Pattye Benson

Community Matters

Andrew Chambers

TESD Selects Controversial Safety Consultant … Former Tredyffrin Police Chief Andy Chambers

I attended the 2-hour community meeting this week on school safety. The current safety procedures and planned enhancements were presented by Kevin Buraks, president of the T/E School Board, Tredyffrin Police Supt. Andy Giaimo, Easttown Police Chief David Obzud, the District’s architect Tom Daley, TESD Supt. Dan Waters, TESD Business Manager Art McDonnell and head of TESD Safety Committee (and Vice Principal of Conestoga HS) Andrew Phillips.

There was much discussion from the various panel members about the need to ‘harden’ the schools – to make it more difficult for entry into the schools. Some of the safety changes expected to be in place by the end of January include a new buzzer system in each of the schools. After school starts each day, all doors will be locked and visitors to the schools must be ‘buzzed-in’. Visitors to the schools will now be required to show photo IDs. Additional security cameras are to be installed at each school. Glass at the front entrance of each school will be equipped with a 3M safety and security film. This durable safety film is impact-resistant, making it much more difficult for bullet penetration.

Rather than audience members directly asking questions of the panel, questions were written on index cards. McDonnell grouped the questions and during the last half of the meeting asked the panel members to respond to the questions. Many questions had to do with the safety of the children outside of the school buildings – recess on the playground, field trips, etc. in addition to the student’s safety before and after school in the buildings. Although the questions were wide-ranging, there was no discussion of ‘arming’ the teachers and or administration. Clearly, all questions were not asked, there was a gentleman behind me in the audience who complained 3 times to one of the runners picking up the index card, that his question had not been asked of the panel. Using the index cards as the means to ask questions controlled which questions would be answered.

Personally, the bombshell of the evening came towards the end of the meeting. TESD Supt. Dan Waters spoke of hiring a safety consultant to review the current security of the District. Based on the Tredyffrin’s recent consulting study to review its police department which cost the taxpayers $49K, just hearing the word ‘consultant’ sends up a red flag. But in the case of the school district, the ‘bigger’ red flag was who Waters named as the District’s safety consultant … Tredyffrin’s former police chief Andy Chambers! Waters stated that he had a personal relationship with Chambers, having worked with him for 25 years and that Chambers knew the school buildings and would not need to be brought up to speed as other possible consultants. Doesn’t Dan Waters and the School Board recall the controversy surrounding Chambers and his departure from Tredyffrin’s Police Department?

To refresh everyone’s memory — In December 2011, the former police chief Andy Chambers was suspended for 4 days as a result of allowing his 16-year old son to drive a township police car which was subsequently involved in an accident in November 2011. Chambers failed to report the vehicle accident to the BoS – the information was leaked to the supervisors a month later through an anonymous tip. Seeing the handwriting on the wall, Chambers ultimately retired while serving his suspension. To say that Chambers left Tredyffrin Township Police Department ‘under a dark cloud’ would be quite an understatement!

Given the background of Chamber’s departure from Tredyffrin’s police department, why would the school district want to invite the controversy that comes with his hiring as a safety consultant? Just because Waters has a personal relationship of 25 years with Chambers should not be ‘reason enough’ for his hiring as a consultant. The focus needs to be our children and keeping them safe, not the additional drama and controversy that a consulting contract with Chambers may present.

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.

Good Guys Can Make Mistakes, Part II

We are now learning more of the details and the timeline surrounding the suspension of Tredyffrin’s police chief Andy Chambers. According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, the township solicitor Vince Donohue explains that there were two reasons for the Board of Supervisor’s disciplinary action and suspension of Chambers.

There were questions and speculation as to when the supervisors learned of the accident involving Chamber’s 16-year-old on November 23. According to the paper, Board of Supervisors chair Bob Lamina first learned of the incident when he received an anonymous letter on December 4. However, it was not until the day after, on December 5 that Chambers called Lamina to tell him of the incident. (which by that point, Lamina was already aware).

After conducting an investigation and interviewing 15 people, the supervisors suspended Chambers for 4 days because he (1) allowed his 16-year-old to drive a township police car, which was then involved in an accident and (2) his failure to tell the township supervisors.

As I said yesterday, I really like Andy Chambers and understand that as parents we all make mistakes. However, I had also assumed that he had owned his mistake immediately and had come forward at the time the incident occurred. Unfortunately, we now know that he waited 12 days to report the incident (after the anonymous letter detailing the incident was received). This suggests that if the anonymous letter was not received, the Board of Supervisors may never have known of the incident.

To their credit, the supervisors acted immediately with an investigation that resulted in Chamber’s suspension for 4 days. In addition to the suspension, Chambers paid for the vehicle towing, damage and mechanic’s time to repair the car, which is now back in service.

In reading the comments on the newspaper sites and on Community Matters, many have focused on the anonymous ‘whistle blower(s)’ who turned in the chief as being the real culprit. It has been suggested that this incident is not a big deal and offer that some are simply out to get the police chief.

I have to disagree. As the leader of an organization, he or she has a responsibility to ‘set the bar high’ and to lead by example. Should not be a case of ‘”Do what I say, not what I do”. However, we all make mistakes and I have a feeling that Chief Chambers will live with the regrets of this mistake for a long time.

Do I think that he should have told the supervisors back in November when the incident occurred versus waiting until after the Board of Supervisors received the anonymous letter? Yes, but again hindsight is 20-20. I wasn’t there when the incident occurred and so have no idea what went into Andy’s decision not to immediately report the incident. Presumably, he had his reasons . . .

We will hear a statement of explanation at Monday’s Board of Supervisors meeting. I have to believe that Chambers will do his best to repair any damage inside of his department that this incident may have caused and then everyone will try to move forward.

As I said yesterday, I am disappointed in Andy Chamber’s actions but at the same time, I feel sorry for him — we’ve all had those momentary lapses of judgment. This incident just proves that even the good guys can make mistakes.

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