer sitting on the dais? Yes, we know that Judy will stay involved in our community, and yes, I know that she and I will remain the best of friends, but I fear that the residents of Tredyffrin Township lost something very special when Judy DiFilippo decided to retire from the Board of Supervisors.

Pattye Benson lives in Malvern.

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Paoli Business Association names Judy DiFilippo as Citizen of the Year; Barbara Tachovsky as Business Person of the Year; and Beautification Award to Paoli Hospital

Each year the Paoli Business & Professional Association (PBPA) names a Citizen of the Year, Business Person of the Year and Business of the Year.  The PBPA named Tredyffrin Township Supervisor Judy DiFilippo as Citizen  of the Year; Paoli Hospital President Barbara Tachovsky as Business Person of the Year; and Beautification Award to Paoli Hospital.  Below is the Letter to the Editor that I wrote which appears in today’s Main Line Suburban newspaper.

__________________________________________________

Celebrating excellence in the community

To the Editor:
Annually the Paoli Business & Professional Association (PBPA) selects a “Business Person of the Year” and “Citizen of the Year” and gives a “Beautification” award. Some years the PBPA Board of Directors labors over its decisions with much discussion. However, this year the choices were immediate and the vote unanimous. The honorees were recently celebrated at our 2009 Annual Banquet held at the Farmhouse at People’s Light & Theatre in Malvern.

Paoli Hospital president Barbara Tachovsky was chosen Business Person of the Year for providing outstanding leadership for the hospital’s mission, values and goals. Barbara is responsible for developing and implementing the master plan at Paoli Hospital, which includes the five-story patient-care tower, the Pavilion. Under Barbara’s leadership, Paoli Hospital has been named to the list of 100 Best Hospitals in the country. We thank Barbara for her vision for what Paoli Hospital “could be” and then the leadership and ability to make it happen.

The decision in the Citizen of the Year category was equally as easy this year. Retiring at the end of this year from the Tredyffrin Township Board of Supervisors, Supervisor Judy DiFilippo was named the Paoli Business and Professional Association’s selection for Citizen of the Year. Judy is currently serving her fifth four-year term as township supervisor and will retire at the end of 2009, having served 20 years. The best reflection of Judy’s skills lies in her long-term outcomes. With outstanding civic and charitable responsibility, Judy has demonstrated through her leadership a generosity of spirit that embodies the idea that volunteerism and community service must be inclusive for all and can enrich all our lives.

The Paoli Hospital was named our choice for this year’s Beautification Award. The new 259,000-square-foot Pavilion officially opened in July. The Pavilion features 124 private patient rooms, a new Emergency Department, new surgical suites, outside courtyards and a three-story Atrium that connects to the parking garage. From the moment you step inside the doors of the new Pavilion, the interior design creates a calming, peaceful environment through generous use of glass and neutral colors. Over 350 carefully selected pieces of art continue the theme of bringing nature inside and helping create a sense of serenity for visitors and patients alike.

We salute Paoli Hospital for setting a new standard in community hospitals. We salute Barbara and Judy for their vision, leadership and commitment to our community.

Pattye Benson, Board of Directors, Paoli Business & Professional Association

                                                                                                      

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