Pattye Benson

Community Matters

Reflecting on Radnor Township and Tredyffrin Township Leaders

Over the last year, I have followed Radnor Township’s governmental problems, including how their former Township Manager Dave Bashore ran the township without any real oversight during his eight years of tenure. An outside accounting firm’s audit suggests that Mr. Bashore apparently spent over $600K of township money without documentation or approval. These expenses included an apparent misuse of a township-issued credit card on personal purchases (which were reimbursed by the township). In addition, Mr. Bashore gave himself and other township employees annual bonuses, without approval from the Board of Commissioners.

What can we learn from our neighbors misfortune? As taxpayers, we must trust that our elected officials are acting in our best interest, governing without self-interest, and are mindful that they represent all residents. In today’s Main Line Suburban Life, editor Tom Murray presented interesting comments about the Radnor Township/Dave Bashore situation. Tom includes an email exchange from one of his newspaper writers, Sam Strike. Here is a section of that email:

I think some of the things that come out of this are the importance of things like community participation, governmental checks and balances, the importance of transparency and providing documents, and truly welcoming the opinions and participation of the people.

In democracy the people are at the top, the representatives work for us and the administration works for us via them. That wasn’t the way things seemed to have been run recently.

Read these paragraphs and then think about our own township and our last two Board of Supervisor Meetings. Have Tredyffrin’s elected officials been as transparent as they should? Think about St. Davids Golf Club and the alleged $50K offer. Two meetings ago, I posed questions about St. Davids and no one answered. I knew (or at least had a fairly good idea) the answers to all those questions before I asked them, but I thought it was important that the public heard the questions and then was able to hear the Supervisor responses. Only we didn’t hear any answers that night. Fortunately for all of us, one of the supervisors, Judy DiFilippo, had the courage at this week’s Board meeting to answer those questions and to set the record straight about who had prior knowledge about the offer and which Board members and BAWG members were members of St. Davids Golf Club. But I have to wonder, if I never asked the questions, would the $50K alleged offer from St. Davids Golf Club just have remained in the BAWG report and never been questioned. I guess so.

Continuing with the excerpted comment above, do our elected officials “. . . truly welcome the opinions and participation of the people”? I am still recalling in detail this week’s Board of Supervisor Meeting. As an audience member, I watched as brave souls took their turn to comment on various topics. At times, their comments were greeted with antagonism or dismissiveness. This leads me to wonder, do our elected officials really welcome our participation and involvement in the process? I think some do and some don’t. I think that there may be some Supervisors who are OK with commentary from the community, as long as it agrees with them.

I’d like to make a suggestion to the members of the Board of Supervisors. Perhaps before the next Board Meeting on December 21, you take the opportunity to reflect that it was the voters who elected you to serve them — that is, elected you to serve all the residents. Including those who may have differing opinions. I think that it is perfectly acceptable for our Supervisors to disagree with each other and also to disagree with the residents. However, I don’t think it is OK to do so with a personal agenda or malice.

Remembering the words of John Quincy Adams,

If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.

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  1. Nice column Pattye. Are you hinting at Bob Lamina’s personal attack on the Berwyn Fire Company online today? What is that all about?

  2. Pattye,
    Very well-written column. I do find it disturbing when elected officials support free speech but only to the extent they agree with content. The first amendment was put in place with the explicit purpose of protecting speech, to a broad extent, especially in the political arena. It is interesting that certain politicians would like to shut down debate on issues with which they do not support or do not agree. Allow me to cite an example provided in today’s Suburban by current Tredyffrin Supervisor Bob Lamina, in his own words. Bob invokes the history and tradition associated with our nation’s founding in discussing the fireworks: “In a community so steeped in the history and meaning of Independence Day, the uplifting experience our Fourth of July celebration provides, especially during these challenging times, ought to be supported.” This reference to Independence Day and its importance to our nation warrants some further discussion. Specifically, what are the core values and concepts our founding fathers wanted to instill into America? I would posit that free speech is one of those fundamental rights borne out of the Declaration of Independence, carried through the Revolutionary War and written into the Bill of Rights.

    Apparently the first amendment should only be followed in certain instances according to one of our elected leaders.

    Earlier in Bob’s letter, he looks to shut down debate on the emergency funding issue and even goes so far as to say: “[t]o not have supported the budget even on a preliminary basis, because of disagreement with a single line item, in my view was the fiscal equivalent of taking one’s toys and going home as a means to voice their displeasure.” To the contrary, voicing a viewpoint and sticking to that viewpoint is a right that each member of that Board has and I hope will continue to have.

    He also makes the clear assertion that the comments made by Eamon should not have been made. Why? Because he disagrees with them. And let’s not forget that Eamon is a TREDYFFRIN RESIDENT, as well as a volunteer firefighter with Berwyn.

    The right of all citizens to express their point of view in a public debate is of the utmost importance but seems to be lost on some individuals. It is through public debate that issues can be discussed in a transparent and professional light. And to be clear – I like fireworks, I like emergency services. As has been said a hundred times during these budget debates there is more than one way to get this thing done.

  3. A thought-provoking piece, Pattye. I find myself looking forward to a daily dose of your incisive reporting and commentary. Keep up the good work!

    Your thoughts on the importance of trust in our local officials really hit home with me. After the circus atmosphere of the last two BOS meetings and the conduct of some of our supervisors, my trust in their ability to act in our best interest has declined considerably.

    You excerpted Tom Murray’s editorial about the importance of community participation in local government, the need for checks and balances and transparency, and the fact that we elect people to work on our behalf, not their own.

    I’m afraid that Tredyffrin’s history of one-party control has hampered all of these things.And now given tough choices and tight budgets, the need for open, honest government by people truly interested in serving the community is more important than ever.

    But the reality is that we have people like Bob Lamina whose letter in today’s Suburban shows his disdain for views that differ from his. This has been evident on other occasions over the years, and it’s likely we will be treated to more of it when he takes his seat as chair.

    The fact that Mr. Brazunas was Lamina’s opponent in the 2007 supervisors’ race couldn’t have anything to do with his animus, could it? Or the fact that Eamon has been so effective in representing the fire companies’ struggles.

    And we have public servants like Mr. Kampf whose refusal to answer any questions on the $50k offer from St. David’s showed his disdain for transparency when it’s inconvenient .( Although I think his emotional defense of budget cuts at Monday’s BOS meeting was sincere and not made for campaign purposes.)

    Intimidating citizens, sweeping matters under the rug, making backroom deals, appointing cronies and hand-picked Republicans to boards and commissions – this has been business as usual for many years.

    A person could decide the writing is on the wall and stop paying attention.

    Or try to make a difference and demand the open, responsive government we deserve.

    Let’s hope that Mr. DBuonaventuro and the new additions to the Board will set a higher standard.

    And of course , the community has you, Pattye, seeing through the fog, keeping it real.

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