Pattye Benson

Community Matters

Chester County Republican Committee

A Penthouse View of Historic Market Street for Chester County Elected Officials . . . Rent $3.1Million per year

Based on Chester County’s recent lease negotiation with a private developer, no one would believe that we are facing the same economic challenges as the rest of the country.

The administrative offices of Chester County are moving from West Chester’s historic courthouse to a new privately owned 6-story office building on W. Market Street starting on March 18. Why the move . . . did they outgrow the courthouse office space . . . did they tire of their historic offices and long for the ‘new-car smell’ of new offices?

The county’s elected officials including commissioners, county controller, county treasurer, county solicitor, Recorder of Deeds will be leaving their courthouse offices behind for this new location. The lower 2 floors are parking for county employees and the upper four floors is office space in the new building. The Tax Assessment office will move to the third floor and the County commissioners and row officers will enjoy offices on the sixth floor, overlooking historic Market Street.

We do know the price tag for their new digs. The county is paying $3.1 million in rent for the first year; increasing by $31K each year for the length of the 20-year lease. The lease option is $37 million for the first 10 years. At that point, the county could purchase or extend the lease for the remaining 10 years. I am not sure how this lease agreement would work . . . the county will not own the building but will pay rent. I don’t see any economic or tax benefit to this arrangement. If the county needed more office space, why not either renovate existing county-owned space in the courthouse or use bond money to build an office building. At a minimum, the county would benefit from ‘owning’ rather than ‘renting’ their office space.

The county’s elected officials including commissioners, county controller, county treasurer, county solicitor, Recorder of Deeds will be leaving their courthouse offices behind for this new location. The lower 2 floors are parking for county employees and the upper four floors are offices in the new building. The Tax Assessment office will move to the third floor and the County commissioners will enjoy offices on the sixth floor, overlooking historic Market Street.

As an aside, I did some research on the property owner of the new office building . . . J. Loew & Associates, a commercial real estate developer from Downingtown. Based on the vast availability of office space listed on their website, J. Loew appears somewhat overextended with their available rental commercial real estate. In a quick analysis, I counted that the developer currently has over 30 office buildings, warehouse and retail complexes available for lease. In addition, some of the available office space is very large corporate office buildings in the Great Valley.

I guess a 20-year lease agreement with the county of $3.1+ million a year helped ease some of the pressure for J. Loew & Associates. Think about it, the company finances and builds the Market Street office building in West Chester, rents it to the county at a profit and [if the county decides at the end of 10 years] turns around and sells it to the county for a profit. Savvy business negotiating. Also when researching J. Loew & Associates, I discovered another interesting fact. The business partner of J. Loew & Associates, Eli Kahn, donated $25K to the Chester County Republican Committee over the last four years. All so very interesting.

Many of our Chester County officials were elected on campaign pledges of no tax increases and many of those individuals seeking election or re-election continue similar austerity promises. How will these same individuals now rationalize this lease agreement? Are taxpayers going to pay for our elected official’s penthouse view of historic Market Street?

Republican DA Candidate Tom Hogan to have Democratic Opposition . . . Attorney Sam Stretton throws his hat in the race!

As of today, the recently endorsed Republican district attorney Tom Hogan has himself a challenger for the county DA position. At Saturday’s Chester County Democratic Convention, West Chester attorney Sam Stretton was endorsed as their party’s district attorney candidate. He will oppose Tom Hogan for the district attorney position.

What do we know about Sam Sretton? We know that he has been practicing law in Pennsylvania for 35 years and has his own law practice in West Chester. Stretton handles many trials in Philadelphia and the surrounding area but his primary office is located in Chester County. According to his website, his practice emphasizes trail and appellate work at the state and federal levels, juvenile law, criminal law, judicial and attorney disciplinary proceedings, election law and first amendment cases. There is some other interesting local news about Stretton, showing his penchant for community activism.

If you are like me, and have followed the ongoing saga of the Barnes Foundation, you may have noticed that the art gallery is back in the news. Hoping to turn around the 2004 decision to move the Barnes Foundation from Merion to Philadelphia, a petition was filed this week with the Montgomery County Orphan’s Court Judge Stanley Ott. Representing the ‘Friends of the Barnes Foundation’ is the newly endorsed Democratic district attorney candidate, Sam Stretton. Stretton seeks to examine information that was unavailable to Judge Ott during the 2003-04 hearings. He claims that there are indications of misconduct on the part of the then PA Attorney General Michael Fisher. The details of Stretton’s petition can be found in the Friends of the Barnes Foundation press release.

The Chester County district attorney race just became more interesting. A few days ago, I was thinking that Republican candidate Tom Hogan would not have any opposition. The Chester County Democratic Convention changed that scenario today.

Chester County DA Race . . . Steve Kelly to Withdraw, & then there were 2!

As a follow-up to my recent post concerning the Chester County DA race — Steve Kelly has notified all the Republican committee members via email that he will be withdrawing his name from the nomination process tomorrow night at the convention.

A true gentlemen, Kelly had kind words for both of the remaining candidates, Pat Carmody and Tom Hogan, including ” . . . I know that each shares a great passion in seeking justice for victims in our community. Yours is not an easy decision. . . “

Kelly goes on to explain his long association and friendship with Carmody and the decision to go public with his support was difficult. However, in the end, Kelly says, ” . . . as a committeeman, an Area Chair and as a career prosecutor, I know I have a duty that transcends my personal life – a duty to see that the best leader takes the helm in the DA’s Office. Consequently, I would urge you to support Tom Hogan. . . “

The District Attorney race just got more interesting . . . will Kelly’s supporters give their vote to Hogan? Would those votes be enough for Hogan to get the needed 60% for endorsement? Has Carmody managed to change some minds of committee people since the straw polls? Will either candidate stay in the race without party endorsement?

I think that there are around 400 committee votes at stake and pre-Kelly’s withdrawing, only 2 votes separating Carmody and Hogan.

Political Notes . . . Brazunas Will Not Run in 2011; Chester County Republican Convention Tomorrow – District Attorney Race

A couple of noteworthy political items . . .

There has been speculation as to whether Eamon Brazunas would be throwing his hat in the campaign ring again for the Tredyffrin’s Board of Supervisors. Eamon emailed friends and supporters today with his decision not to run in the 2011 supervisor’s race. Here is an excerpt from the email:

“After careful consideration I have decided not to seek election to the Board of Supervisors this year. Therefore, I will not be running in the 2011 election cycle. While it has been a goal of mine to serve the residents in Tredyffrin on the Board, I will be taking this year to fully appreciate the first year of Stella’s life.

I will continue to work with my fellow colleagues in the fire service and with the Board of Supervisors in both Tredyffrin and Easttown to improve the Fire/EMS services in our community. We have made significant progress with communications publicly at Township meetings, established a communications network to link Fire/EMS/Police and other stakeholders and made strides towards a long-term funding solution. There is more work to be done and I will continue to contribute in this area, which I have devoted much time to over the past 13 years.”

In December, Eamon and his wife Ali became first-time parents to daughter Stella Nicola. I think we would all agree that this is a very special time in the Brazunas family and should be enjoyed! I appreciate that Eamon was a supervisor candidate in the past and that he recently participated as a candidate for the interim supervisor vacancy. The entire community appreciates his continued service as a Berwyn volunteer firefighter!

On another political note . . . tomorrow is the Chester County Republican Convention and I will be attending. A couple of years ago, I attended the convention to support Judy DiFilippo when she was running for the State House and was interested in the process.

If you recall, over the last several weeks, I have written about Chester County’s district attorney race. The race is very close for Republican candidates Pat Carmody, Tom Hogan and Steve Kelly. After the county straw polls, Carmody was ahead of Hogan, but only by two votes and Kelly was in third place. Based on my experience, the straw polls may (or may not) be an indicator of the voting at the convention.

To avoid a primary race between Republican candidates would require that one of these three candidates receive 60% of the votes cast at the convention. If committee members are unable to attend the convention, they need to give their proxy vote to someone to attend in their absence. Good news is that the weather tomorrow should not be a factor to keep anyone home. All the votes are important and could be the deciding factor in whose name will appear on the May primary ballot.

Although it was my understanding that the Republican Convention was open to the public, I did call ahead to double-check that Community Matters would be welcomed. I received a very friendly welcoming response to my inquiry from Maria at the Chester County Republican Headquarters; and I look forward to attending (and following the DA race!)

Chester County Commission Political Buzz

Gosh, things are buzzing at the Chester County Commission this week! There was the application deadline for the interim County Commissioner position vacated by Carol Aichele, who left for a job in Gov. Corbett’s administration. The deadline was Monday, January 30 at 12 noon – but at the close of business on Friday, there were zero applications received at the Common Pleas Court of Judges.

An article appeared in the Sunday edition of the Daily Local advertising the fact that there were no applications. Apparently, the notice did the trick and created a last-minute crush of interest! By the 12 noon deadline on Monday, there were 39 applications received for the vacancy! Upon review, six were removed from consideration because the applicants were Democrats and the appointment will go to a Republican. Although the judges hope to shorten the list, it looks like the interview process is going to be quite the undertaking!

Another item out of the County Commissioner’s Office. . . there is some unsettling news circulating about Republican Commissioner Terrance Farrell’s re-election campaign. This past November, he held a kick-off fundraiser, “A Pint of Chester County” for his campaign. The emailed invitation encouraged recipients to become sponsors with a suggested donation range of $250 – $2,500. When I received Farrell’s invitation, I found it curious that I was on his email list. Never having donated to Farrell and not knowing how they had my address, I emailed Farrell’s campaign but never received a response.

Today, I learned that my receiving Farrell’s email invitation was not an anomaly and some people are none too pleased, including State Sen. Andy Dinniman (D-Chester). Farrell’s fundraising email invitation was sent to government and personal email addresses, including Sen. Dinniman. Farrell emailed the fundraiser invitation to Sen. Dinniman’s district office.

Senator Dinniman’s staff sent Mr. Farrell’s campaign a letter stating that he was allowed to send political mail to a state senate office. Dinniman reported that his office received complaints by at least three other individuals, all Democrats complaining that Farrell had sent them the fundraising invitation to personal email accounts. Farrell’s response to accusations of misusing emails for his re-election campaign — he was just keeping his constituents informed. Whoops!

Things are really getting interesting for county races . . . from DA candidates to the Common Pleas Judge candidates and now the news about the County Commissioner candidates. It will be curious how the hyperbole plays out at the County Republican Convention on February 15.

Speaking of politics . . . so, you think you know where you stand, politically speaking? Think again. A friend sent me this short test and the results may surprise and give you food for thought. You will be asked just 10 questions, and it instantly tells you where you stand politically.

The results will show your position as a red dot on a “political map” so you will see exactly where you score. The most interesting thing about the quiz is that it beyond the Democrat, Republican, and Independent.

The Quiz has gotten a lot of praise . . . The Washington Post said it has “gained respect as a valid measure of a person’s political leanings.” The Fraser Institute said it’s a “fast, fun and accurate assessment of a person’s overall political views”. Suite University said it is the “most concise and accurate
political quiz out there.”

I took the test and was not surprised to score a ‘Centrist’ label for my efforts. According to the Quiz website, . . . “a Centrist prefer a ‘middle ground’ regarding government control of the economy and personal behavior. Depending on the issue, they sometimes favor government intervention and sometimes support individual freedom of choice. Centrists pride themselves on keeping an open mind, tend to oppose “political extremes,” and emphasize what they describe as “practical” solutions to problems”.

Take the Quiz — it’s fun and will not take you more than 5 min. It would be great if you would share your results! Here is the link for the Quiz:

Chester County DA Candidate Steve Kelly Provides His Comments

Below are comments that I received from Steve Kelly, the third candidate in the Chester County District Attorney race. Mr. Kelly states that he was not given an opportunity to respond for the Daily Local article. If this is accurate, than I am particularly pleased to offer Mr. Kelly the forum for his remarks. Mr. Kelly mentions that the straw poll vote count is incorrect . . . can someone please provide the correct numbers?

There are two remaining Chester County Republican Committee interviews scheduled for the district attorney candidates, tonight and tomorrow nights. I understand the politics of this process but I am hopeful that committee people give all three candidates fair and honest consideration.

Dear Pattye,

Thank you for the opportunity to respond to the newspaper article in the Daily Local. I am disappointed that I was not given an opportunity to respond by the author of the article. I saw that the reporter stated that he made an attempt to reach me but I never received a telephone message or email from the reporter and so I question whether there was a sincere attempt to reach me. I am also disappointed that the article incorrectly reported my straw vote total although I am told there was a correction in the newspaper today.

At this point, I believe that the District Attorney and First Assistant adequately addressed the substantive issues raised by the newspaper reporter. It is my desire to refrain from criticism of the other candidates and to focus on the positive message offered by my campaign. I believe the other candidates are fine gentleman and are certainly qualified to be DA. I am as well.

I graduated from the National College of District Attorney’s Career Prosecutors Course in 1993 and was one of a few prosecutors in the nation to be invited back to teach on the faculty. I have over twenty years under my belt as a prosecutor and wear many hats in the office. I supervise a team of prosecutors, run the grand jury and help direct most of the major investigations in the county, oversee our HIDTA drug task force and oversee all major drug trafficking investigations, act as director of police training and I maintain a trial caseload. I tried two murder trials last year and since 1990, I have tried more jury trials in our courthouse than any other attorney. I have also litigated death penalty cases and won record setting sentences.

My goals are influenced by my training in the field of economics and I want to start with the recognition that we have to do a better job of preventing crime. Most crimes are committed at night and are committed by repeat offenders so I want to lead an effort to place curfews on felons who are on probation or parole. Such curfews should be enforced by probation officers partnering with police. The current model of supervision that relies on probation officers working 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. simply is not sufficiently effective. I also want a strong prisoner re-entry program. Because we know that idle time is the devil’s workshop, if a parolee is not working, looking for a job or going to school, then he or she should be performing community service. At the same time, I want the justice system to collaborate with church groups to enlist their help with mentoring parolees. I want a renewed emphasis on addressing truancy. If we can keep kids in school, they have a better chance of graduating and becoming contributing crime-free members of society. I want to partner with our secondary schools and colleges to help identify and address common problems.

There are many community-policing concepts that help save lives and money and I have the experience to implement them. Using many of these same ideas, I led a highly praised effort from 2001 to 2003 that earned Coatesville the Pennsylvania award for the “Weed and Seed Community of the Year.”

Another goal I have concerns training. Our police officers risk their lives every day as they respond to crime and they do a fantastic job. They would agree with me however that better training of police and prosecutors will lead to improved service to our community. What is more, better training can lead to cost savings in the criminal justice system. With travel and overnight accommodation expenses, outside training can be expensive. Therefore, we need to provide high quality in-house training for attorneys and detectives. I have had tremendous success in providing training to local members of the Pennsylvania State Police. I also started a police-training unit three years ago that designed and implemented an accredited CSI training program for local and federal agents. Graduates receive certificates as certified crime scene technicians. We just had a graduation ceremony this past Friday and I was proud to see over twenty officers and FBI agents complete this intensive ten-month program.

Thank you again for this opportunity and please know that I will continue the fight to keep Chester County a safe and welcoming community.

Steve Kelly

Chester County DA Candidate Tom Hogan Responds

Chester County district attorney candidate Tom Hogan has responded to my email request for comment to yesterday’s Community Matters post, “Chester County DA Race is Heating Up . . . Candidates Taking the Gloves Off” — his remarks are below.

Mr. Hogan’s comments and the earlier remarks of Mr. Carmody would indicate that the gloves in the DA race are indeed off!

Pattye –

I am aware of Mr. Carmody’s communications with the Republican committee people of Chester County as we are both working to earn their endorsement; I am certain that Mr. Carmody has seen my communications to committee people as well. I have heard rumblings throughout the committee process and from the DA’s office about use of County resources in campaigns.

The taxpayers of Chester County want open government and fiscal responsibility that separates the partisan political from good government. If it is proven to be true that Mr. Carmody has utilized taxpayer-paid resources for his campaign, this is very troubling and could be detrimental to the Republican ticket as well as open Mr. Carmody to legal actions being brought against him. For his sake and the sake of the office, I hope it is not true.

In the coming weeks, I will continue to present my positive record as a county and federal prosecutor, as well as my endorsements from the law enforcement community to the committee people and citizens of Chester County. I believe that when they compare my record to that of my opponents, they will agree I am the best choice to serve as their District Attorney.

Thank You.

Chester County DA Race is Heating Up . . . Candidates Taking Off the Gloves

Following November’s mid-term election, I wrote of news in the Chester County District Attorney’s office . . . District Attorney Joseph Carroll decision to run for Common Pleas Court judge seat and not seek re-election as the county DA. At the time of the announcement, there was speculation about possible DA candidates including Tredyffrin’s solicitor Tom Hogan among others.

Fast forward, a couple of months and the district attorney race is now in full campaign mode. Three candidates, Tom Hogan, former prosecutor and partner in Lamb McErlane law firm; Assistant District Attorney Pat Carmody and Deputy District Attorney Stephen Kelly are vying for the endorsement of Chester County Republican Committee and it appears that the candidates are taking the gloves off for this race!

The GOP is conducting interviews with the district attorney candidates at various locations throughout the county. So far, the organization has held three straw polls and the voting of the committee members is as follows:

West Chester area: Carmody 47 votes; Hogan 24 votes; Kelly 10 votes
Tredyffrin area: Hogan 51 votes; Carmody 16 votes; Kelly none.
Southern Chester County area: Hogan 31 votes; Carmody 30 votes; Kelly 18 votes

If my math is correct, the current vote count has Hogan leading with 106 votes to Carmody’s 93 votes and Kelly’s 28 votes. There are two more straw polls this week leading up to the Chester County Republican Convention on February 15 that decides the candidate endorsement.

I do not typically weigh in on county politics, (there is more than enough going on with Tredyffrin and our neighboring townships to keep me busy) but I will make an exception with the district attorney race. The Sunday Daily Local ran an article on the district attorney race that caught my attention. In the article, the writer claims that during a GOP interview, DA candidate Hogan suggested administrative inconsistencies and the need to ‘clean up’ the district attorney office.

I was surprised by the immediate defensive reaction to Hogan’s criticism of the district attorney office by District Attorney Carroll and Assistant DA Carmody. I believe citizens prefer placing their confidence in a district attorney, like candidate Tom Hogan, who is willing to take a stand to improve the process and to make government better. There is nothing wrong with Hogan suggesting there is room for improvement in the DA office. You set your goals, ever-increasing the level of standard, and then work to achieve that objective. As taxpayers, isn’t that what we should expect and what we want from our elected officials?

We know that change can be difficult for some; people get comfortable with doing things the same way they have always been done; my guess is that the Chester County District Attorney office is no different. From my association with Tom Hogan over the last few years, his approach does not simply accept status quo but rather an approach that seeks to make government more accountable, and more efficient. ‘Raising the bar’ by raising expectations makes for good government.

Yesterday, I received an anonymous email in regards to the district attorney race from a concerned Chester County resident. Attached to the email were several Carmody campaign-related documents, including his campaign business card. The individual who sent the email was concerned that candidate Carmody was using his personal cell phone number on the literature. I did no appreciate the individual’s concern until I opened the attachment containing the official telephone contact list from the DA office. Curiously, the same cell phone number that Carmody uses on campaign materials is also his office contact number in the District Attorney office.

So what does this mean? Is Carmody’s cell phone personally owned or county-issued? Regardless if the phone is county owned property or personally owned by Carmody; it is interesting that he uses the same telephone number in his campaign literature and his county office. Would this imply that Carmody takes campaign calls at the district attorney office? Is this but a small legal campaign detail overlooked by a person running our legal system? Does this suggest that the district attorney’s office doubles as his campaign headquarters? If nothing else, Carmody’s actions make me wonder about what line is drawn between campaigning and working for the people of Chester County. The merging of political activities with the people’s work is a fine line.

Certainly, I lay no claim to understanding the inner-workings of the District Attorney’s office but as a response to Carroll and Carmody over Hogan’s criticism of the DA’s office, I am reminded of a line from Hamlet . . . “you doth protest too much me thinks”. Perhaps, Hogan’s criticisms were hitting a little too close to home.

Breaking News — Lawsuit Set to be Filed Against Tredyffrin Township and Supervisors Lamina, Olson, Kampf & Richter

Breaking News

The decision by Supervisors Lamina, Kampf, Olson and Richter to return St. Davds Golf Club escrow is now headed down the legal road to the court of law.

In regards to the St. Davids Golf Club escrow return, I am in receipt of a draft complaint naming John Petersen as the ‘Plaintiff’. This complaint will be filed by noon tomorrow in the Court of Common Pleas of Chester County, West Chester.

Listed as ‘Defendants’ in the complaint is Tredyffrin Township and Robert Lamina, Chairman Board of Supervisors, Paul Olson, Vice Chairman Board of Supervisors, Warren Kampf Member Board of Supervisors and Evelyn Richter, Member Board of Supervisors, Individually and as members of the Tredyffrin Township Board of Supervisors.

The complaint seeks Declaratory Judgment and Equitable Relief for the following violations:

COUNT ONE – Sunshine Act

COUNT TWO – Home Rule Charter and Administrative Code

COUNT THREE –Arbitrary and Capricious Action

John provided me with a copy of the draft complaint and asked me to make his intention to file public on Community Matters. The complaint seeks no monetary damages but seeks to turn the clock back to before the Board of Supervisors vote of January 25. In other words, the basis of the complaint is to return the St. Davids Golf Club escrow to the township (as if the vote never took place). Once the complaint is filed at the court house, John has given me permission to make the document public on Community Matters.

Like so many of us in this community, John was disappointed and frustrated by the actions of Supervisors Lamina, Kampf, Olson and Richter with their January 25 decision to return escrow to St. Davids Golf Club. When given the opportunity at the February 8 meeting to correct their mistake, these supervisors instead offered an apology and the suggestion that they would try to ‘do better’ in the future. Rather than continuing to hope that these elected officials would at some point ‘see the light’ and correct their mistake, John is taking the matter to the court of law with an official complaint. I support John’s decision to take legal action and applaud his courage to take it to the next level!

The next Board of Supervisors Meeting on Monday, February 22 just got more interesting! This is an important meeting for all Tredyffrin residents to attend.

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