Pattye Benson

Community Matters

Tredyffrin Township Website Policy … Rank Hath Its Privileges

As of last night’s Board of Supervisors meeting, Tredyffrin Township supervisors approved a communication policy that included the use of the government’s website by the supervisors. Although I was told earlier in the day by the township solicitor Vince Donohue that the meeting agenda would be changed to include this ‘vote’, no such change appeared on the agenda, leaving me to believe the discussion would occur at some future date. The resolution for a communication policy was not listed on the agenda however; it was included in the meeting. According to Donohue, a resolution does not take advance advertisement.

Michelle Kichline read the resolution for the communication policy with no comment from any of the supervisors. You will have to watch the BOS meeting or wait to see if the meeting minutes include the policy, as the resolution was not available in a printed format at the meeting. The vote to approve the policy was unanimous. Going forward the policy for the use of the website is, with approval from the township manager and township solicitor, that supervisors are permitted to use the website for ‘township business’ in communicating with residents. However, the communique must explicitly state which supervisor(s), whether the entire board, a subset or an individual are responsible for the message.

Individual supervisors can independently use the website for whatever he or she believes constitutes ‘township business’. Although I questioned that, without oversight or a majority vote from the other supervisors, John DiBuonaventuro’s letter of September 5 or a similar personal diatribe could be repeated, it changed nothing. Based on recent history, resident, Cheryl Bittner asked that a definition of ‘township business’ be included in the communication policy. That was not deemed necessary – which seemed to suggest that supervisors know what constitutes township business.

In essence, there is absolutely nothing to stop DiBuonaventuro or any of the other six supervisors from writing opinion letters on the township website whenever they disagree with residents, the press or comments on a blog. They just need the approval from the solicitor and township manager. Scary proposition – given that the township solicitor and township manager approved DiBuonaventuro’s September 5 letter as ‘township business’. The township’s communication policy has now given all seven supervisors a green light to use the township website as they wish – just call it ‘township business’ and it becomes a personal tool to communicate your message.

What’s the saying; “rank hath its privileges” … guess the use of the township website is a new perk if you are an elected official in Tredyffrin Township.

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  1. As Bill Martin gets acclimated to his new role, perhaps he could kindly define “Township Business” for all of us? Since Vince Donohue couldn’t do that for you last night, Pattye, does it seem reasonable that SOMEONE is accountable for letting us know what that encompasses? What happened to you should NEVER happen again. With the policy that was voted in last night, the door is just wide open….

    1. John, I read through some posts and you mentioned you were on the BOS. Can you tell us when you were elected and when you served? Have YOU thought of running again? I think that is exactly what is needed.

  2. It was bad enough that our taxpayer dollars pd for JDs temper tantrum and bad manners but look what these supervisors did last night. I watched the meeting and could not believe their idea of a communication policy. Who are they kidding?

    You are right Patty, the 7 of them can do whatever they want (and do!) As for that solicitor, now thats a real joke. He approved JDs letter in the first place, so obviously his idea of ‘township business’ has no credibility. So we have the solicitor and a township manager who has 1 day on the job approving whatever an individual supervisor wants on the government website – just has to claim that it is township business. And we are believe that this a policy — yeh, a policy to protect the supervisors, certainly not the citizens.

  3. More than anything I am just sad. Because sitting through last night’s “policy” charade only confirmed that citizens’ lack of trust and confidence in our local government is warranted.

    So few people pay attention to local government. And this saga is a perfect example of why. It is often petty and small, mostly boring and devoid of any real progress that affects residents’ lives.

    The “communications policy” was brought up as part of Liaison Reports, after Solicitor Donahue had earlier in the day assured those concerned that the matter would be added to last night’s agenda. Clearly, a decision was made to keep community awareness to a minimum. The plan – a stealth resolution.

    Anyone paying attention has seen this episode before….

    Aside from Michele’s vague and wistful comment (some would say whiny) about the value of community and the sometimes-negative impact of 24-7 media, she said nothing to disavow JD’s inappropriate personal rant on the Township website. So disappointing.

    And no other supervisor opened his/her mouth, so we’re all left to wonder if anyone on that board disapproved of the letter’s posting or supported JD’s right to use the TT website to “clear his name” and discredit Pattye personally and CM in the process.

    There was not even the hint of regret – or God forbid an apology – and no resolve to prevent a reprise of another personal rant on our taxpayer-funded website.

    Instead the action taken was a policy – more than two months in the crafting – that one can drive a Mack truck through. Anything goes – whatever an individual supervisor deems appropriate under his personal definition of township business – with the same gatekeepers who approved JD’s letter.

    Still, in light of the supervisors’ decision to present a unified front and limit future liability by implementing a toothless policy, there are real costs involved. The supervisors’ personal integrity is being questioned by some. And there will be an ongoing cost for their collective bad judgment and opacity.

    Despite all this, Tredyffrin residents have a lot to be be thankful for.
    – We welcome Bill Martin, a fellow resident, to manage the Township and hope he will bring his own energy and new ideas to the challenges we face. (And we are lucky to face relatively few, compared to most communities.)
    – Our libraries continue to be such valued community resources and our new Director a delight!
    – Our Township directors – each and every one – is a dedicated, hard-working professional, and we are lucky to have them! (Not one woman among them though…..)
    -Our police and fire departments are THE best in the region.
    Tony Giamo is more focused on the community and its needs than anyone who’s held the Superintendent’s position – at least in the 26 years I’ve lived here. And I am awed by the level of volunteerism in our fire departments. They risk their lives and save residents’ lives – BC they made a personal commitment. Most get no financial benefit, and yet year after year, they do it! Amazing!

    Happy Thanksgiving, CM readers!

  4. Much has been said about the Township’s new website communications policy and about First Amendment rights in the Township.

    I will add that an opportunity for the Township Supervisors to use the website for whatever reasons the new policy allows. As has been stated, we do not know by what criteria or standards the communications will be measured. Still, let the Supervisors speak. Let them tell us what they are thinking and how they think. Everyone, even the Board of Supervisors has First Amendment rights. And, what better way to know what someone thinks, and how they think, than to let them speak. If we examine the website content the Supervisors provide, we can ask questions. Let them answer.

  5. RK — isn’t that what personal blogs and websites are for? I don’t know a single public official that posts on the website of their organization. You say let them answer questions….John DB wouldn’t even answer one at the public meeting. He just ranted on the website, unrebutted. THAT’s where the problem comes from. He was never barred from communicating. He just wanted to control the exchange, which is what the township website allows. Where do you think you can ask questions and get them answered?

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