Pattye Benson

Community Matters

Police Chief Andy Chambers Tenders Resignation While on Suspension

At last night’s Board of Supervisors meeting, we learned that Police Chief Andy Chambers would resign from the Tredyffrin Twp Police Department, effective December 20, 2011.

Chairman Bob Lamina read a prepared statement that indicated that Chambers made this personal decision to resign while serving a four-day suspension. Last week, the supervisors had suspended Chambers for allowing his 16-year old son to drive a township police car, and his failure to report the incident to the Board of Supervisors. The son was involved in an accident with the township vehicle but Chambers had taken responsibility for all associated costs (towing, repair, etc.) and the car is back in service.

As I have previously stated, and do so again – Andy Chambers is a good guy. Did he have a momentary lapse in judgment? Yes. But now, unfortunately he feels that the price for his mistake is resignation. I do not think that Chambers was under any pressure from the supervisors to resign. As far as the supervisors were concerned, the four-day suspension had settled the matter for supervisors.

I cannot imagine how difficult the last couple of weeks have been for Andy Chambers and his family. We all make mistakes in our lives but most live with the consequences privately. Chief Chambers’ mistake became public and the public scrutiny of his actions, no doubt painful for him and his family. As Lamina read in his statement, Chambers decided that his retirement was the right thing to do for the Tredyffrin police department and for the community. I am guessing that Chief Chambers’ suspension served as an opportunity for personal reflection on he concluded the decision to leave the police department was the right answer for him and his family.

I thank Chief Chambers for his 30 years of service to the community; and offer him best wishes for the future. And, for the record . . . in my book, you still are a ‘good guy’.

In other news from the supervisors meeting, the township budget was approved for 2012. Originally, the budget contained a 6.9% millage tax increase for 2012 but in the final budget, the supervisors lessened the increase to 3.5% millage tax increase. The final budget increase was shaved by reducing professional services and by reducing police hours. The 2012 township budget passed with a 6-1 vote. EJ Richter was the only supervisor to vote against the budget, stating that she was opposed to any tax increase.

The Board of Supervisors meeting marked the final supervisors meeting for Chairman Bob Lamina. After serving 13 years on the Board, Lamina did not seek re-election in the last election and will complete his term at the end of December. Several former supervisors attended last night’s meeting including John Shimrak, Judy DiFilippo, Paul Drucker and John Bravacos. Former and current supervisors joined members of the public and township staff at a reception following the meeting to thank Lamina for his years of service to the community.

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  1. Now we understand.

    NO TAX INCREASE (a campaign centerpiece, talking point and bludgeon) means a 3.5% tax increase in the curious world of Republican newspeak.

    HOLD THE LINE ON TAXES means a reduction in services to the citizens of the township by reducing police hours (I guess that our police were just sitting around playing tictactoe with all those extra hours anyway.)

    1. NO TAX INCREASE (a campaign centerpiece

      I know this is a common rallying cry for those whose candidates lost (and even some losing candidates) but I will ask as I have in the past for someone to prove this statement.

      Not a single one of the Supervisor candidates I saw this year claimed it. What they did claim was they would fight to keep property taxes stable. Considering that in three year’s our tax increase was 3.5% and (not knowing what Radnor and Easttown have done for the upcoming year, theirs are already 16 and 20%) I think that goal has been accomplished.

      The only Supervisor I know of who said they would vote against tax increases is EJ Richter, and she did that this year, as she promised.

      The fact is, our supervisors know these are tough times and have worked hard to keep taxes in check to help residents. They have done that and they have NOT ever promised no tax increase…despite what their opponents say,

      Also, for those who say they are doing it by cutting too deep or some other negative means, that is wholly opinion. The voters just spoke and reiterated their support for the current fiscal management technique, so apparently the majority opinion is not that.

  2. It’s sad to see Andy leave. He has been a dedicated employee of the Township. The Township has lost some very good people that had well over 20 years with them and it is very sad. The Township seems to do all that they can to push people out the door after many years of service. This is the way the world is with employees and no longer take into consideration of the dedication and knowledge, only the dollars in payroll. I’m not saying that he was right but as Patty said ” we all make mistakes ” , remember nobody is perfect. I wish you luck in your retirement and thanks for your dedication.

  3. At least Andy had the wisdom, apparently lacking in the apologist BOS and many CM commentors, to realize that the interests of the TTPD will be better served by his retirement.

  4. The underlying incident here, while much publicized and unfortunate, is really a bit of a throw-away. In the scheme of things, it amounts to nothing. What father would have acted differently?

    We in Tredyffrin have lost a fine public servant today. Perhaps, if as a community we had tempered our response, that needn’t have been the case.

    For those of you that howled for blood, you got it. Hope you’re satisfied.

    Best of luck to Chief Chambers in all his future endeavors.

  5. Anon’s critical response to this is typical of the finger pointing that goes on around here. I guess we’ll hope that we can find a singularly perfect person to take the job if Anon doesn’t apply. Andy survived a wretched period under the previous chief — and as I said earlier — how embarrassed he must have been — was really too hard to stay with this. Recall that when I said embarrassed, the response was basically duh….and he should be thrashed. Well Good Work. Now perhaps we will start to understand why when some people criticize others, they don’t get a civil response because it’s not about correcting mistakes, it’s about paying for them. Now we can pay for this decision by having to start the search again….

    For the record, I don’t think Andy had any other choice. We don’t have pillories and stocks, but he was living in one,. And how ironic in this township where parents lawyer up for their kids at a moment’s notice and a previous solicitor represented a family that had a huge party with alcohol and tried to get the arrest suppressed….only public figures are responsible for their actions. How hard it must be to work here — and see the minions of short-cuts our citizens take in life and know that no humanity will be tolerated in our paid people. After all — remember that horrible budget presentation with math errors — and how quietly we addressed it to get it right.

    Merry Christmas.

  6. A well-run municipality has accountable public officials who operate with transparency and keep the community’s best interests in mind in all their decisions.

    Clearly, in this case, as in a number of others over the years, those standards have not been met.

    Whatever the facts – and if Chief Chambers was operating a separate business on township time, that is totally unacceptable – the loss of our police chief is sad and disruptive.

    Sad because he served us well for 30 years, and given the circumstances of his leaving, will probably never serve in law enforcement again.

    Disruptive bc the police force has no doubt been negatively affected by the way the initial incident was handled and the apparent resentment by some in the department that rules were not followed. And as Township Reader suggests, now the Township will need to spend significant time searching for a new police chief who is an outsider – even though a well-qualified TT police officer should be given consideration as next in line.

    It’s way too easy to comment critically when doing so anonymously and to demand a pound of flesh for what amounted to a momentary lapse of good judgment. And it seems likely that the anonymous letter made public in the Patch, the news coverage in local and regional papers, and of course all the “thoughtful” commentary contributed to the Chief’s decision.

    This township has lost its finance manager, public works manager, head of library operations and now its police chief – all within a relatively short amount of time. Budget cuts will delay the hiring of two open police positions, the purchase of two police cars, and the implementation of IT improvements the township needs.

    As troubling are some of the comments made by sitting supervisors at Monday’s BOS meeting about future spending.

    * Ideologically opposed to any tax increase – for any reason – ever, E.J. Richter voted against a modest $17 a year increase. (A word comes to mind, but I’ll hold my tongue.)
    * Michele Kichline’s critical comments on the 2012 budget focused on one line item – the cost of benefits for the township’s union employees, with a promise to go after them as part of contract negotiations.
    * Mike Heaberg suggested that township residents need to decide which services they “don’t need” in order to further cut future expenses.

    Get the message? Our elected officials are not interested in “Which services do residents want and what are they willing to pay for?” Because they’re not going to give serious consideration to what many have to say.

    Their focus is: “How much can we cut the budget by cutting the township workforce, cutting department expenditures – even if they improve efficiency and service delivery – and even cutting back on essential services residents want and expect?”

    This is not a mindset geared to improving Tredyffrin’s quality of life, attracting new business to our township, and attracting families looking for the best schools and the highest QOL. It is a government small enough to fit in a bathtub perspective.

    And when it comes to hiring a chief of police, I’ll bet dollars to donuts, the focus will be on $$ over qualifications.

    1. Kate

      Many thanks for the careful analysis. You prompt a couple of thoughts.

      I think it unlikely that Andy’s decision was in any way influenced by any media coverage or internet commentary, subsequent to the first report of the cover up. On balance, it seemed to me that most were supportive. His concern may just have been the difficulty of recovering his leadership of the department and the relative attraction of the pension and outside business interests.

      It is indeed concerning that there has been such a turnover in department leadership, but the reasons are sufficiently different that it’s not clear that the losses reflect problems with leadership. On the upside, I am hopeful that fresh faces will bring new ways of looking at, and dealing with, the township’s issues.

      Re Michelle’s comments, I think it is entirely appropriate to focus on expenses that are increasing at a time when taxpayers’ income (with which those expenses must be paid) is flat. There is a direct trade-off between benefits (and salary) increases and those two police department jobs. I’ve mentioned Germany here before. That economy does well because its labor market institutions encourage employers to cut hours not workers. All the German adjustment to the recent recession fell on average hours worked; contrast the US where two thirds of the adjustment fell on employment. There is nothing (vested interests aside) that stops our local government entities and unions introducing similar flexibility into their relationships. I am very concerned that there is no sign of any move in the new township contracts to adjust to private sector realities. Perhaps we can be pleasantly surprised.

      Although you quote Mike’s unfortunate choice of words and express doubt about the prospects for a process that encourages citizen engagement, I prefer to see the glass half full. At least our new generation of Supervisors is active and states a willingness to listen. Hopefully if we all show some interest and creativity we can in fact sort this all out.

      1. After the discussion above, I watched the 12/19 BOS meeting online – the Supervisors’ comments start at 00:44:30 when the roll is called on the ’12 Budget.

        Ms. Kichline mentions the costs of benefits, an issue for virtually every state and local government government across the nation – not to “go after” the unions but to acknowledge that this large, growing expense is part of a negotiated contract.

        Nowhere did I hear Mr. Heaberg refer to services they “don’t need”. He called for a “full community discussion of the priorities” and said they will “invite the public’s input as to the choices we are going to make”.

        I agree with Ray – “At least our new generation of Supervisors is active and states a willingness to listen.” The Board held Budget workshops and discussed the Budget at 3 or 4 televised BOS meetings – they asked for citizen questions or comments repeatedly.

        Merry Christmas!

    2. You are right Kate, Kichline pointed out this line item — not because of some attack against the unions, but because it is one of the primary (if not the primary) cost drivers for the township. Anything else is nibbling around the edges and, I suspect like you feel, the BOS knows they have gone pretty much as far as they can go with other avenues of savings.

      That said, these benefits are wholly out-of-line with the real world and it is time for some changes to bring them closer to the real world. The simple fact is that our current economy has (finally) brought this issues to the forefront in many taxpayers’ minds and, perhaps, provided an opportunity for fair and reasonable changes to occur, though other efforts in other townships and school districts to make reasonable changes are met with hostility and hyperbole by the union leadership.

  7. Ray
    The difficulty in cutting hours and not positions is the benefits — the one outsized piece of compensation that does not rise and fall with anything but bodies. If you work here, we will pay.

    The fact that the teachers have a $19,000 plan pales with the police, who get their benefits paid after retirement. That little nugget was put in place in a Lamina contract deal when labor peace came at any price. And it was the last contract where some here complained about going to aribtration and wasting money that validated the inability for the BOS to truly negotiate anything — because they get what they have.

    How do you ask people who have some thing to understand how out of balance it all is? As Kate says — we are a community with a very tiny budget — so despite a $17 increase, it’s called an increase and people complain about it. I truly do not know how we can reach a level of comfort with going forward. I think Mike H said the same thing you are saying but reversed it — what do we want to pay for is pretty much the same thing as “what don’t we need?” — because if the primary goal is to avoid any increases, we have to abandon something, because it doesn’t seem we have a way to pay less (benefits, retirement) .

    Question: What is the reference to “running a business” for Chief Chambers? I’m obviously missing a piece here.

  8. TR – yes, you are missing an important piece, but thanks for repeatedly spouting off and setting us straight without having all of the facts.

  9. GTF — I believe I am asking for the facts.

    And I haven’t set anyone straight — only bemoaned the tone of this community and the apparent need to demonize people. I wonder why anyone would work here or run for office — the scrutiny alone isn’t worth it.

    So — if I am missing an important piece — perhaps you would not mind sharing your information. Or has all this happened on pretense of a 16 year old driving a car and his father not reporting a subsequent accident?

    1. Kate,

      Just read the anonymous letter on Patch which is the first time it’s been available to the public. I think most residents haven’t seen it yet.

      Yes it DOES make reference to Andy’s conducting his business on township time and being absent when he should have been on duty. This to me is definitely grounds for dismissal; moreso than allowing his son to drive a cruiser.

      My confidence in Andy has been shattered; I can”t believe he would do that. as I, for one, thought he’d make a great chief after the Harkness affair. Now ? …

      I trust the BoS will make the correct decision on the hiring of our new chief.

      1. Libby –do you know what kind of business, and whether the claims are based on any information? I don’t think the references are nearly clear enough to be “grounds for dismissal” — but as I said previously, I’ve been privy to a whistleblower bringing someone down, so I’d like to know what fire lurks behind this smoke. Is anyone aware of a private business interest of the Chief?

        1. TR

          No I don’t know what type of busines & was unaware that Andy was involved in an outside endeavor until Kate provided the link to the Patch article; then I had to hunt for the letter copy.

          I was not at Monday’s BoS meeting (nor have I seen a rebroadcast), so don’t know if Bob Lamina referred to point #2 (Andy’s business) in his statement. So it’s just possisble Andy decided to “fall on his sword” & resign, although I have heard that Andy has been mulling retirement for some time..

          I’m sure the “rumor mill” will be in full operation for the next few weeks/months, and we’re apt to learn more at a later date.

    2. Thanks Kate. I appreciate the information. Kind of leaves the question about “what business” up in the air.

      I can’t say that it sheds any light on the facts in question, but I have some experience with someone being exposed for illegal activity in my professional life — and that person is now in prison — so whistleblowers do have benefit. Ironically, the person who “ratted out” the guilty party in my experience was someone with a vendetta…so motive is unclear?

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