Tom Hogan

UPDATE: DA Tom Hogan Weighs In … Is it a Get Out of Jail Free Card for Tredyffrin Official? You be the Judge!

9-3-12 UPDATE: District Attorney Tom Hogan Weighs In (See end of post)

There was a troubling news article in last week’s Main Line Media News  about one of Tredyffrin Township’s Zoning Hearing Board members, Suzy Pratowski.  TE Patch, the Daily Local and, then a couple of days ago, the Philadelphia Inquirer, picked up the story.

There are several reasons why I think this story caught people’s attention, me included.  The initial newspaper headline, ‘Zoning hearing board member not guilty after police are a no-show at her trial’, causing some of us a double take.  Zoning hearing board member? Trial? MIA police officers?  What was all of this about? Since when do township police officers not show up at trials?  I cannot believe that this is a regular occurrence … I wonder when the last time was that a police officer did not show up for a scheduled hearing?

Remembering back a few years ago,  I decided to fight a traffic violation in Tredyffrin and showed up at my scheduled time at Judge Blackburn’s courtroom.  The traffic officer who had written my citation arrived on time for the hearing with his 6 in. thick codebook ready to defend his case against me.  Although I was well prepared, (albeit sans an attorney), the police officer’s testimony prevailed – I lost the case and paid my fine.  The point is, my hearing was for a routine traffic violation and the officer involved showed up.  From the newspaper articles, Pratowski’s case is far from routine, and she isn’t just ‘Joe Citizen’ … Suzy Pratowski is a supervisor-appointed member of Tredyffrin’s Zoning Hearing Board.

For those that have not followed the case, Pratowski was arrested in Chesterbrook on May 28, charged on two counts, public drunkenness and disorderly conduct, and issued citations. The situation involved a domestic altercation between Pratowski and her former husband, Jay Ciccarone.  I have read the police reports and the account in the newspaper is accurate with one clarification. When Pratowski arrived to pick up her children at Ciccarone’s house, she was not driving but rather a passenger in a car driven by an unnamed male, a designated driver.  Ciccarone was unwilling to turn the two boys over to Pratowski, citing their custody agreement, which requires that Ms. Pratowski not drink alcohol 10 hours before driving and picking up the children. The police officer determined that Pratowski had been drinking and therefore the children should remain with Ciccarone.

A photo accompanying the Main Line Media newspaper article showed Ms. Pratowski with township supervisor John DiBuonaventuro at a 2011 Devereux charity event.  In reading the article, in conjunction with the accompanying photo, it is possible that a reader could conclude that DiBuonaventuro was the unnamed male driver on May 28.  However, that assumption would be wrong … the police report names a Haverford attorney as the driver, not supervisor DiBuonaventuro.  Pratowski left Ciccarone’s home without the children however, returned later that night on her bicycle and police were again called.  With a PBT (preliminary breath test) reading of .18, the officer cited Pratowski with public drunkenness, disorderly conduct and returned her home in a police car.

Two years earlier, in June 2010, during a vehicle stop, Pratowski was charged with DUI, having received a PBT reading of .127.  Pratowski’s two children were in the vehicle at the time and although initially charged with child endangerment, that charge was later dropped. Pratowski pleaded guilty to the DUI.  In reading the police report from 2010, I noted that situation also involved Pratowski’s former husband Jay Ciccarone.  Concerned for his children’s wellbeing, it was Ciccarone who called the police which ultimately resulted in Pratowski’s DUI arrest. The recent May 2012 incident was Pratowski’s second involving alcohol — a second offense that could have had grave consequences for Pratowski legally.

Although the charges against Pratowski were significant, it remains a real mystery as to why the police officers involved were no-shows at her hearing.  Not just one police officer but two officers failed to show up.  How is this possible? According to the Main Line Media News article, “Tredyffrin police Lt. Taro Landis said the officer who was supposed to show up in court that day was on another call at the time.”  The police department explained the absent police officer as an ‘oversight’.  Considering this was a second offense for this defendant, I do question why the police officer would have another call at the time. No mention as to why the other police officer was also MIA for the hearing.

In the Philadelphia Inquirer follow-up article, Tredyffrin Police Chief Tony Giaimo cited a ‘clerical error’ on the part of the officers as to the reason they did not show up at Pratowski’s trial.  He further stated that the officers were disciplined but offered no details.  OK, I’m confused … if it was a clerical error, why would the police officers need to be disciplined?  And where exactly did the clerical error occur; within the police department, the District Court … the police officer’s Blackberry schedule?

It needs to be stated that the police officers involved in Pratowski’s May 28 arrest were not rookie cops. Allen Dori, is a 10-yr. veteran in the Tredyffrin police department and Daniel McFadden, a 20-year veteran and a certified crime scene investigator.  Coincidentally just a couple of days before the Main Line Media story first appeared on August 24, both Dori and McFadden were promoted at the August 20 Board of Supervisors meeting. Police officer Dori was promoted from patrol officer to corporal and McFadden promoted from patrol officer to detective.  Based on their experience and background, these two police officers do not strike me as individuals who would miss an important hearing because of a clerical error!

So let me understand this correctly, if there is a clerical error and the arresting police officer (or in this case, two police officers) does not show up at the hearing, the case is simply dismissed.  Does this mean that the records of the case are expunged?  When a clerical error occurs, am I to understand that there is no such thing as the rescheduling of the hearing.  Magically, the problem is solved and the defendant receives a ‘pass’. Wow … amazing! Based on the remarks that Police Chief Giaimo gave to the Philadelphia Inquirer, it appears that the matter is closed, but should it be?  .

In addition to process questions surrounding this incident, we are left with the open issue about Pratowski’s suitability to serve on the township’s Zoning Hearing Board.  Appeals for relief from decisions of the Zoning Officer and/or requirements in the zoning Ordinance are handled by the ZHB. Unlike other boards and commissions in the township, the ZHB is a quasi-judicial body whose decisions are not subject to the approval of the supervisors. I am thinking that Pratowski’s guilty verdict for DUI in June 2010 should have warranted her dismissal from the ZHB.  For those of you wondering what the grounds are for removal from the ZHB, the following is from the PA Municipal Planning Code that governs the ZHB in our municipality:

Article IX – Zoning Hearing Board and other Administrative Proceedings

Section 905. Removal of Members. Any board member may be removed for malfeasance, misfeasance or nonfeasance in office or for other just cause by a majority vote of the governing body which appointed the member, taken after the member has received 15 days’ advance notice of the intent to take such a vote. A hearing shall be held in connection with the vote if the member shall request it in writing.

Reading the section titled ‘Removal of Members’, it would appear that Pratowski should be removed from the ZHB. Pratowski occupies the seat on the Zoning Hearing Board once held by John Petersen.  As a former ZHB member, a supervisor and an attorney, I asked him for his comments —

I was very sad to hear about Suzy’s troubles. I’ve known her to be a good person and I sincerely hope that she gets to a point, for the benefit of her and her children,  where portions of her life are not being played out in the paper. In most cases, this would be a private matter. Back in 2005 when I was appointed to fill  vacancy on the BOS, I left the ZHB and had recommended Suzy to take my place. I was happy to do so then as she was qualified and has done a good job. However, as a former member of the governing body and the ZHB, I also have to consider the consequences of actions that place confidence in our public institutions at risk. Serving is a privilege, not a right. Given the history here, I have to wonder why Suzy was not removed from the ZHB back in 2010. These latest incidents only serve to add to growing list of questions concerning the integrity of our local government. It’s even worse when there is no confidence in the police, who at various times, holds, albeit brief, a decisive role in a person’s individual freedom. Between township staff, elected officials, certain boards and appointees or the dealings of those appointees and the police, nothing appears to be working correctly in Tredyffrin Township. I  actually fear our government and police as they don’t act in the citizens’ best interest.

As to the “clerical error”, as a lawyer, I find that to be hard to believe. It’s a rather generic answer – one that the Inquirer should have followed up on with this simple question: “What was the error?” The workings between the district courts, the County and the various police departments are actually quite efficient. If this was a clerical error, then it was an error that was of the same proportion of that single bullet on that fateful day on November 22, 1963. There would have had to have been errors in Judge Sondergaard’s office as well as the administration in the police department and other people. Did other Tredyffrin Police manage to show up that day for other cases, or the day prior or after? Why this case? Why this person? When was the last time this sort of thing happened? Maybe it’s a common practice? But for Suzy’s private issues and the fact that she is a public official did this one come to light? Again, it’s about the appearance of impropriety.

Nobody has mentioned this yet, but I think it is fair game for DA Tom Hogan to make an inquiry here. As I see it, a full and open investigation is the only way the matter can get cleared up. We’ve already had a major scandal with former chief Chambers. And not too long before Chambers, chief Harkness was dismissed amidst a cloud of allegations the subject of which are/were part of a confidentiality agreement.  Between that, alleged civil rights violations and other things – it’s not been a good time for the police or the government as a whole.

For longer than I care to remember, too many bad acts. In many ways, we’ve not progressed beyond Harry Marrone. Too many questions. This really goes to the honor and integrity of people. What I’ve been seeing lately is a lot of inaction and indecisiveness from township leadership. Again I ask – when is it going to stop? When are the adults going to take charge? When can people have confidence that their government and police will treat all people fairly and equally instead of calling person’s political affiliations out as just being a “Data point?” Anybody else, with these players involved, and I doubt seriously that there would be a “Clerical error.”  And when they don’t treat people fairly and equally, will those same governmental actors ever be held accountable? Candidly, I was not a fan of Giamo’s promotion – given the recent history. Has nothing to do with Tony as a person or his qualifications. It has everything to do with the integrity of the institution and the confidence that public has in that institution. Sometimes, you just have to bring people in from the outside. I believe had we had truly shaken things up, there would not have been a “Clerical error.” One simply cannot look past the fact that Suzy was at a time, a TTRC member, dating a supervisor and of course, is a member of the ZHB. Anybody who cites those factors as being irrelevant is simply being willfully naïve.  I lost my political mentor John Waldeyer in 2005. He was a good man and a great steward of good and honorable political values. He always said to me that the most important thing in politics and service is to be identified with good government. Everything else takes care of itself.  A lot of people forgot those words. I’ve never forgotten them. John would be absolutely ashamed of what we see today. And if he were around today, we would not see the crap we’ve seen for the last 7 years.  People around here have long forgotten what good government is. No government is perfect, but it can still be good nevertheless. John exercised discipline. John was an adult.

Finally, a personal plea to Suzy – if you have not done so, offer up your resignation. Doing so would mark the first time in a very long time a public official did the right thing in the face of adversity.

 Do Tredyffrin Township residents really need another St. Davids sidewalk saga or a ‘big check’ moment — remember the fire funding spectacle with cameras rolling? As Carla Zambelli, fellow blogger and friend, wrote on Chester County Ramblings in her post , “enough Tredyffrin. enough”   … “Tredyffrin needs to get its house in order and stop sounding and acting like a Shakespearian tragedy meets a made for TV movie on Lifetime.”   Carla does have a way with words, just wish in this case, she wasn’t right.

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9-3-12 UPDATE:  District Attorney Tom Hogan Weighs In

I sent an email to District Attorney Tom Hogan, asking if this situation constitutes an investigation by his office.  The DA called and we had a lengthy discussion on this matter.  It is with his permission that I can offer this update.  According to the Hogan, there has been an investigation and review.  Police Chief Tony Giaimo conducted an internal department investigation and then asked for an outside review from the District Attorney’s office on the ‘clerical error’ matter.  According to the internal police report, there were scheduling issues and the two police officers were not notified of Suzy Pratowski’s hearing date.  The DA also reported that Pratowski’s former husband Jay Cicarrone was also not notified of the hearing date.  Pratowski and her attorney were the only ones to receive notification.

Hogan also offered that because of township supervisor John DiBuonaventuro’s relationship with Pratowski (and questions concerning his possible involvement), the police as part of the investigation interviewed DiBuonaventuro.  The police department determined that DiBuonaventuro was not involved in the situation. The internal investigation determined that a clerical error as the reason that the two officers missed the hearing.  The District Attorney’s office reviewed the police department findings and was satisfied by the report.

I asked the DA how often does  a clerical error occur that police officers miss a scheduled hearing. Although Hogan said that it does happen, he did say it was not common in Tredyffrin Township.  I let our District Attorney know that many of us were troubled by the appearance of this situation.  For the record, the District Attorney’s office has no jurisdiction over Pratowski’s continued membership on Tredyffrin’s Zoning Hearing Board – the appointment and removal of ZHB members is a Board of Supervisors matter.

There was discussion of the ‘not guilty’ verdict for Pratowsk, given that the two police officers and Cicarrone did not attend the hearing.  I will defer the legal explanation of the judicial process to John Petersen, who also spoke with Tom Hogan. Here are John’s comments:

I had an opportunity to speak to DA Tom Hogan on the matter. Normally, jeopardy does not attach in a case like this until the first witness is sworn – when the trier of fact (the judge in this case) has begun his journey of fact finding. This is all about protecting a defendant’s 5th amendment rights to due process, and specifically, a defendant’s right to not be tried more than once for the same crime. In this case, the judge had 3 options (really only two legitimate options in my opinion). The first is to find the defendant not guilty and close the case. This would NOT have been appropriate in my opinion because the prosecution was not present due to what has been regarded as an honest clerical error. How could a judge weigh facts that were not presented? The big problem with this option – jeopardy attaches. To review, in this case, not only did the police not show up, but the judge took the one choice that assured this matter went away forever.

The other two options were to 1 – dismiss without prejudice – giving leave to the police to re file the charges or 2 – to simply continue the trial. It seems to me the one that was most prudent in this case was to simply order a continuance. That would have remediated the clerical error and it would not have resulted in any constitutionally protected rights of the defendant being violated.  Dismissing the case would have required the police to re-file charges – which would have resulted in additional time and expense.

Apparently, Judge Rita Arnold, another DJ, successfully quashed a citation against her son. In her case, she was suspended for 30 days. She’s back on the bench. As for her son, he gets off scot free.  If you are thinking it pays to have connections you are right. I have been told there is a strong likelihood of a memo going out to DJ’s that gives better guidance on when it’s appropriate to make a determination on guilt vs. a dismissal vs. a continuance. It’s a bit concerning that guidance has to be given on this. Shouldn’t judges know better? The DJ system is broken and this reinforces my opinion that DJ’s need to be lawyers. This often surprises folks that DJ’s don’t need to be lawyers.

My conclusion on this – we’ll likely never know what really happened here.  I have to ask whether a regular, non-connected person would be as lucky? The answer is absolutely not. Justice was not served here. And yet again, a connected person caught breaks that non-connected people don’t get. I am left with no other conclusion that this particular defendant was helped by many people with influence. How and why do I conclude that? Because there are no facts to suggest otherwise.

I have no faith in any aspect of our local government, it’s people and it’s ability to do the right thing.

Tweets by @WillistownPD Help Alert Public of Paoli Bank Robbery

By this point, many of you are probably aware that TD Bank in Paoli was robbed this past Tuesday afternoon and the robber escaped with an undisclosed amount of cash. Although located on Lancaster Avenue in Paoli, the bank is actually in Willistown Township, across from Good Samaritan Church.  As an interesting aside, this was the first day on the job for newly elected Chester County District Attorney Tom Hogan.

An interesting twist to the bank robbery is how social media played into the story.  The robber escaped but almost immediately, a photo of the suspect and details were released through a social media account, on Twitter.  The Willistown Township Police Department set up a Twitter account  @WillistownPD  this past October.  As a result, they were able to tweet a photo of the suspect with the following message, “If anyone recognizes or has information on the subject in the photo please contact Willistown Police at 610-251-0222”. 

Although I believe the suspect is still ‘at large’, this application of a social media tool helped to alert the public of the incident and of the danger of the suspect on the run.  Local police departments, like Willistown, are starting to use various social-networking tools like Facebook and Twitter to not only communicate with local residents, but also track down criminals and missing persons.  Although social media tools should not be viewed as taking the place of old-fashioned police work, it certainly is a great asset in criminal investigations.  However, aside from helping to solve crimes, Twitter and Facebook function as an outreach and communication tool for police departments to keep residents informed.  Outreach efforts help build trust among residents in a similar way that beat cops walking the streets and getting to know people does.

Some police departments are being even more proactive, are reaching beyond announcements and informational use of social media, and are now using Facebook and other social media sites to detect illegal activity.  Often users are not very discriminating when it comes to posting information on these sites, and law enforcement agencies are within their right to use this information to investigate crimes, solicit tips and otherwise engage the community. Police have noticed that individuals share a tremendous amount of personal data over social-networking sites.  In addition, it is not unusual for suspects to brag about their crimes and how they ‘got away with it’ and the best place for them to brag about themselves is on social networking sites.

Of course, there is always the other side of the argument of the use of proactive social media by police departments.  Critics of police patrolling Facebook and Twitter for tips say it is an invasion of privacy and goes too far.  A quick search on Facebook indicates that our country’s FBI has a very active page:  http://www.facebook.com/FBI — which gives every indication that the linkage of social media and law enforcement is our future.

I could not find any evidence of a Twitter account for Tredyffrin Township Police Department.  A Facebook page has been set up for the Tredyffrin Police Department but it is not an active site. Tredyffrin Township has a Facebook and Twitter account but maybe dedicated social media sites for our police department, like Willistown Township Police Department, would be a good idea.

Election Day 2011 is over . . . Looks like much will remain the same!

Election Day 2011 has now passed and the ‘unofficial’ results are in. The full results for all races can be found at the Chester County website, www.chesco.org. In reviewing the results, all incumbents prevailed in the supervisor and school board races. Other than Karen Cruickshank’s re-election as school board director, it was a clean sweep for the Republicans for the T/E School Board and Board of Supervisors.

SCHOOL DIRECTOR TREDYFFRIN EASTTOWN REGION I
VOTE NOT MORE THAN 2
JAMES D BRUCE (REP) . . . . . . . 1,443     25.33
TARA G LA FIURA (REP) . . . . . . 1,336     23.46
KAREN CRUICKSHANK (DEM) 1,635    28.70
JERRY HENIGE (DEM) . . . . . . . 1,280      22.47
WRITE-IN. . . . . . . . . . . 2 .04

SCHOOL DIRECTOR TREDYFFRIN EASTTOWN REGION II
VOTE NOT MORE THAN 2
ELIZABETH A MERCOGLIANO (REP). . 2,416      25.71
KRIS GRAHAM (REP). . . . . . . .                2,428     25.84
JENNIFER LIGHTMAN WESSELS (DEM) . . .   2,322        24.71
SCOTT DORSEY (DEM) . . . . . . .                 2,229         23.72
WRITE-IN. . . . . . . . . . . 1 .01

SCHOOL DIRECTOR TREDYFFRIN EASTTOWN REGION III
VOTE NOT MORE THAN 1
PETER MOTEL (REP). . . . . . . . 1,256     61.51
CRAIG A LEWIS (DEM) . . . . . . 785       38.44
WRITE-IN. . . . . . . . . . . 1 .05

Karen Cruickshank (D, Jim Bruce (R) and Pete Motel (R) were re-elected for TESD Region 1 and Liz Mercogliano (R) and Kris Graham (R) were elected for TESD Region II. In Region III, incumbent Pete Motel won by a significant margin against his opponent. If you recall from the school board debate, the candidate who made personal attacks was Craig Lewis against Pete Motel. Maybe this win indicates that voters from Easttown did not appreciate Mr. Lewis tactics. Cruickshank is currently serving as president of the school board and her win reflects a vote of confidence from the voters on her performance.

Looking at Mercogliano’s win, I am reminded that neither she nor Tara LaFiura participated in the League of Women Voters debate. If I had been a betting person, I would have thought that would have harmed her chances of winning. But she was only 12 votes behind the winner Kris Graham who did participate in the debate.

Here are the unofficial results from the Tredyffrin supervisor races:

TOWNSHIP SUPERVISOR AT-LARGE TREDYFFRIN TOWNSHIP
VOTE NOT MORE THAN 2
MICHAEL C HEABERG (REP). . . . . . 4,020    27.09
KRISTEN KIRK MAYOCK (REP) . . . . 4,042    27.24
MOLLY DUFFY (DEM). . . . . . . .               3,636       24.50
F MICHAEL MURPH WYSOCKI (DEM). 3,137       21.14
WRITE-IN. . . . . . . . . . . 4 .03

DISTRICT SUPERVISOR 1ST DISTRICT TREDYFFRIN 1ST DISTRICT
VOTE NOT MORE THAN 1
PAUL W OLSON (REP) . . . . . . . 1,331      50.21
VICTORIA SNYDER (DEM) . . . . . . 1,318      49.72
WRITE-IN. . . . . . . . . . . 2 .08

DISTRICT SUPERVISOR 3RD DISTRICT TREDYFFRIN 3RD DISTRICT
VOTE NOT MORE THAN 1
JOHN JD DIBUONAVENTURO (REP) . . . . 1,616    98.54
WRITE-IN. . . . . . . . . . . 24 1.46

Incumbent Mike Heaberg (R) was re-elected along with Kristen Mayock (R). Only 22 votes separated those two spots. Unopposed in the race, JD DiBuonavnturo (R) was re-elected for District 3. In District 1, Paul Olson (R) will retain his seat on the Board of Supervisors. Tory Snyder (D) gave Olson a real run and came within 13 votes of unseating him.

Based on these results, Tredyffrin’s Board of Supervisors will continue as an all-Republican board. Mayock’s election to the Board adds a third woman – it has been awhile since we had that dynamic. Personally I’m looking forward to that new element and what that will mean for the residents.

In an upset, Jeremy Blackburn (R) was unseated by Analisa Sondergaard (D) as District Judge. I was one of those who believed that our District Judge should be an attorney so I am very supportive of Sondergaard’s win in this election.

MAGISTERIAL DISTRICT JUDGE DISTRICT 15-4-01
VOTE NOT MORE THAN 1
JEREMY M BLACKBURN (REP) . . . . .   1,847   48.36
ANALISA SONDERGAARD (DEM) . . . . . 1,971    51.61
WRITE-IN. . . . . . . . . . . 1 .03

In the Chester County District Attorney race, I am pleased that Tom Hogan (R) won this race and will serve the county as our new DA.

DISTRICT ATTORNEY
VOTE NOT MORE THAN 1
TOM HOGAN (REP) . . . . . . . .  45,036   60.07
SAMUEL C STRETTON (DEM). . . . . . 29,826   39.78
WRITE-IN. . . . . . . . . . . 106 .14

In the County Commissioner race, the three incumbents, Ryan Costello (R), Terence Farrell (R) and Kathy Cozzone (D) were all re-elected to another term as Commissioners.

COUNTY COMMISSIONER
VOTE NOT MORE THAN 2
RYAN A COSTELLO (REP) . . . . . . 42,232      29.40
TERENCE FARRELL (REP) . . . . . . 40,629    28.29
KATHI COZZONE (DEM) . . . . . . .    31,933     22.23
SUSAN BAYNE (DEM). . . . . . . .  28,736      20.01
WRITE-IN. . . . . . . . . . . 111 .08

To all the candidates, thank you for all the time and energy spent over these last few months with your campaigns.  To our newly elected officials, the community thanks you and remain hopeful that you will stand behind the campaign promises that you made to the residents.

Yesterday I visited several precincts and spoke to many people.  There was a constant theme in our discussions; I learned that many people in this community were deeply troubled by the campaign rhetoric of the political parties.  They spoke of the infamous yellow signs, the negative campaign mailers and of the robo-calls.  I actually had several people say that they almost stayed home in protest and knew that would not help with the message.  Regardless if you are the winning side or not, please know that the tactics during this campaign season was not what many in the community want.  I hope that in the aftermath of Election Day 2011, the local Republican and Democratic party will take the time to reflect on their campaign strategies for the future.

Sidewalks on Tredyffrin’s Supervisors Meeting Agenda: Translation . . . Does St. Davids Golf Club Build its Sidewalks?

The agenda for tonight’s supervisors meeting in Tredyffrin will include a presentation by PennDOT and the PA Turnpike regarding the start of 202 construction and the Rt. 29 slip ramp construction. The slip ramp construction got underway last week so I look forward to a review of the time for that project and for 202.

The agenda lists the scheduling of two public hearings, (1) an ordinance to create new regulations for historic preservation and (2) to consider amendments to sidewalk requirements in subdivision and land development plans.

Members of the township HARB and Planning Commission have worked on creating an ordinance to protect historic properties in the township for two years.  In reviewing my HARB minutes, there was discussion as early as March 2009 recognizing the need.  Much discussion and many joint meetings has taken place between HARB, Planning Commission and township staff.  I am thrilled to see the work of many community volunteers now move forward.

Scheduling of the other public hearing – amendments to sidewalk ordinance.  It’s fascinating that 16 months post-BAWG report and St. Davids Golf Club, the mention of sidewalks in Tredyffrin reminds us of the open St. Davids sidewalk issue.  Recalling the history, the land development agreement between St. Davids Golf Club and the township requires the building of sidewalks.  Rather than enforce the land development requirement, the supervisors decided last year to create a sidewalk subcommittee to examine the needs and interest in sidewalks in Tredyffrin. 

Fast forward to April 2011 and where does the township stand on sidewalks and the open issues surrounding the land development agreement with St. Davids Golf Club to build sidewalks?  Last month, the sidewalk subcommittee presented their results, which included an overwhelming resident interest in sidewalks, trails and bike paths in the township.  The sidewalks subcommittee confirmed the Green Routes Network plan included sidewalks at St. Davids Golf Club.  The results of last month’s public hearing to consider changing final land development authority from the Planning Commission to the Board of Supervisors included a supervisors vote for the Planning Commission to retain this authority.  So where does the township stand on St. Davids Golf Club sidewalk requirement?  What really has changed in the last 16 months?  

This morning, I was copied on a public email from John Petersen to township solicitor Tom Hogan (which also copied the Board of Supervisors and Mimi Gleason) inquiring on the “status of St. Davids”.  Petersen’s email included the following:

“ . . . St. David’s has always had the obligation to build the sidewalks. At best, over the past year, there has been a forbearance on that obligation. It would appear that the status quo is firmly in place. By that, I mean that the sidewalk plan as promulgated in the master plan is still in effect. Second, the PC [Planning Commission] has retained full land development authority. That said, the St. David’s obligation was always in place. i.e., it was pre-existing contract. Therefore, no matter what was done on a prospective basis, it would have no effect on the St. David’s obligation. The same conclusion would have applied a year ago. . . St. David’s has two choices. 1 – build the sidewalks per their land development obligation. 2 – pay the township the full cost to build the sidewalks as per the land development obligation . . . So again I ask, what is the BOS going to do?”

I am curious to see if the elephant in the room (St. Davids land development agreement) is discussed at the supervisors meeting tonight.  As much as some people would like the sidewalk issue at St. Davids Golf to just ‘go away’, unless there is a decision, the issue remains open.  Will our elected officials enforce the land development agreement with St. Davids and require the sidewalks to be built . . . ?   As Petersen says, “. . . What is the BOS going to do?” 

The community needs closure on the St. Davids sidewalk issue; will that happen at tonight’s supervisors meeting? Stay tuned.

It’s Official . . . Asst DA Pat Carmody Will Not Challenge Tom Hogan for Chester County District Attorney

Following last month’s Chester County Republican Convention, there was much speculation whether Assistant DA Pat Carmody would challenge endorsed Republican candidate Tom Hogan for District Attorney in the May primary.  Today, in an email to friends and supporters, Carmody made his decision public; he will not challenge Hogan.  Here’s an excerpt from the Carmody’s email:

” . . . Although disappointed I will not be your District Attorney, I have decided not to challenge Tom Hogan, the endorsed candidate. I have been loyal to the DA’s office, the Republican Party and the people of this county for many years. I look forward to continuing to work at the Chester County District Attorney’s office as part of a team working with the police fighting for crime victims. I will fully support Tom and all the other candidates in the upcoming primary and fall elections. We have an excellent group of candidates and it was an honor to be part of the process with them and to interact with all of you. . . “

I have spoken with Pat Carmody several times and had the pleasure of meeting him at the Republican Convention.  Chester County residents have been lucky to him in the District Attorney’s office for the last 27 years.   He’s one of the ‘good guys’ and I wish him well! 

Republican DA Candidate Tom Hogan to have Democratic Opposition . . . Attorney Sam Stretton throws his hat in the race!

As of today, the recently endorsed Republican district attorney Tom Hogan has himself a challenger for the county DA position.  At Saturday’s Chester County Democratic Convention, West Chester attorney Sam Stretton was endorsed as their party’s district attorney candidate. He will oppose Tom Hogan for the district attorney position.

What do we know about Sam Sretton?  We know that he has been practicing law in Pennsylvania for 35 years and has his own law practice in West Chester.  Stretton handles many trials in Philadelphia and the surrounding area but his primary office is located in Chester County.  According to his website, his practice emphasizes trail and appellate work at the state and federal levels, juvenile law, criminal law, judicial and attorney disciplinary proceedings, election law and first amendment cases. There is some other interesting local news about Stretton, showing his penchant for community activism.

If you are like me, and have followed the ongoing saga of the Barnes Foundation, you may have noticed that the art gallery is back in the news.  Hoping to turn around the 2004 decision to move the Barnes Foundation from Merion to Philadelphia, a petition was filed this week with the Montgomery County Orphan’s Court Judge Stanley Ott.  Representing the ‘Friends of the Barnes Foundation’ is the newly endorsed Democratic district attorney candidate, Sam Stretton.  Stretton seeks to examine information that was unavailable to Judge Ott during the 2003-04 hearings.  He claims that there are indications of misconduct on the part of the then PA Attorney General Michael Fisher.  The details of Stretton’s petition can be found in the Friends of the Barnes Foundation press release.

The Chester County district attorney race just became more interesting. A few days ago, I was thinking that Republican candidate Tom Hogan would not have any opposition.  The Chester County Democratic Convention changed that scenario today.

Chester County GOP Convention . . . District Attorney Race – Steve Kelly Withdraws, Tom Hogan Endorsed but . . . is Pat Carmody remaining a candidate?

Attending the Chester County GOP endorsement convention last night was a four-hour marathon event.  The evening started at 7 PM and was filled with political tradition, excitement, predictions, disappointment and for some of us . . . a night of waiting.

With 391 committee members voting (or holding proxy votes), the convention endorsement process required a candidate to receive 60 percent of the total votes or 235 votes.  If after one round of voting, a candidate did not receive a minimum of 60 percent of the votes, there was a second round of voting.  On the occasion that the second round did not net a candidate at least 235 votes, a third round of voting was required.  If a candidate did not emerge with the required 60 percent on the third round of voting, both candidates received ‘recommended’ status versus ‘endorsed’ and the Republican candidate would be determined by the voters in the May primary.

For those of us in the spectator seats (only the voting committee members of the county GOP were permitted beyond a certain point) there was an opportunity to speak with the candidates. Fortunately for me, Congressman Joe Pitts campaign manager was sitting close by and she provided a wealth of information on the candidates and an explanation of the endorsement process.  I liken my attending the convention, much as a spectator at a sporting event, when you have never played the sport and do not know the rules and regulations.  It was great to have an expert explaining the ‘plays’ throughout the night!

My interest in attending the GOP convention last night, extended beyond idle fascination.  I felt like I had a ‘horse in the race’ so to speak and for me the evening centered on the district attorney race.  I have written about the DA candidates, Pat Carmody, Tom Hogan and Steve Kelly.  Although I know Hogan and consider him a friend, I have had email and telephone contact with Carmody and Kelly.  Having had several phone conversations with Pat Carmody, I was delighted to put a ‘face to the voice’.  Friendly and engaging, it is easy to see how Carmody has successfully served in the district attorney office for 27 years! As expected, Kelly withdrew his name from the nomination process and his support (and the suggestion that his supporters do likewise) went to DA candidate Hogan. 

The district attorney race was the last race of the night.  Remembering that after the straw polls, only two votes separated Carmody and Hogan (Carmody led by the 2 votes) the committee members cast their votes for DA.  First round, the vote count was Carmody 165; Hogan 224. Neither candidate had received the necessary 60 percent vote; a second round of voting was required.  At this point, it was late in the evening – after 10:30 PM.  Two of the committee members had left the building (and apparently did not leave their proxy) so the committee members voting dropped to 389 (versus the original 391).  However, the 60 percent number of votes required for endorsement remained the same at 235.  After a second round of voting in the DA race, the count shifted — Carmody 127; Hogan 255.  Hogan had passed the required 60 percent vote margin and emerged the endorsed Republican District Attorney candidate.  Although Hogan is the GOP endorsed DA candidate, there was speculation among the spectators that Carmody may remain in the district attorney race. 

In other races, there was no surprise that the two endorsed County Commissioner candidates are Terrence Farrell and Ryan Costello.  If you recall, Costello was recently appointed to fill the unexpired term of Carol Aichele.   The Common Pleas Judge race was interesting.  Candidates Jeff Sommer and  Ann Marie Wheatcraft were both recommended after three rounds of very close voting.  However, so as not to confuse voters at the primary, Jeff Sommer withdrew his name, and by a special vote, Wheatcraft was named the endorsed candidate; thus avoiding any confusion in May.  The other Common Pleas judge candidate endorsed was Mark Tunnell. 

Creating a look right out of the Wild West with straw cowboy hats and red t-shirts were supporters of Sheriff Carolyn “Bunny” Welsh.  Without party opposition, Welsh was endorsed for re-election as Chester County sheriff.

I want to thank the Chester County GOP for allowing the public the opportunity for an inside look at county politics. Several people asked if I would be attending the county Democratic convention on Saturday.  My reply, only if there are any contested races. (I do not think any of the races are contested.)

Although the district attorney’s race was my primary motivation for attending the county GOP endorsement convention last night, the evening provided a glimpse in to political party tradition and a front row seat for the candidate endorsement process. Thank you for the experience Chester County Republican Committee.

Chester County DA Race . . . Steve Kelly to Withdraw, & then there were 2!

As a follow-up to my recent post concerning the Chester County DA race — Steve Kelly has notified all the Republican committee members via email that he will be withdrawing his name from the nomination process tomorrow night at the convention.

A true gentlemen, Kelly had kind words for both of the remaining candidates, Pat Carmody and Tom Hogan, including ” . . . I know that each shares a great passion in seeking justice for victims in our community.  Yours is not an easy decision. . . “

Kelly goes on to explain his long association and friendship with Carmody and the decision to go public with his support was difficult.  However, in the end, Kelly says, ” . . . as a committeeman, an Area Chair and as a career prosecutor, I know I have a duty that transcends my personal life – a duty to see that the best leader takes the helm in the DA’s Office. Consequently, I would urge you to support Tom Hogan. . . “

The District Attorney race just got more interesting . . . will Kelly’s supporters give their vote to Hogan?  Would those votes be enough for Hogan to get the needed 60% for endorsement?  Has Carmody managed to change some minds of committee people since the straw polls?  Will either candidate stay in the race without party endorsement?

I think that there are around 400 committee votes at stake and pre-Kelly’s withdrawing, only 2 votes separating Carmody and Hogan. 

Political Notes . . . Brazunas Will Not Run in 2011; Chester County Republican Convention Tomorrow – District Attorney Race

A couple of noteworthy political items . . .

There has been speculation as to whether Eamon Brazunas would be throwing his hat in the campaign ring again for the Tredyffrin’s Board of Supervisors.  Eamon emailed friends and supporters today with his decision not to run in the 2011 supervisor’s race.  Here is an excerpt from the email:

“After careful consideration I have decided not to seek election to the Board of Supervisors this year. Therefore, I will not be running in the 2011 election cycle. While it has been a goal of mine to serve the residents in Tredyffrin on the Board, I will be taking this year to fully appreciate the first year of Stella’s life. 

I will continue to work with my fellow colleagues in the fire service and with the Board of Supervisors in both Tredyffrin and Easttown to improve the Fire/EMS services in our community. We have made significant progress with communications publicly at Township meetings, established a communications network to link Fire/EMS/Police and other stakeholders and made strides towards a long-term funding solution. There is more work to be done and I will continue to contribute in this area, which I have devoted much time to over the past 13 years.”

In December, Eamon and his wife Ali became first-time parents to daughter Stella Nicola. I think we would all agree that this is a very special time in the Brazunas family and should be enjoyed!  I appreciate that Eamon was a supervisor candidate in the past and that he recently participated as a candidate for the interim supervisor vacancy. The entire community appreciates his continued service as a Berwyn volunteer firefighter!

On another political note . . . tomorrow is the Chester County Republican Convention and I will be attending.  A couple of years ago, I attended the convention to support Judy DiFilippo when she was running for the State House and was interested in the process. 

If you recall, over the last several weeks, I have written about Chester County’s district attorney race.  The race is very close for Republican candidates Pat Carmody, Tom Hogan and Steve Kelly. After the county straw polls, Carmody was ahead of Hogan, but only by two votes and Kelly was in third place.  Based on my experience, the straw polls may (or may not) be an indicator of the voting at the convention. 

To avoid a primary race between Republican candidates would require that one of these three candidates receive 60% of the votes cast at the convention.  If committee members are unable to attend the convention, they need to give their proxy vote to someone to attend in their absence.  Good news is that the weather tomorrow should not be a factor to keep anyone home.  All the votes are important and could be the deciding factor in whose name will appear on the May primary ballot.

Although it was my understanding that the Republican Convention was open to the public, I did call ahead to double-check that Community Matters would be welcomed.  I received a very friendly welcoming response to my inquiry from Maria at the Chester County Republican Headquarters; and I look forward to attending (and following the DA race!)

Chester County Commission Political Buzz

Gosh, things are buzzing at the Chester County Commission this week! There was the application deadline for the interim County Commissioner position vacated by Carol Aichele, who left for a job in Gov. Corbett’s administration. The deadline was Monday, January 30 at 12 noon – but at the close of business on Friday, there were zero applications received at the Common Pleas Court of Judges. 

An article appeared in the Sunday edition of the Daily Local advertising the fact that there were no applications.  Apparently, the notice did the trick and created a last-minute crush of interest!  By the 12 noon deadline on Monday, there were 39 applications received for the vacancy!  Upon review, six were removed from consideration because the applicants were Democrats and the appointment will go to a Republican.  Although the judges hope to shorten the list, it looks like the interview process is going to be quite the undertaking!

Another item out of the County Commissioner’s Office. . . there is some unsettling news circulating about Republican Commissioner Terrance Farrell’s re-election campaign. This past November, he held a kick-off fundraiser, “A Pint of Chester County” for his campaign.  The emailed invitation encouraged recipients to become sponsors with a suggested donation range of $250 – $2,500.  When I received Farrell’s invitation, I found it curious that I was on his email list. Never having donated to Farrell and not knowing how they had my address, I emailed Farrell’s campaign but never received a response.

Today, I learned that my receiving Farrell’s email invitation was not an anomaly and some people are none too pleased, including State Sen. Andy Dinniman (D-Chester).  Farrell’s fundraising email invitation was sent to government and personal email addresses, including Sen. Dinniman. Farrell emailed the fundraiser invitation to Sen. Dinniman’s district office. 

Senator Dinniman’s staff sent Mr. Farrell’s campaign a letter stating that he was allowed to send political mail to a state senate office.  Dinniman reported that his office received complaints by at least three other individuals, all Democrats complaining that Farrell had sent them the fundraising invitation to personal email accounts. Farrell’s response to accusations of misusing emails for his re-election campaign —  he was just keeping his constituents informed.  Whoops!

Things are really getting interesting for county races . . . from DA candidates to the Common Pleas Judge candidates and now the news about the County Commissioner candidates.  It will be curious how the hyperbole plays out at the County Republican Convention on February 15.

Speaking of politics . . . so, you think you know where you stand, politically speakingThink again.  A friend sent me this short test and the results may surprise and give you food for thought.  You will be asked just 10 questions, and it instantly tells you where you stand politically.

The results will show your position as a red dot on a “political map” so you will see exactly where you score.  The most interesting thing about the quiz is that it beyond the Democrat, Republican, and Independent.

The Quiz has gotten a lot of praise . . . The Washington Post said it has “gained respect as a valid measure of a person’s political leanings.”  The Fraser Institute said it’s a “fast, fun and accurate assessment of a person’s overall political views”.  Suite University said it is the “most concise and accurate
political quiz out there.”

I took the test and was not surprised to score a ‘Centrist’ label for my efforts.  According to the Quiz website, . . . “a Centrist prefer a ‘middle ground’ regarding government control of the economy and personal behavior. Depending on the issue, they sometimes favor government intervention and sometimes support individual freedom of choice. Centrists pride themselves on keeping an open mind, tend to oppose “political extremes,” and emphasize what they describe as “practical” solutions to problems”.

Take the Quiz — it’s fun and will not take you more than 5 min. It would be great if you would share your results!  Here is the link for the Quiz:
http://www.theadvocates.org/quiz

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