Mike Heaberg

Monday, January 6: Tredyffrin BOS Organizational Meeting & Public Hearing for Wayne Glen Conditional Use

Tredyffrin Township’s first Board of Supervisors meeting of the 2015 is tomorrow, January 5, 7 PM at the township building. The organization meeting includes the election of chairman and vice chairman of the BOS.   Although an annual election is held for the board’s leadership roles, typically these positions are held for two years.  Mike Heaberg and Kristen Mayock served in the chair and vice chair positions, respectfully, during 2014 – the election will determine if they continue in their current roles for 2015.

Following the 2015 organizational meeting, is the public hearing for the Arcadia/Wayne Glen conditional use application.  At the corner of Old Eagle School and Walker Roads in the Glenhardie section of the township, Arcadia Tredyffrin, LLC is seeking conditional use approval to construct 108 residential units in the R-1 (Residential) District and approximately 240,000 sq. ft. of non-residential building that is currently in the O (Office) District although in the P (Professional) District at the time of application filing. With recommendation from the township’s planning commissioners, the Wayne Glen project has now moved to the Board of Supervisors for their approval.

If history dictates the future, the Wayne Glen development project will have a crowd of local Glenhardie residents in attendance at the meeting. Unlike the widespread community support that developers have enjoyed with the Chesterbrook redevelopment plans, Wayne Glen has seen its share of spirited debate. The issue for the residents close to the proposed development project is how the developer will manage the stormwater situation, as much of this area is prone to regular flooding.  The Wayne Glen project is located in Tredyffrin Township’s Trout Creek Overlay District and the developers believe that their plan will utilize design techniques that will alleviate the erosion along the stream banks and flooding issues and improve the poor water quality.

In addition to the stormwater issues, some residents have expressed concern about the proximity of the Wayne Glen project to the Valley Meeting House cemetery and the possibility that this could be the burial grounds of early Continental Army soldiers. Arcadia’s owner Joe Duckworth is acutely aware of the historic nature of the property. He has hired a history consultant to work with the engineers and plans to use ground-penetrating radar in the development project. Duckworth has experience with burial grounds at the site of the Constitution Center in Philadelphia and is committed to dealing with any historical remains found at Wayne Glen responsibly.

Tredyffrin Twp: Public Works Director Scott Cannon and Finance Director Tim Klarich are out and it’s only February!

Tredyffrin Board of Supervisors held a special board meeting on February 10 to terminate the employment of Public Works Director Scott Cannon.  Stating several acts of misperformance, including two instances of improper disposal of materials on Township property in addition to procurement procedure violations, the supervisors voted unanimously to dismiss Cannon, without public discussion or comment.

Two weeks to the day after the Public Works Director’s termination, the ominous “discussion of personnel action items” appears on the Board of Supervisors agenda. We learned last night that the township’s Finance Director Tim Klarich is the next one out the door.  Without explanation or discussion, the supervisors unanimously voted to accept the resignation of Klarich.

Although the public wasn’t privy to the details of Cannon’s termination, after only a couple of years in the job, I didn’t have a real sense of the pubic work director.  On the other hand, Tim Klarich was Tredyffrin Township Finance Director for nearly 4 years.  I found his analysis and preparation of the yearly township budget detailed and complete and his monthly financial updates to the board unfailingly thorough.  Two township department heads gone in two weeks, there was an  uneasiness with more questions than answers.

During the public comment period at the end of the meeting, I asked several questions and voice concern about Klarich’s abrupt departure from the township. When I received no response to my question as to when Klarich gave his resignation notice, I then asked ‘when’ his last day was.   Board of Supervisor chair Mike Heaberg referred my questions to the solicitor Vince Donohue, who stated that yesterday (Monday) was his last day. Donohue then stated that because it was a personnel matter, there would be no further information. It was obvious to those in the audience that there was more behind the departure of Cannon and then two weeks later Klarich than was publicly provided. I

Falling under the jurisdiction of ‘legal and personnel matters’, it is highly unlikely that we will ever know the details of Cannon or Klarich recent departures from the township. Less than two months in to the New Year and two department heads are already gone — What’s that saying from Shakespeare’s Hamlet, “Something is rotten in Denmark”?  Makes you wonder if there is more house cleaning ahead from the Board of Supervisors.

From the T/E School Board meeting also held last night came the unanimous vote to approve the teachers to approve the new 3-year contract.  Ray Clarke attended the TESD meeting and provides the following personal comments:

  • Dr. Waters actually lead the presentation of the TEEA contract.  A surprise since he rarely speaks.  He addressed many of the questions raised on CM, but with only occasional reference to the data on the slides so it was hard to follow, even for an experienced ear.
  • One of the ways that the impact is minimized is that the caps on column movement are lower than numbers assumed in the budget (but wouldn’t we have budgeted “status quo”?), and that difference is taken as “budgetary savings”
  • Also helping the overall budget is that (my estimates) there has been a redistribution of ~50 staff from the top level to the bottom levels through retirements and replacements.  Dr Waters provided total staff by level which will be handy for those wanting to sanity check the calculated impact.  No further “breakage” going forward is assumed in the impact assessment.
  • It sounded as though the one-time bonus was not included in the baseline numbers.
  • Note that the increased teacher contribution to healthcare premiums averages $74,000 per year – $160 per teacher.  We should not lose sight of the fact that taxpayers fund a very generous benefits package!
  • Outside the contract, I thought that the Committee Chairs gave richer summaries of their recent meetings than we have been used to.  Perhaps that’s wishful thinking, but to be encouraged!

Tredyffrin Township Supervisors fire their Public Works Director, Scott Cannon over Environmental Violations

Last Friday, in the midst of the winter storm power outage, I received a curious email from Tredyffrin Township notifying of a special Board of Supervisors meeting for Monday night. There was only one item listed on the special meeting agenda – ‘personnel matter’.

Rather than attend the scheduled T/E School District Finance meeting, I choose the BOS meeting.  Sitting in the back of Keene Hall was Scott Cannon, Public Works Director along with Hillary Mallory, Parks & Recreation Director and Mimi Gleason, former Township Manager.

After the pledge of allegiance and a brief update on the power outage, BOS Chair Mike Heaberg asked for a motion to terminate the employment of Scott Cannon, Director of Public Works.  John DiBuonaventuro made the motion, Mark Freed seconded it and with a unanimous vote of 6-0 the motion passed – Scott Cannon terminated.

Having only worked for the township for a little over 2 years, why was Scott Cannon terminated?  Following the vote to terminate Cannon’s employment, Heaberg read a prepared statement.

The recommendation for Cannon’s termination was from the township manager Bill Martin.  After an investigation, Martin based his recommendation to terminate Cannon on several acts of misperformance including:

  1. Cannon engaged in conduct and directed vendors and subordinates involving two instances of improper disposal of materials on Township property in a manner prohibited by PA environmental law. (The locations are not accessible by the public, have been identified by DEP, and cannot be identified until the investigation is completed).
  2. In the fourth quarter of 2013, Cannon engaged certain contractors to provide goods/services to the Township in violation of the procurement procedures. In every incident of impropriety, the work was performed at a cost that was appropriate.

Heaberg noted that the township’s existing internal controls and procedures revealed the irregularities and Martin learned of the environmental violations on January 24.  Martin immediately notified Heaberg.  Following meetings with Heaberg, Martin, township solicitor Vince Donohue and members of the Personnel Committee, Cannon was put on paid administrative leave on Monday, January 27.  On that same day, the Police Department conducted a personnel investigation and Donohue contacted DEP and reported environmental violations.  The township is committed to providing complete cooperation to the DEP Bureau of Investigation.

The township’s investigation by the Police Department is ongoing but sufficient information was provided to support Martin’s recommendation to terminate Cannon.  As the investigation developed, Martin suspended Cannon without pay effective February 3 and notified him that he would seek approval from BOS tonight to terminate his employment.

As follow-up to the environmental violations, the township has hired Sovereign Consulting to conduct testing of the affected areas with oversight from DEP.  Further investigation is being done by the DEP and the township police are working with the Chester County Detectives. Additional training is being provided to department heads and the township is reviewing policies and commissioning an internal audit.

As I sat there listening to Heaberg’s press release detailing Cannon’s firing, my minded drifted to the Harry Marrone township scandal in 2005.  Remember – Marrone was the township’s Finance Director and over a period of 3 years stole $75,000.  He was caught when it was discovered that he was using Township checks to pay the property taxes on his Jersey Shore house.  The investigation also revealed that a personal leave of absence taken by Marrone actually had him in the midwest in a Federal penitentiary serving time for tax invasion.  At the time Marrone was arrested, he had worked for the township for over 12 years and was 70 years old.  It should be noted that Marrone did make full restitution to the township.

Cannon’s situation is different – for restitution purposes, how do you put a price tag on environmental violations? I suppose if the DEP fined the Township, there could be a basis for a financial settlement between the Township and Cannon.  The Township hired Cannon in November 2011, when Mimi Gleason was township manager – to my knowledge, since her resignation from Tredyffrin Township, she has never attended a BOS meeting, until tonight.  Cannon was not represented at the BOS meeting by an attorney, did not make a public statement, nor did anyone his behalf.

Obviously, the township needs to immediately find another Public Works Director. This could not come at a worse time with severe winter storms, power outages, downed trees, closed roads and the recent sewer break in Valley Forge Park.  It is my understanding, that following Cannon’s suspension (and now termination) Dean Wilkins, Public Works Foreman is acting director of the department.  With the nor easterner and a foot of snow predicted for Thursday, Wilkins and the township’s public works employees have their work cut out for themselves.  I know that Dean and his guys are up for the challenge – thank you in advance from a grateful resident!

Question Remains as to When Tredyffrin Supervisors will Authorize the Hiring of 2 Budgeted Police Officers

The question for me at last night’s Board of Supervisors meeting was, “When will the township hire the budgeted police officers?”

The $49 K police operations study by ICMA (International City/County Management Association) police has fueled some ongoing debate.  Two of ICMA’s consultants, Leonard Matarese and Paul O’Connell, presented their final report to the supervisors and took their questions at last night’s Board of Supervisors meeting.  Their attendance at the meeting was the result of a less than satisfactory attempt at ‘skyping’ at the December supervisors meeting.

O’Connell detailed the consultant’s findings contained in the police department study, focusing on what ICMA determined was the required staffing requirements for Tredyffrin’s Police Department.  According to O’Connell, under existing Police Department shift arrangements, the following is ICMA’s recommendation for officers:

  • 34 patrol
  • 3 command
  • 1 community policing
  • 2 traffic
  • 3-6 detectives

The consulting report recommends 43-46 officers; a minimum of 43 officers required to maintain the existing level of safety of the community.  If you recall, Police Superintendent Tony Giaimo requested 47 officers at the December 3 BoS meeting and asked that the Board to consider reinstating 47 officers in the 2013 budget.  However, the supervisors approved the budget with 42 officers.

There are currently only 39 police officers (actually there are 40 officers listed on the roster but 1 officer is out on long-term disability) in Tredyffrin’s Police Department.  The supervisors approved the hiring of 2 officers in the 2013 budget so that would bring the officer count up to 42. Although 42 officers are still below the minimum required by ICMA’s study, and below Giaimo’s requested amount of 47 officers, it was my opinion that 42 officers would be a good start to re-staffing the Police Department.

The consultant’s took the opportunity last night to clarify their report, stating that Tredyffrin Township Police Department is “quite lean relative to other departments of this size”.  Supervisor DiBuonaventuro reminded the Board that three years ago, there were 51 officers in the Police Department and encouraged the reinstatement to 47 officers.   Taking the opposing view, Supervisor Heaberg’s approach was to recommend ‘less is more’, believing that a lower crime rate indicates a lesser police requirement.

There was discussion as to ways the Police Department could decrease costs beyond adjusting individual shift coverage, which is included in the collective bargaining agreement.  Supervisor Kichline mentioned that some municipalities are utilizing non-sworn employees for code enforcement, which would reduce costs. Enhanced penalties for chronic false alarm offenders was another way to reduce Police Department expense that was discussed.  The problem is that an officer cannot determine if it is a call is a false alarm until after investigating.

When the opportunity came for citizen questions, I asked the Board when they would authorize the hiring of the two officers included in the budget.  Remember, the addition of two officers still keeps the number in the Department below the minimum requirement contained in the ICMA report and below the number requested by Superintendent Giaimo.  Although the hiring of two officers is in the 2013 budget, there was not a definitive response as to when it might happen.

Kichline reiterated that the arbitration award had not favored the township and as a result, the Police Department expenses were greater.  Bill Martin, the township manager offered that the police health care plan is taking longer than expected to move to the new, less expensive plan. Citizens are asked to participate in a public meeting in March to further discussion the Police Department staffing.

Bottom line, there was no authorization from the supervisors to Superintendent Giaimo for the hiring of the two police officers.  And if last night’s Board of Supervisors meeting is any indication, I don’t expect that authorization to happen anytime soon.

When will Tredyffrin Township hire budgeted police officers?

When will Tredyffrin Township hire budgeted police officers?

Looking for answers, today I met with Tredyffrin Police Superintendent Tony Giaimo. I wanted to understand the search for and selection of police officers. As I explained to Giaimo, applicants for police department positions have contacted me over the last 6-8 months, anxious for a hiring update. I learned much about the police department hiring process and thought it worthwhile to share.

Early in 2012, the Tredyffrin Township Police Department advertised the April 14, 2012 physical assessment and written test date for vacancies in the department.  According to Giaimo, 130+ individuals applied to take the physical and written exam.  In addition to the application form, a physician statement and informed consent form were required.

The physical assessment is judged pass/fail; the written test included multiple-choice questions plus a written narrative.  If a candidate passed the physical exam and received an 80% or higher score on the written exam, they moved to the next step.  All candidates were notified of the test results 2-4 weeks following the April 14th exam.

Of the 130+ applicants, close to 100 individuals passed the physical test and scored 80% or higher on the written part. The next step for the successful applicants was an oral interview by an Oral Interview Board, composed of three police personnel selected by Giaimo. At the time of the interview, applicants were required to provide education transcripts, military discharge papers when applicable, and three reference letters (other than relative and employers). Failure to provide documents at the interview, disqualified applicants from the selection process.  The interviews were conducted between June and August 2012.

Each member of the Oral Interview Board independently scores the oral interviews and those scores are then added to the written exam score. For those applicants that advance to the next step, they receive a polygraph examination. According to Giaimo, the polygraph test is to indicate deception on a pre-determined set of questions.  After the polygraph phase, the top list of 15 candidates is prepared.  The ranking is based on all phases of the test process to this point.  For those 15 candidates, the next step is a background investigation by the Tredyffrin Township Police Department including previous employment, education record, military record, criminal history, credit rating, etc.

The next step is a conditional offer of employment.  Hiring is contingent upon successful completion of psychological and physical examinations and selection by the Police Superintendent. (I believe this part of the examination process takes approximately 4 months.) Once this conditional phase is completed, the cadet serves a two-year probationary period.

At the start, prospective applicants are told that the process takes approximately 6-8 months from the time the exam is taken – in this case, the exam was given on April 14 so if they successfully completed each step, vacancies were to be filled somewhere between October – December, 2012.

I received a call from a father of one of the cadets that is on Tredyffrin Police Department’s ‘short list’ in early January, looking for an update.  I assured him that the township would be hiring 2 police officers shortly.  I was confident giving this response for the following reasons, (1) the police contract was settled; (2) the ICMA consultant’s study (pg. 11) suggested a minimum of 2 additional officers were required to maintain township safety levels and (3) supervisors approved the 2013 budget that included 2 additional police officers (with the possibility of a third officer added sometime during the year).

The focus of my meeting with Superintendent Giaimo was to find out the hiring date of the two police officers.  Remember the cadets were told last April the application process would take approximately 6-8 months; it’s now 10 months!

I could not believe Giaimo’s response today re the hiring of police officers; telling me that he had not been authorized to hire.  What?  That’s right folks. The police contract was signed in December and the 2013 township budget approved (which included the hiring of the two officers) but the Board of Supervisors have not given Giaimo permission to hire the two officers.  Gosh, even pg. 11 of the ICMA police department study indicated the township needed to hire two officers to maintain satisfactory safety levels.

Giaimo assured me that he has the ranked list of candidates ready to go — all he needs is the OK from the BOS to make the offers. If you think that adequate staffing of our Police Department is an important issue, you may want to attend the next BOS meeting on February 11 and offer your opinion.

Kichline & Heaberg defend $49K Police Department study, but don’t address hiring additional police officers

Tredyffrin BOS Chair Michelle Kichline and Vice Chair Mike Heaberg have co-authored an editorial on the township police department with the stated purpose to offer facts, history and perspective. (Click here to read the op-ed).   Appearing in the Main Line Suburban, their response focuses on the recent police-township contract negotiations and the township’s $49K police consultant study. (On a personal note, I would like to thank the supervisors for appropriately using media for their op-ed rather than the township website.)

According to Kichline and Heaberg, the average wages per Tredyffrin Township police officer is $101K in 2013 with an additional $77K annually in healthcare, pension, life insurance benefits for officers and their spouses/dependents.  We know from reading the police contract that retired police officers receive healthcare benefits for life and this is reiterated in the article.  It is important for taxpayers to realize that the Police Department budget accounts for almost 50% of the township’s General Fund budget – for 2013, that cost is $8 million.

According to Kichline and Heaberg, the “BOS attempted to negotiate a termination of some benefits for new police hires only, but when the discussions did not progress, the decision was made to go to arbitration.”  Their explanation differs from the explanation given to me by representatives of the police department.  According to my sources, there was no negotiation but rather the arbitrator for the township took the police contract to arbitration after only one meeting.  After nearly a year, we learned in December that the independent arbitrator’s decision favored the police department.

Regardless if the BOS attempted to negotiate with the police prior to settlement, the township’s cost of arbitration was not included in Kichline and Heaberg’s editorial.  As I previously mentioned in an earlier post, the township paid $83K+ in arbitration costs.  ($14K+ for impartial arbitrator and $$69K for township arbitrators).  The total cost for the arbitration is probably closer to $100K as I only received Ballard Spahr billable hours through 8 October, 2012. (Click here for details)

In the op-ed, Kichline and Heaberg defend the $49K spent on the police department study. I am certain that their decision to depend the consulting contract is a direct result of the presentation (or rather the non-presentation) of the police operations study on December 2.  This was the BOS meeting where the consultant, Dr. Paul O’Connell of ICMA, was unable to attend the meeting and the idea was to ‘Skype” him in electronically from Connecticut.  The Skype attempt failed miserably with the audience and supervisors unable to understand a single word.  It was a hopeless exercise and no one could successfully question the consultant in regards to the police department study.

Apparently, at upcoming BOS meeting on February 11, two consultants from ICMA will be available (in person) to respond to questions concerning their study.  According to Kichline and Heaberg, ICMA “collected an entire years worth of data on each of more than 23,000 calls for service to our Police. This included type of call, time of day, day of week, response time, number of units responding, time on scene, etc. In addition, they collected staffing and schedule information. This allowed them to analyze the police workload, as compared to our police capacity.”

Obviously, supervisors Kichline and Heaberg are entitled to their personal assessment of ICMA’s consulting efforts of Tredyffrin Township’s Police Department.  However, for those that follow Community Matters, you will recall that because I had found ICMA’s presentation so unsettling, I conducted my research on the company.  I discovered that ICMA isn’t well loved in some municipalities, with some communities reporting that they overpaid for a cut and paste job rather than an accurate assessment of their fire or police departments.  (Click here for details).

There was one question that the supervisors and the residents wanted answered by ICMA’s consultant at the December BOS meeting, “What is the minimum staffing level of police officers required to maintain our quality of service” which seemed to escape a response from O’Connell.  In their editorial, Kichline and Heaberg write of their support for ICMA’s police department study yet Kichline commented at the December supervisors meeting that she had read ICMA’s report five times and was still confused as to the number of officers the consultants were recommending.

I am glad that Kichline and Heaberg are committed in their support of the police department, but disappointed that their offer of the “facts, history and perspective” does not address the hiring of additional police officers in Tredyffrin.  The 2013 budget included the hiring of two police officers with the possibility of the hire of a third officer during the year.  Although the recently settled police contract negotiations may not have turned out the way the supervisors wanted, it should not be used as a roadblock to hiring the additional officers.

No Second Term for DiBuonaventuro as Tredyffrin’s Vice Chair

Attending the organizational meeting of Tredyffrin’s Board of Supervisors last night, all I can say is, “What a difference a year makes!” 

Last year with only two years of service as a supervisor (and neither as a vice chair) Michelle Kichline was chosen by her fellow supervisors as chair of Tredyffrin’s Board of Supervisors.  Historically, this leadership position would have gone to the most senior serving member of the Board, John DiBuonaventuro.  Instead, DiBuonaventuro was named second in command, ‘vice chair’, under Kichline, for 2012.

At last night’s 2013 organizational meeting of the Board of Supervisors, Kichline received a vote of confidence from her fellow Board members for a second term as chair.  Then came the vice chair announcement. In what appeared to be a vague cover story, Kichline explained that supervisor DiBuonaventuro had removed his name from consideration as vice chair.  She stated that for the next 2 months, DiBuonaventuro will be attending a canine training certification program and he did not think he had the time for the position.

The position of vice chair on the Board of Supervisors is for the most part ceremonial – I attended every 2012 BOS meeting, and to my knowledge Vice Chair DiBuonaventuro was never ‘acting chair’ in Kichline’s absence. DiBuonaventuro does not have time to serve in the ceremonial position of vice chair on the Board of Supervisors but he does have the time to serve as supervisor.  Interesting.

The supervisors themselves decide the choice of who serves in the leadership roles of chair and vice chair.  With a unanimous vote, Mike Heaberg was selected vice chair for 2013.

2012 proved to be a challenging year for Tredyffrin’s Board of Supervisors and some of their decisions not always popular:

  • C1 zoning ordinance change to permit assisted living (Duffy property in the Daylesford community)
  • 2 Tredyffrin police missing a criminal District Court hearing (due to clerical error)
  • Trout Creek Stormwater Overlay District (Richter property in the Glenhardie neighborhood)
  • Township Manager Mimi Gleason’s resignation and her township consulting contract
  • $49K Police Department consultant’s study
  • Costly arbitration of Police-township collective bargaining agreement
  • $40 Million unfunded retirement liability
  • DiBuonaventuro’s controversial personal letter using township resources which appeared on the township website, resulting in a township ‘communication policy’

Lifetime healthcare benefits of Tredyffrin Township Police Association result in $40M unfunded liability — What’s the Solution?

I attended the public meeting this week to discuss the township’s proposed preliminary 2013 budget.  About 10 residents attended plus township supervisors Michelle Kichline and Mike Heaberg (Heaberg is a member of the Finance Committee) and Acting Township Manager and Finance Director Tim Klarich.

Over the course of two hours, various topics were discussed with Klarich and the two supervisors, providing answers and background on numerous issues.  The townships’ $40 M unfunded medical liability and the open issue on the labor agreement between the township and the police union, Tredyffrin Township Police Association (TTPA) were of particular interest to me.  The ‘elephant in the room’ for the township’s 2013 budget and major obstacle (and the reason for the township’s $40M liability) is the ongoing arbitration with the police contract and their lifetime health benefits.

Since January 2012, the contract between TTPA and Tredyffrin Township has been in arbitration; the 3-year police contract expired the end of 2011. Kichline was quick to point out that both sides want an arbitration decision but unfortunately, for 10+ months, the process has been held captive, waiting for a ruling from independent arbitrator, Michael Zobrak from Aliquippa, PA.  According to PA Department of Labor & Industry website, Zobrak’s fee is $1200 per diem (however, his page was last updated in 2007).  Interesting to note, there is no requirement for the arbitrator to be an attorney — Zobrak’s education background includes BA, Geneva College and M.Ed, U of Pittsburgh.

According to Kichline and Klarich, Zobrak has held meetings with the attorneys representing the township and TTPA.  It was unclear how many meetings have been held and/or how often.  Although I am sure both sides hope that a resolution is forthcoming, there was nothing definitive stated as to when that might happen. For the record, I called Zobrak’s office and left a voice mail – I will update if I receive a response.

The biggest roadblock in collective bargaining contract disputes these days is health care benefits (in addition to salaries). Certainly health care benefits were an important component in the recently settled T/E teacher contract negotiations.  Appreciating the current economic environment, the teachers agreed that their generous healthcare plan of the past was no longer possible, changes were made in their teacher’s contract accordingly.  Considering the healthcare provisions of the former TESD contract, made it even more surprising to learn the details of the health care benefits of TTPA.

If some residents were bothered by the health care benefit package contained in the previous TTEA contract, I think they would be shocked at the level of TTPA health care coverage.  Currently, all Tredyffrin police officers receive free full lifetime health care benefits for themselves and their families after 25 years of service to the township.  At present 52 retired police officers and families, receive full free healthcare in Tredyffrin Township.  In addition there are a number (not sure of the exact count) of currently employed police officers that are in the 25+ years of service who will receive this  lifetime healthcar coverage under the conditions of the existing contract.

The lifetime healthcare benefits of TTPA constitute the township’s $40M unfunded liability.  According to Kichline, the lifetime health care benefits afforded members of TTPA in their current contract, is not found in most other area municipal police contracts. Here was an interesting twist — I assumed that any change to the current health care benefit of TTPA would affect new hires only (similar to what is being discussed in Harrisburg as it relates to the pension situation, where changes would not affect those employees already in the system).  It is possible (however, probably not likely) that the independent arbitrator could change the lifetime healthcare benefits to affect not only new hires, but also include TTPA members already receiving these benefits. As I have previously stated re the state pension, I support changing the benefits for new hires but not for those employees already in the system.  I am of the same opinion that the same should hold true for members of TTPA.  The healthcare benefits should only be changed for new police department hires – however that means the township still has the $40M unfunded liability ‘noose’ around its neck!

We spent much time during the meeting discussing the township’s $40M unfunded liability.  In the proposed 2013 preliminary budget, Klarich has increased funding from $250K to $500K as a way to start to buy down this debt.  A couple of the residents in attendance were advocating for a greater yearly contribution, say $2M annually, as a way of addressing the $40M debt.

Personally, I think there should be a degree of concern that this enormous liability of $40M could have an adverse effect on the township’s current AAA bond rating.  On the other hand, is it reasonable to expect that Moody’s would view the township’s yearly $500K contribution favorably and continue to award the township with its gold star rating?  Remember at $500K/year, it will take the township 80 years to reach that $40M mark.

Knowing that the township has an open issue on the TTPA labor agreement and the $40M unfunded liability, what is the answer?  I get it that we all want to keep the highest level of service in our community and pay nothing additional for those services, but practically speaking that is not possible.  Beginning in 2015, the state is requiring all municipalities to include their unfunded liability in its accounting.

There are few avenues available to the township to handle the staggering debt beyond an increase in our real estate taxes … except for the option to institute an Earned Income Tax.  Unlike the School Board, the township supervisors would not need a voter referendum to institute this tax.  The topic of EIT was brought up at the meeting, there appeared to be little interest in furthering the discussion.  Although not seen as a favorable option by some, shouldn’t there be serious consideration given to an EIT?

How many Tredyffrin residents work in another jurisdiction that has an Earned Income Tax?  If they do, the EIT dollars the Tredyffrin resident pays stays in that jurisdiction because our township does not have an EIT. There has always been much misunderstanding about who would pay an EIT but unearned income, such as Social Security, interest, dividends and pensions are exempt from the tax unlike an increase in property tax which affects all homeowners, whether they are on a fixed income or not.  I have struggled to understand why it is that the supervisors are reticent to consider the option – especially considering that most of our neighbors have an EIT and many of our residents are already paying this tax.  Millions of dollars leave Tredyffrin in EIT payments, helping to subsidize the budgets of neighbor’s budgets.

The proposed 2013 preliminary budget for includes a 5.5% tax increase in addition to a decrease in the police staff. Part of the rationale behind not replacing police staff is that any new hires will come in under the conditions of the last TTPA contract, which includes the lifetime healthcare benefit.  If the arbitrator were to come back with a contract that removes the lifetime healthcare benefit, it would be financially better for the township to wait until after the new contract is signed before hiring new police staff.

Again, no one wants to pay additional taxes but how much longer will it be OK with Tredyffrin residents to see their services reduced in order to balance the township budget?  What happens if the $40M unfunded liability jeopardizes township’s AAA bond rating? And what about capital improvements, ongoing maintenance and infrastructure needs of our community? With residential and commercial real estate transfer revenue way down, what is the funding solution for Tredyffrin …  if it isn’t raising real estate taxes or instituting an EIT?  What’s the answer?

What about the Tredyffrin Township resident who pays EIT to another municipality when it could be helping this community?  How does that resident feel – below are comments from John Petersen, a resident who pays EIT to a neighboring municipality:

Ever since the Tax Study Commission Report of 2006 was released, I’ve called it an intellectually dishonest exercise. I said that and continue to say that because of the factors that were willfully ignored. The unfunded pension liability under discussion was one of those factors. Back then, the unfunded liability was estimated to be around $25MM. As predicted, in a short amount of time, that figure has doubled. I remember Bob Lamina prophetically saying at a BoS meeting that this issue was the most significant one facing the township and the township will have to face up to this impending reality.

I pay an EIT – as do thousands of Tredyffrin residents. I for one am tired of being disenfranchised by this government – a government run by the TTOP proletariat that refuses to discuss an EIT. Not that the points have to be enumerated again, I will do so here:

  • Many pay an EIT already
  • Surrounding governments plan their budgets around the fact that Tredyffrin DOES NOT levy an EIT (read as we subsidize other townships)
  • Had an EIT been levied years ago, part of the unfunded liability could have been paid off
  • An EIT is the only means of providing property tax relief
  • At least one large company (Shire) is leaving Tredyffrin for East Whiteland (that does levy an EIT)

Indeed, there are some who will be adversely affected. Those who live in and work in Tredyffrin. I believe that to be an extreme minority of people. Regardless, the realities of the situation are such where an EIT must be discussed.

I won’t bother getting into who one particular political organization has sucked the oxygen out of the room re: stifling the conversation or how the opposing party has succumbed to fear by adopting the same philosophy re: the EIT.

Bottom line – I pay tax dollars that could make their way to Tredyffrin. The local government is denying that right and in the process, disenfranchising those like me who already pay an EIT.

Maybe at long last, there can be an honest discussion.

Tredyffrin Township’s Proposed 2013 Preliminary Budget Indicates 5.5% Tax Increase

The proposed preliminary 2013 budget was unveiled at Wednesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting to a sparse audience – I didn’t count but there must have been fewer than a dozen residents in the attendance.  As stated in an earlier post, three of the seven members of the Board of Supervisors were absent from the BOS meeting, including Chair Michelle Kichline, Vice Chair John DiBuonaventuro and Phil Donahue.  Supervisor Paul Olson presided over the meeting as acting chair.

Acting Township Manager (and Finance Director) Tim Klarich presented the proposed 2013 preliminary budget, which includes a 5.5% tax increase, from 2.308 to 2.435 mills. Supervisor Mike Heaberg was the only representative from the Finance Committee in attendance at the BOS meeting and assisted Klarich with questions on the proposed preliminary budget.

According to Klarich, the 2013 expenses are slightly lower than the 2013 budget, but 7% higher than the 2012 forecast.  I noted that the 2012 forecast is more than $1M lower than the budget for 2012 due to vacancies and a mild winter.   The proposed 2013 budget indicates that the greatest expense increase next year, at 69%, is in salary and benefits category.  The 2012 budgeted salary and benefits at $11.4 million, however due primarily to unfilled vacancies the forecasted 2012 amount is $10.7 million.  Budgeted for 2013 in salary and benefits is $11.5 million which indicates the 69% increase. Currently there are 13 vacancies in the township, with the township manager vacancy to be filled shortly.  As to how many of the remaining 12 vacancies are to be filled in 2013, I am not certain. In the reviewing the proposed preliminary 2013 budget, it appears that there are police vacancies that will not be filled.

An open issue that I hope will be addressed prior to finalizing the 2013 budget is the results from the police department staffing study.  If you recall, this $49K consulting study was discussed at the June BOS meeting and then approved 6-1 at the July BOS meeting.  The one dissenting supervisor vote  was from John DiBuonaventuro; his non-support of the support of the study was that he thought that the money could be better spent on bringing the staff level in the department up to projected 47 officers (from the current 41 officers as of July 2012) or for police department equipment.  Police Supt Tony Giaimo appeared to supportive but asked that the consultant expedite the study and that the final report take less than 125 days.(Presumably, so that the results would assist in the 2013 budget decisions).  The consulting contract was approved in July, so it would seem that there should be results by this point.

However, based on the response given by Klarich and Supervisor Heaberg at Wednesday’s BOS meeting, it appears that the results will not be public prior to the Nov. 17 BOS meeting, when the final  preliminary 2013 budget is presented.  To be clear, I do not like the idea of paying more taxes (5.5% tax increase proposed) but I am more troubled that this tax increase may not include filling all police department vacancies.

 Is it my imagination or lately does there appear to be an increase in crime (auto, house break-ins, and robberies) in Tredyffrin and some of which have occurred in broad daylight?  So, if this is correct and that there is an increase in crime, how is it that the township can consider decreasing the size of the police department?  If anything, wouldn’t an increase in crime suggest the need for an increase in the police department? I would think that the report from this $49K police department staffing study would be vital to understanding the police department needs so that the BOS can make an informed decision for the 2013 budget.

According to Klarich without a real estate tax increase, the 2013 revenue be flat compared to 2012.  With the proposed 5.5% tax increase, 2013 revenue is 3% higher than 2012. Klarich explained that the four General Fund changes in 2013 are: (1) staffing and compensation; (2) Retiree medical funding; (3) Repair and maintenance funding and (4) Real estate tax increase.

According to the proposed 2013 preliminary budget, some (but not all) of the vacancies will be filled. Again, I am unclear how many vacancies will remain unfilled in 2013 and of those that remain unfilled; exactly how many are in the police department. There is a new health care plan that will save money but as Klarich explained, the new plan cannot be put into place until the police arbitration is completed.  He spoke as if arbitration may be close to resolution but will be it in time for the budget approval – I do not know.  There are raises in the 2013 budget – per contract and merit-based raises and bonuses for non-union staff.  There was no background information provided on the formula for bonuses/merit-based raises.  I would like to understand the criteria for employee bonuses.

Tredyffrin Township’s unfunded liability of retiree medical funding currently stands at $40M; $31M from uniformed retirees and employees and $9M from non-uniformed retirees and eligible employees.  The non-uniformed union has agreed to changes but as Klarich again points out, the police department remains in arbitration so any possible changes that could help in the future are unknown at this time.  Klarich explained that it is recommended that $2M should be budgeted annually to ‘buy down’ the $4M unfunded liability.  In 2012, the budgeted amount was $250K and Klarich has budgeted $500K for 2013. At a rate of $500K per year, it will take the township 80 years to pay off this debit (and that assumes that the unfunded liability does not continue to increase.)

Here are some highlights in the repair and maintenance expense category contained in the proposed 2013 preliminary budget – – an increase of $114,500 for streets drainage.  Considering only $15K was budgeted for street drainage in 2012, this is no doubt an increase that is long overdue.  Building maintenance was budgeted in 2012 at $76K but has been increased by $63,320 in the proposed 2013 budget for a total of $139,320. No details offered  as what is included in the $139K line item, AC/heating system for township building, repair of township building front steps??  I was disappointed to see that the proposed 2013 preliminary budget decreases maintenance in the township parks from $50K to $46,600.  If anything, I think that Wilson Farm Park could use additional funding not less.

Real estate tax generates ½ of the General  Fund revenue.  Real estate tax is based on the assessed value of properties as set by Chester County. Tredyffrin’s tax base was only growing marginally before the recession, due to little development.  Unfortunately, since 2009 the tax base has been declining, primarily based on successful assessment appeals.  Therefore, it stands to reason that without a tax increase, the revenue will continue to decrease.

The proposed 5.5% tax increase for 2013 includes 3.1% increase in funding for the unfunded medical long-term obligations (doubling the $250K contribution budgeted in 2012 to $500K  for 2013 – remember, the current outstanding debt obligation is $40 million!) and 2.4% increased funding for services ( $198K increase).  The proposed 5.5% tax increase equates to a $448K increase in the $16.7M budget.

Following the presentation of the proposed 2013 preliminary budget, residents Carol and Raymond Clarke asked whether there would be public budget workshops, as held in previous years.  There were also questions about a budget summary as former township manager Mimi Gleason prepared in prior years. If you recall, Gleason remained on as a consultant to the township after her resignation, primarily to assist Klarich and the other township department heads with the 2013 budget.  The Clarke’s and other audience members were looking for background and supporting information behind the preliminary budget numbers. Supervisor and Finance Committee member Heaberg suggested that he would be available to discuss the budget with individual citizens.  However, to the credit of Carol Clarke, she requested a public meeting so that all citizens with budget questions could attend.

Kudos to Carol for her follow- up with Heaberg; as a result, a public meeting to discuss the proposed 2013 preliminary budget is scheduled for Tuesday, November 13, 8:30 AM at the township building. If you have questions about the proposed 2013 preliminary budget, you are encouraged to attend.

The timeline for the 2013 township budget is for the BOS to approve the preliminary budget  November 19 and to approve the final budget December 17, with a public hearing on either December 17 or January 2 to adopt the real estate tax increase. I do not recall a public hearing last year, regarding the 2012 tax increase. Someone help me here – was there a public hearing for the tax increase of 2012 and I am simply not recalling it?

In case you forgot, the preliminary budget for 2012 included a 6.9% increase which was ultimately revised downward (and approved) to a 3.5% tax increase.  The township amended the 2012 preliminary budget by reducing professional fees, decreasing funding for IT, department expense reductions and deferring the equivalent of two police officers’ salaries and benefits until July 1, 2012.  Holding off hiring of two police officer’s for 6 months added $127,400 to the overall budget expense reduction.  Unfortunately, it looks like the 2013 budget may also going to include a decrease in the police department staff … stay tuned.

Re Personal Letter on Government Website — Did Tredyffrin Supervisor DiBuonaventuro receive approval from his fellow supervisors?

Did John DiBuonaventuro actually have approval from fellow supervisors before using government resources and government letterhead to post his personal letter of September 5 on the government’s website?  The answer to that question is not entirely clear, and the answer also depends on whom you ask.

As the resident targeted in DiBuonaventuro’s diatribe to the citizens of Tredyffrin Township, I was very interested to read the Main Line Media News article, “Majority of Supervisors may not have approved DiBuonaventuro letter posted to website”.  In the article, Rich Llgenfritz explains that the newspaper filed an open records request with Tredyffrin Township asking for all information pertaining to DiBuonaventuro’s letter on the township website.  However, it is interesting that MLMN only received one record; an email from DiBuonaventuro to Patricia Hoffman, executive secretary for Tredyffrin Township.

I am grateful to Llgenfritz and Main Line Media News for their continued interest in this matter.  If you have followed Community Matters since DiBuonaventuro’s September 5 letter to the citizens appeared on the Tredyffrin Township website, you have read the September 7 email from former Township Manager Mimi Gleason to me. Following the email, there was a conference call on September 14 from Gleason and Police Superintendent Tony Giaimo, with no stated purpose except to continue to harass. (Click here for Community Matters post of September 18 which includes my personal statement and video of the September 17 Board of Supervisors meeting) As a result of DiBuonaventuro’s letter, Gleason’s email and telephone call, I sought legal counsel with attorney Sam Stretton.

One of several troubling unanswered questions in regards to DiBuonaventuro’s personal use of the township website, is did he act alone?  Or, … was there discussion (approval) from the other members of the Board of Supervisors.  In her response to my question on this matter, Gleason stated the following in her email dated September 7:

“ … In answer to your question, it is unusual to post a statement from an individual Supervisor, but given the inaccurate and derogatory statements and innuendo publicly made about John DiBuonaventuro, I decided to approve the posting of the letter on the Township website.  In this case, he was the subject of baseless public speculation simply because he is a Tredyffrin Supervisor.  The circumstances justified the use of the website to publicly defend him, carrying with it the implicit endorsement of the Township to the accuracy of his statements.  The Chairman of the Board of Supervisors and the Township Solicitor agreed that it was appropriate for the letter to go on the website.”

Gleason’s email states that the use of the government’s website by DiBuonaventuro carried with it the “implicit endorsement of the Township”.  She further states that the Chairman [Kichline] and the Township Solicitor [Vince Donohue] agreed the letter was appropriate for the website.  But did Kichline really see the actual letter?  During the conference call with Gleason and Giaimo, Gleason maintained that Kichline had seen the actual letter.  I argued  with Gleason that she was incorrect … that Kichline had personally told me that she did not see the actual letter but that she gave her OK to DiBuonaventuro verbally for the letter on the website, as long as the solicitor Vince Donohue had read and approved it.

Subsequent to DiBuonaventuro’s letter going on the website, there has been no public statement from the other 6 supervisors on this matter, except by Kichline who said that the Board would work on a website policy.  Why the silence from the other supervisors?  Privately, some of the supervisors have told citizens that they never saw the letter and some have stated that they would not have approved of the letter on the government’s website.  Why don’t the supervisors own these opinions in public?  If I was being accused of harming the First Amendment rights of a citizen   (especially one that I was elected to serve) and had not approved (or even seen) the letter in the first place, I certainly would not remain silent.  Are these other supervisors afraid of doing what’s right or are they perhaps afraid of retaliation from DiBuonaventuro … or, the political party they all represent?  Where’s the independent thought?

Going back to Llgenfritz’s MLMN article – the only piece of communication that was provided through the Open Records request, in regards to DiBuonaventuro’s letter on the website, is the following brief email from DiBuonaventuro to Pat Hoffman, executive secretary for the township:

 “Pat, this is a confidential email. This letter has been approved by Michelle and Vince. Please put it on the township letterhead and make three copies for Kristen [Mayock], Michelle and I to review when we get in this morning. We will give you distribution directions once a final review is done. Thanks and see you around 8 or when you get in. JD.  [John DiBuonaventuro]

This email clearly states that the Michelle Kichline, BOS chair approved the letter, but did she?  If Kichline approved DiBuonaventuro’s letter, then that would mean that she lied to me.  And I don’t believe that she lied.  So which is it?

Another interesting thing to note on this email is that there was a private meeting of 3 supervisors – DiBuonaventuro, Kristen Mayock and Kichline.  Why was Mayock involved but none of the other supervisors?  As chair of the BOS, I understand the rationale behind Kichline attending the meeting but it is unclear if she actually attended or not.  Mayock and Kichline are the two attorneys on the Board – was that the reason behind their request to attend this meeting?  And it should also be noted that DiBuonaventuro states in this email, that he has approval from the solicitor Vince Donohue for the letter on the website. Everyone seems to be in agreement that Donohue saw and approved the letter – DiBuonaventuro, Kichline and Gleason all state that Donohue approved the letter.  Interesting that this short email is all that is contained in the files in regards to DiBuonaventuro’s letter.  Just interesting.

Last Friday I posted the letter (click here to read) that my attorney Sam Stetton sent to members of the Board of Supervisors in regards to DiBuonaventuro’s personal letter on government letterhead on the government website.  As follow-up to my posting Stretton’s letter, Llgenfriz had a phone interview with Vince Donohue, the township solicitor.  It was alarming to me to see Donohue discuss the legal situation between myself and the township in the local newspaper.  He furthered stated that he had sent a response to Stretton and that it would be up to me whether or not I made it public.

At last night’s Board of Supervisors meeting, strangely there were three of the seven supervisors missing.  I do not think I have ever been to a BOS meeting where two supervisors were missing, let alone three!  Missing supervisors were Phil Donohue (stated reason for the absence was still recovering from surgery), Chair Michelle Kichline and Vice Chair John DiBuonaventuro — the stated reason for their absence was ‘personal’.

Supervisor Mike Heaberg read a statement in regards to the website policy which suggested that there would be a policy presented at the November 19 Board of Supervisors meeting.  It was unclear whether or not the public would be permitted input into the website policy.  Public input could prove important when you read the response from the township solicitor Vince Donohue to my attorney Sam Stretton below:

November 2, 2012

Samuel C. Stretton, Esquire
301 South High Street
PO Box 3231
West Chester, PA 19381
Re: Tredyffrin Township

The Tredyffrin Township Board of Supervisors is in receipt of your letter dated October 25, 2012.

As an initial observation, I read Supervisor DiBuonaventuro’s letter as a reaction in his official capacity as a Supervisor to Ms. Benson’s blog entries regarding, primarily, Township issues.  This Board does not quash public discussion about Township matters. To the contrary, this Board’s emphasis on transparency and encouragement of public input is evident in all of the initiatives it undertakes.  As to Ms. Benson specifically, I would point out that she actively continues to maintain her blog and participates during the public input portion of the agenda at virtually every Township meeting without censure or objection. Accordingly, neither the contents of the letter nor its posting on the Township website constitute an attempt to suppress, or a breach of, Ms. Benson’s First Amendment rights.

Second, it is important to note that the Board of Supervisors, as an entity, never endorsed nor rejected Supervisor DiBuonaventuro’s letter that was posted on the website.  Accordingly, the Board believes that the issue involving the letter is one between Ms. Benson and Mr. DiBuonaventuro as an individual supervisor.

Nonetheless, this incident has highlighted the need for a policy governing use of the Township website and other Township-managed social media outlets as a means of communication by the Board and by each Supervisor (or group thereof). All seven members of the Board are entirely supportive of the initiative to enact such a policy, which has been under way since mid-September. It was discussed at the last meeting of the Board by chair Kichline.

The primary purposes of the policy will be threefold. First, it will document what the Supervisors already practice: that communications on the Township website, letterhead or other Township-managed social media outlets shall pertain to Township issues.  Second, the policy will ensure that the reader is clear about the source of the communication – i.e., whether the source is an individual Supervisor, the Board as an entity, a subset of Supervisors, etc. Third, the policy will delegate certain communication responsibilities to certain senior Township staff, depending on the nature of the content of the communication (Township Manager, Superintendent of Police, etc.). This policy will cover not only the website, but also Township letterhead and other Township-sponsored social media outlets. The purpose of the policy is not, however, to restrict any Supervisor’s ability to communicate with Township residents on matters each deems appropriate.

Crafting the right policy is not a task to be rushed. The Board is diligently pursuing the finalization of this policy, but intends to be thoughtful in this ongoing process to ensure that the resulting policy addresses existing needs and avoids unintended consequences. The Board intends to complete this process soon and updates will be provided at each Board meeting until it is enacted.

Please do not hesitate to contact me if you would like to discuss. Thank you,

Very Truly Yours,

Vince T. Donohue
Lamb McErlane, PC

Several  things are interesting to note in Donohue’s response.  He speaks of the transparency of the Board of Supervisors.  Based on the issue of DiBuonaventuro’s letter alone, I’d suggest that this Board if far from transparent.  Clearly, we still don’t know who saw the letter or who approved it.  Donohue states that the Board never endorsed nor rejected DiBuonaventuro’s letter on the website, yet Mimi Gleason’s email to me clearly stated that the use of the township website for DiBuonaventuro’s letter, “carried with it the implicit endorsement of the Township”.

Donohue is saying one thing, Gleason is saying another, and I would suggest thirdly, that by using the government letterhead, which has all members of the Board of Supervisors listed looks like compliance to me.  Obviously, if during the last 2 months, any of the other six supervisors had chosen to ‘distance’ themselves from DiBuonaventuro and the letter, that would be different … the problem is that they all “stood by their man”.

Nowhere in the letter does Donohue address the intimidation tactics used in DiBuonaventuro’s letter or Gleason’s email and phone calls towards me.  Donohue however suggests that the Board believes this is a personal matter between DiBuonaventuro and me – two problems with that logic.  First, DiBuonaventuro does not limit his personal attacks to just me, he also goes after the First Amendment rights of the press, specifically Main Line Media News.  Second, if Donohue and the other supervisors view this as some kind of personal matter that DiBuonaventuro has with me and Community Matters, what business does a personal matter have on government letterhead and government website.   How can Donohue claim the contents of DiBuonaventuro’s letter is Township business when the tirade includes my 2009 supervisor race?

Now look at what Donohue claims the township website policy will include –

  1. Document the communications on the Township website, letterhead, social media outlets that pertain to Township issues.
  2. Ensure that the reader is clear about the source of the communication – whether an individual supervisor, the entire board or some subset
  3. Delegate certain communication to Township Manager, Police Superintendent, etc.

Then you have this sentence in Donohue’s letter, “ … The purpose of the policy is not, however, to restrict any Supervisor’s ability to communicate with Township residents on matters each deems appropriate.”  The way I read it, is DiBuonaventuro (or any other supervisor) gets carte blanche to continue to use government website as their personal ‘bully pulpit’ whenever the mood strikes.  Looks like to me, that if you are a supervisor all you need do is label your communication  to the public ‘Township business’ and the website is yours to use.  I guess the policy needs to protect the rights of DiBuonaventuro to use government resources whenever he feels threatened by the local news media or Community Matters.  As a citizen of Tredyffrin Township, I certainly will not find this website acceptable if approved by the Board of Supervisors.

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