Last Friday, in the midst of the winter storm power outage, I received a curious email from Tredyffrin Township notifying of a special Board of Supervisors meeting for Monday night. There was only one item listed on the special meeting agenda – ‘personnel matter’.
Rather than attend the scheduled T/E School District Finance meeting, I choose the BOS meeting. Sitting in the back of Keene Hall was Scott Cannon, Public Works Director along with Hillary Mallory, Parks & Recreation Director and Mimi Gleason, former Township Manager.
After the pledge of allegiance and a brief update on the power outage, BOS Chair Mike Heaberg asked for a motion to terminate the employment of Scott Cannon, Director of Public Works. John DiBuonaventuro made the motion, Mark Freed seconded it and with a unanimous vote of 6-0 the motion passed – Scott Cannon terminated.
Having only worked for the township for a little over 2 years, why was Scott Cannon terminated? Following the vote to terminate Cannon’s employment, Heaberg read a prepared statement.
The recommendation for Cannon’s termination was from the township manager Bill Martin. After an investigation, Martin based his recommendation to terminate Cannon on several acts of misperformance including:
- Cannon engaged in conduct and directed vendors and subordinates involving two instances of improper disposal of materials on Township property in a manner prohibited by PA environmental law. (The locations are not accessible by the public, have been identified by DEP, and cannot be identified until the investigation is completed).
- In the fourth quarter of 2013, Cannon engaged certain contractors to provide goods/services to the Township in violation of the procurement procedures. In every incident of impropriety, the work was performed at a cost that was appropriate.
Heaberg noted that the township’s existing internal controls and procedures revealed the irregularities and Martin learned of the environmental violations on January 24. Martin immediately notified Heaberg. Following meetings with Heaberg, Martin, township solicitor Vince Donohue and members of the Personnel Committee, Cannon was put on paid administrative leave on Monday, January 27. On that same day, the Police Department conducted a personnel investigation and Donohue contacted DEP and reported environmental violations. The township is committed to providing complete cooperation to the DEP Bureau of Investigation.
The township’s investigation by the Police Department is ongoing but sufficient information was provided to support Martin’s recommendation to terminate Cannon. As the investigation developed, Martin suspended Cannon without pay effective February 3 and notified him that he would seek approval from BOS tonight to terminate his employment.
As follow-up to the environmental violations, the township has hired Sovereign Consulting to conduct testing of the affected areas with oversight from DEP. Further investigation is being done by the DEP and the township police are working with the Chester County Detectives. Additional training is being provided to department heads and the township is reviewing policies and commissioning an internal audit.
As I sat there listening to Heaberg’s press release detailing Cannon’s firing, my minded drifted to the Harry Marrone township scandal in 2005. Remember – Marrone was the township’s Finance Director and over a period of 3 years stole $75,000. He was caught when it was discovered that he was using Township checks to pay the property taxes on his Jersey Shore house. The investigation also revealed that a personal leave of absence taken by Marrone actually had him in the midwest in a Federal penitentiary serving time for tax invasion. At the time Marrone was arrested, he had worked for the township for over 12 years and was 70 years old. It should be noted that Marrone did make full restitution to the township.
Cannon’s situation is different – for restitution purposes, how do you put a price tag on environmental violations? I suppose if the DEP fined the Township, there could be a basis for a financial settlement between the Township and Cannon. The Township hired Cannon in November 2011, when Mimi Gleason was township manager – to my knowledge, since her resignation from Tredyffrin Township, she has never attended a BOS meeting, until tonight. Cannon was not represented at the BOS meeting by an attorney, did not make a public statement, nor did anyone his behalf.
Obviously, the township needs to immediately find another Public Works Director. This could not come at a worse time with severe winter storms, power outages, downed trees, closed roads and the recent sewer break in Valley Forge Park. It is my understanding, that following Cannon’s suspension (and now termination) Dean Wilkins, Public Works Foreman is acting director of the department. With the nor easterner and a foot of snow predicted for Thursday, Wilkins and the township’s public works employees have their work cut out for themselves. I know that Dean and his guys are up for the challenge – thank you in advance from a grateful resident!