At the January 3 meeting, township supervisor Bob Lamina formally announced a board vacancy. Interested residents were invited to submit their resumes to the township manager by January 10. The process for appointing a new supervisor as explained by Lamina was that the candidates would be interviewed by the supervisors and then a vote and appointment would take place at the February 7 Board of Supervisors meeting.
This process appeared to be straightforward to me. As you know, I called the township manager and received the names of the five individuals that had submitted resumes. I contacted the candidates and asked for their resumes, bio, etc. Three of the candidates (John Bravacos, Eamon Brazunas, and Kristen Mayock) supplied the information to me and the other two candidates (Mike Heaberg, Joe Muir) choose not to provide the information. In lieu of a resume from these two candidates, I provided a short bio.
What a difference a day makes! After numerous calls, emails, etc. I now understand that Pennsylvania’s Sunshine Act complicates what appeared to be a simple, straightforward process to interview the interim supervisor candidates. Under the Sunshine Law, the selection of a replacement supervisor is required to proceed in a fashion that is substantially different from what would likely be the case in a non-municipal setting.
At the beginning of each township supervisor meeting, the chair of the Board of Supervisors announces the topics that were discussed in Executive Session. There are only three topics that qualify for private discussion (for purposes of reaching a decision) by the supervisors. Those three, that qualify under certain circumstances for Executive Session consideration involve: 1) certain legal related items; 2) certain real estate acquisition related items; and 3) certain personnel related items. The twist with #3 (and the reason that interviewing supervisor candidates does not qualify) is that a township supervisor is not an employee, from the standpoint of qualifying as a ‘personnel type’ that may qualify for executive session activity. In other words, the whole process, including the interviews for a replacement interim supervisor, is required by the Sunshine Act to occur in advertised public meetings.
If you are interested in further information, here is a link to the Sunshine Act, http://www.openrecordspa.org/sunshine.html A statement to consider from the Open Records website, “Open meetings are the basis for positive discussions between citizens and their elected officials. Government decisions should not be made in secret.”
So what does all this mean for the selection of an interim supervisor for Tredyffrin . . . ? It seems clear to me that the Sunshine Act requires public agencies to hold open meetings, provides for behind-closed-doors executive sessions in certain cases but specifically prohibits ones “involving the appointment or selection of any person to fill a vacancy in any elected office.” There is a regularly scheduled Board of Supervisors meeting on Monday, January 24 where the interview process of prospective interim supervisor candidates could take place. Since all Board of Supervisors meetings are advertised, I am guessing there would be no additional advertising (or expense) to the township. On the other hand, if I understand the Sunshine Act correctly, a Special Supervisors Meeting could be scheduled (and advertised) for interviewing the candidates.
However, the clock is ticking . . . so I suppose that the township manager, solicitor and Board of Supervisors are working on the next step to schedule the interview date for the five candidates. Again, remember you can still submit your resumes through Monday, January 10 to the township manager, Mimi Gleason at firstname.lastname@example.org. Having received emails/phone calls for me to encourage her, I am going to have another conversation with Judy DiFilippo and see if I can convince her to submit her resume to fill the interim supervisor position.