Pattye Benson

Community Matters

Eamon Brazunas

Tredyffrin’s Interim Supervisor Vacancy No More . . . Mike Heaberg Appointed

Attending last night’s Board of Supervisors meeting was much like attending a wedding. Entering Keene Hall, I found members on the bride’s side of the aisle there to support Republican Kristen Mayock as the interim supervisor. Left of the aisle, the groom’s side contained those gathered to support Republican Mike Heaberg. Representatives from both sides promised that their candidate was the right one to lead the township.

The audience heard from supporters of Mayock and Heaberg, as well as for the Democrat candidate Eamon Brazunas. Friends and political allies praised Mayock for her personal, business and civic achievements. Some of the words used to describe her were skilled negotiator, creative as well as committed and very intelligent. A former Republican committee member and fellow attorney at her law firm, Scott Reidenbach spoke eloquently of Mayock . . . describing her as someone who ‘gets it’ and that she, “understands people and understands this township”.

Others rose to the microphone to extol Heaberg’s virtues, describing him as smart, talented, community-minded . . . the “ultimate selfless person who is seeking public office for all the right reasons”. Sandy Gorman, a fellow FLITE board member and friend, said three words described Heaberg . . . integrity, reliability and thoroughness.

There is a part in a traditional wedding ceremony, when the officiant says, ‘if anyone objects . . . let him speak now or forever hold his peace.” Like those words in a wedding ceremony, chair of the Tredyffrin Democrats, Dariel Jamieson took the microphone to make a case for the all-Republican Board of Supervisors to choose a Democrat candidate to fill the vacated Republican seat. Supporting interim supervisor candidate Eamon Brazunas, Jamieson described the volunteer firefighter as committed to service and to the community; as someone we trust with our lives. In her support of Brazunas, Jamieson explained that Brazunas had run twice before for the Board of Supervisors and represented broad appeal to both parties, having only lost the last election by 71 votes.

Jamieson offered that 45% of the residents of Tredyffrin are registered Republicans and that the other 55% of the township population is not, so perhaps a Democrat should be appointed to add balance to the board. Unfortunately, Chairman Lamina’s partisan response to Jamieson was far from satisfactory; telling her that he could never vote for someone unless they were a Republican.

Elected to serve all the people . . . Republicans, Democrats, Independents . . . I found Lamina’s remark, particularly as chair of the Board of Supervisors, to be both inappropriate and offensive. This kind of remark has the potential to continue to push the political wedge between members of this community. And for what purpose . . . for what political gain? Tonight Lamina formally announced that he would not be seeking re-election; so why not try, in the last remaining 10 months of your term, to bring people together rather than continuing to separate and divide.

The five members of the Board of Supervisors (Paul Olson was on vacation) took a vote on the interim supervisor appointment. As some expected, DiBuonaventuro supported Mayock and the other four voted in favor of Heaberg. Mike Heaberg was elected 4-1 to fill the interim supervisor position and will be sworn in at the next Board of Supervisors meeting.

The supervisor appointment is over; but are the hard feelings between the Republican Committee people still there? Will the two opposing factions come together to support and work with the newly appointed Mike Heaberg? Can the badly split Republican Committee manage reconciliation for the sake of the ‘party’? On the other hand, if the fences cannot be mended, does this now create a permanent party divide?

Looking ahead, will Brazunas challenge Heaberg in the Special Election? Will the Republican Committee endorse both Heaberg and Mayock as the two at-large candidates for the May Primary? Will Brazunas enter his third bid for election to the Board of Supervisors?

Summing of the Board of Supervisors meeting . . . as someone who believes in ‘people’ and ‘issues’ and not partisan politics, I found the meeting disturbing. As possibly the lone ‘Independent’ in a room filled with political stakeholders, the talk of Republicans and Democrats was both uncomfortable and unsettling. And I cringe that our elected officials are discussing party politics from the dais. Appoint the right ‘person’ and leave the party politics at the door. And once elected, we want them to set aside their ‘R’ or their ‘D’ and simply govern and serve us all.

Brazunas, Heaberg & Mayock Interim Supervisor Interviews

I attended the supervisor interviews last night with approximately 20 other residents. The three candidates, Eamon Brazunas, Mike Heaberg and Kristen Mayock were interviewed for the interim supervisor position. The Personnel Committee, supervisors Bob Lamina, Phil Donahue and Michele Kichline, interviewed the candidates individually. The interviews consisted of 7 questions and candidates were allotted 30 min. for each of their interviews.

The Personnel Committee took turns asking the supervisor candidates the prepared questions. Although I have previously stated that I believed that the interview process should include all six supervisors rather than only three, supervisors Lamina, Donahue and Kichline came prepared last night and are to be congratulated for their efforts. These supervisors were prepared, focused and respectful of all three candidates.

To this post, I am attaching copies of the three candidates resumes. – Eamon Brazunas resume, Mike Heaberg resume and Kristen Mayock resume. Bob Lamina provided me with a copy of the interview questions. Following each interview question, I have provided a brief summary of the candidate’s responses.

Question #1: Tell us a little about yourself.

Each of the candidates responded to this question with biographical information, including professional and personal information. I am not going to address this question, as it is best served by a review of the candidate’s resumes.

Question #2: If not already answered as part of Question #1, can you share with us some of the relevant experiences you have that you believe will help you contribute to the Board of Supervisors, or – How does your professional and/or personal background make you a good candidate to the Board?

Brazunas response: He will bring a different perspective to the Board of Supervisors on how the community works; based on serving as a volunteer firefighter for the Berwyn Fire Company. Fire companies are serious business, not like the old days, and Brazunas spoke of appreciating the recent $15K award to Radnor Fire Company. In his professional work with Radnor Fire Company, he has to make difficult decisions. He has personnel experience and as a firefighter has experience in dealing with volunteers, particularly in disaster relief efforts.

Heaberg response: Heaberg has a desire to give back and serve the community. He remarked that there is a fantastic quality of life in Tredyffrin which includes great schools and libraries, public safety, volunteer organizations and citizens who make volunteer commitments through time and/or money. His three children are grown and out of the house and he has the time to necessary to commit to serving as a supervisor. His professional experience includes working with taxpayers so has empathy for the other side of government. Heaberg understands that the role of government is to be respectful when spending others money. As a small business owner, he works with payroll and budget, health care benefits, leasing space and hiring people – all qualities required as a supervisor. He is good at decision-making and with conflicts of interest; looking at the biases and potential conflicts of interest of those providing information or presenting their opinion as fact. Heaberg commits to the necessary research to better analyze the problem and apply judgment in the decision.

Mayock response: Mayock believes that her experience on the township’s Zoning Hearing Board and her legal experience in zoning would be helpful to the Board of Supervisors. She worked for Thacher Longstreth for 5 years and was involved in constituent services and budget negotiations for 5 Philadelphia budgets. In her role as Deputy Attorney General, Mayock represented Gov. Ridge. She thinks that her background lends itself to government and budget.

Question #3: What do you think the biggest challenge is for Tredyffrin Township as we move in the future?

Brazunas response: Brazunas focused on three issues: (1) taxes – how does the township maintain the successes of the last decade; (2) develop or die – wants to work together with the Planning Commission for the future redevelopment of the community, citing the Valley Fair shopping area and the Walker Road/Richter property as examples; and (3) public safety budget – how to maintain services and keep the budget fair for citizens

Heaberg response: Heaberg believes that the township is good shape financially. He observed that due to the economy, Tredyffrin faces the challenge that it may not be able to expect the same level of support from State and Federal agencies as in the past. According to Heaberg, the township should not expect a windfall coming; there is unlikely to be large real estate transfer revenue and not likely to be a lot of new development. There will be a challenge to expense control, specifically on employee benefits.

Mayock response: Anticipating that she would be applying for the Board of Supervisors, Mayock has asked local citizens about their concerns. People generally seem to be happy and had to be pressed to respond. She reported that transportation and traffic concerns was the issue most named. Other responses from citizens included the desire to enjoy the quality of life but not raise taxes. Mayock thinks that the township needs to encourage new businesses to come to Tredyffrin. She believes that if they work in Tredyffrin, they will purchase homes in Tredyffrin and that will increase transfer tax revenue.

Question #4: What do you believe is your greatest strength and your biggest weakness?

Brazunas response: Brazunas views his strengths as persistent and dedicated;and that he does not give up easily. He feels that his biggest weakness is learning how to take a day off; how to force a breather from work and volunteer life. Brazunas referenced being a new father (of 2 wks) and that he has already found that having a baby changes your life. Being a parent is making it easier for him to take a break and come home to be with the baby.

Heaberg response: Heaberg views his judgment ability as a personal strength and that he does a good job at researching and analyzing issues. He views himself as thoughtful and that he learns from his mistakes. With regards to weakness, Heaberg responded that he is not always patient.

Mayock response: Mayock believes that her negotiation talent is her greatest strength. As an attorney, she explained that negotiating is what she does for a living; taking two people and getting them to work together. Her weakness is that she has a difficult time saying ‘no’ and needs to learn how to turn down volunteer opportunities.

Question #5: Can you share with us a challenging situation you’ve had to overcome, what was the specific example, what outcome, and what did you learn from the experience?

Brazunas response: Brazunas cited a particularly challenging personnel matter where he was forced to facilitate the process, and ultimately let a person go that he knew personally. He was proud that he did not let a personal bias interfere with the decision-making process but handled the situation positively by doing what he believed was right under the circumstances.

Heaberg response: Heaberg answered this question by explaining that the early years of his career was slow. To encourage new business in his line of work of financial advising, requires the individual to be a good salesman. Heaberg reported that he was not as successful as he might have been in the early years because the sales side did not suit him. He had to accept that you cannot get 30 years of experience in 1 year. His challenge was how to feed his family in the early years and the greatest lesson was that there are no shortcuts if you are going to do it right.

Mayock response: Mayock responded to this question by claiming that she has a ‘blessed life’. However, a personal challenge as a teenager was the loss of her best friend. Her best friend was diagnosed with brain cancer at 16 and went on to live a few more years. As a result of her friend’s cancer, Mayock helped found ‘Katies Kids for the Cure’ with her friend’s family which raised money for families living with brain cancer. The organization raised $500K which was given to the Wistar Foundation and is now part of the Alex Lemonade nonprofit. Although she was challenged in the loss of her best friend, something very positive came as a result.

Question #6: If appointed you have 3 months on the Board of Supervisors before the primary election. What do you see as your priority as a new supervisor?

Brazunas response: Brazunas thinks it will be important to get up to speed with the other members of the Board of Supervisors. If appointed, he would ask for a sit-down with each supervisor so that he is not walking in and making decisions blindly.

Heaberg response: Heaberg believes that it is important to be receptive and respectful, especially to the citizens. He understands that the Board of Supervisors are putting their faith in him; that they are making the choice. However, just because the voter did not pick him does not mean that what the citizen desires is any less important. Heaberg does not anticipate any hot issues in the 3 months. Believes that he will be thoughtful and thorough in making decisions.

Mayock response: Although Mayock stated that 3 months is not long to get much done, she gave a list of important issues of interest: Pennsylvania Turnpike expansion and sound walls and Rt. 202 expansion and sound walls. Mayock thinks that these projects have been dragging on for a long time. Due to her Great Valley Association involvement, she said that these are particularly important projects. Mayock spoke of the importance of economic redevelopment and is interested in seeing helping businesses expand or relocate to the township. She is troubled by the empty storefronts, particularly in Paoli and views that Paoli Transportation Center as important in the revitalizing of the community.

Question #7: Do you have any questions for us?

Brazunas response: Before answering this question, Brazunas responded that he did not receive pressure from anyone and that he did not interview with anyone. As a Democrat, he stated that the understands the political realities. He makes a bi-partisan commitment to serve the public. His question for the supervisors was to ask what are the hot topics facing the Board of Supervisors. Some of the issues named by the supervisors include: upcoming collective bargaining agreements, encouraging better community communication, financial – where do we find the money, how to redevelop properties and bring business back to Tredyffrin Township – the township needs to be able to compete.

Heaberg response: Heaberg asked the supervisors what they view were the greatest challenges facing Tredyffrin. The supervisors listed collective bargaining, benefit structure, budget, re-development of the community, how to support employees financially and how to pay for it as examples of township challenges.

Mayock response: Mayock asked the supervisors to name their strengths/weakness. Lamina responded that keeping taxes low and delivering A1 service was a strength and being an active listener. Kichline responded that when she became a supervisor a year ago, it required her to make difficult decisions and was proud that she did. Additionally she mentioned that serving in an economic difficult time and still bringing in budget with no tax increase as challenging. Donahue stated that there was learning curve in serving as a supervisor. Since becoming a supervisor, he believes that there is a greater sense of professionalism in the township, including the hiring of a new finance director. He is proud that there was no tax increase as contrasted to other townships.

Lower Merion, Tredyffrin Townships Struggle With ‘Behind-the-Scenes’ Manipulation . . . Where’s the Transparency?

Mother Nature caused the cancellation of tonight’s interim supervisor interviews. Fortunately the Personnel Committee was able to reschedule the interviews for tomorrow night. Although the interview process will only include 3 supervisors (Kichline, Donahue, Lamina) rather than all six supervisors, I am accepting that it is a step in the right direction. I know each of the candidates, Eamon Brazunas, Mike Heaberg and Kristen Mayock, personally and the residents of Tredyffrin would be fortunate to have any one of them serve as interim supervisor.

Regardless of the candidate ultimately chosen, I do believe that we need to continue to encourage greater transparency from our elected officials. Similarly to Tredyffrin Township, Lower Merion Township is involved in the process of filling vacancies of elected officials. In Lower Merion’s case, two Commissioners have resigned. Residents have questioned the appointment process in Lower Merion; concerned by an orchestrated effort to manipulate the outcome behind the scenes. Many residents feel that the Commissioner replacements are predetermined — some suggest the replacement Commissioner is known before the vacancy is publicly announced! Some in Tredyffrin have suggested that a similar situation may exist.

Audrey Romasco of Bryn Mawr offers her opinion in Main Line Times on Lower Merion’s appointment process . . . and Lower Merion officials who can stay within the law, but manage to disregard transparency and civic participation.

Ms. Romasco’s letter ends with “In 2011, a year of municipal elections, it is time for citizens of Lower Merion to demand a level of transparency that both fulfills the law and fosters civic participation and to consider how well that demand is met when they enter the voting booth.” Many readers of Community Matters would probably agree with Ms. Romasco. If you don’t approve of the way things are done, make your voice heard through your vote. As you read the letter below, replace Lower Merion Township and their Commissioner vacancy with Tredyffrin Township and our interim supervisor vacancy.

Transparency more than letter of the law
Wednesday, January 26, 2011
By Audrey W. Romasco, Bryn Mawr

Over the past four weeks the residents of Lower Merion have learned a very important lesson: it is possible to follow the letter of the law, enacted in the Sunshine Act, and still deprive the citizens of transparency.

I am speaking of the Machiavellian handling of the serial resignations of Commissioners Reed and Taylor. By Bruce Reed’s own account, he had been considering resigning for the past year. Mr. McGuire also stated that Reed approached him “two or three months” before his resignation. Yet Reed waited to publicly disclose his intention until just before the close of business on Dec. 23, the last day before two shortened holiday weeks.

In other words he timed his resignation to deliberately attract the least attention from the public and to minimize the possibility of developing interest from candidates other than Mr. McGuire whom he had chosen to fill the vacancy. This goal was furthered by the very compressed scheduling of the deadline for applications.

The First Class Township statutes in Pennsylvania state that the Board of Commissioners must fill a vacancy within 30 days of the vacancy occurring. In Mr. Reed’s case, the vacancy did not actually occur until the close of business on Jan. 19. The board thus had until Feb. 18 to name a replacement. Instead, hard on the heels of residents returning to non-holiday mode, applications were due by Jan. 6. This week Lower Merion experienced déjà vu. Commissioner Taylor announced that he was resigning as of Feb. 15. Again, though the Board of Commissioners by statute has until March 17 to fill the vacancy, it has instead rushed the process forward, anticipating interviews on Feb. 9, which would require applications to be submitted by Feb. 3, a mere 13 days after Taylor tendered his resignation. Taylor was cannier than Reed. He demurred when asked about his replacement, saying he had talked to several people. However, the foreshortened timetable can only lead one to believe that a predetermined successor has been identified.

All of the above is strictly legal. It even has precedent in Lower Merion politics. It is also bad government.

First, the voters of these two wards had an expectation when they went to the polls three years ago that their elected representatives would complete their terms barring health issues or relocation. Such was not the case with Messrs. Reed and Taylor. Rather than transparently announcing well in advance that they would not seek re-election, they merely decided that they wanted to “reprioritize” their lives: that they didn’t owe their constituents the last 10 months of their “contract” with their ward residents. This sheds an entirely different light on all the votes they cast in the last several months, a context that was completely hidden from the Lower Merion citizens.

Second, by grooming specified replacements well in advance of announcing their resignations, they have denied a level playing field to all applicants. Several commissioners noted that Mr. McGuire was more “up to speed”; small wonder when he had three months to prepare. And while the commissioners had time to privately interview the candidates for Ward 13 (indeed several Democratic commissioners had already committed their vote to Mr. McGuire before the application deadline), few constituents were afforded enough time to meet them, perhaps in a venue such as a civic-association interview.

Third, they have cunningly influenced the elections playing field. They have discouraged what otherwise might be a vigorous primary contest in May by investing one candidate with the advantages of incumbency.

Finally, and by no means least, they have once again done damage to the concept that civic participation is a virtue. Their premature resignations suggest they consider only their own self-interests, an all too common perception of elected officials. The truncated appointment process signals predetermined results. A commissioner purportedly telling a citizen not to waste their breath supporting Stuart Ebby chills all citizen comment.

The National Constitution Center’s 2010 Pennsylvania Civic Health Index shows that only 11.2 percent of Pennsylvanians contacted or visited a public official and only 8.8 percent attended a meeting where political issues were discussed. That ranks Pennsylvania 29th and 38th respectively among the 50 states. As appalling as these numbers are, it can hardly be surprising when some of our elected officials do everything in their power to discourage transparency and citizen participation.

In 2011, a year of municipal elections, it is time for citizens of Lower Merion to demand a level of transparency that both fulfills the law and fosters civic participation and to consider how well that demand is met when they enter the voting booth.

Another Tredyffrin Supervisor Candidate Drops Out . . . and then there were 3!

On January 13, I wrote the following on Community Matters:

The appointment of an interim supervisor is a serious duty of our elected officials (even if only for a few months) and I do not want to see the process manipulated by politics.

What do I mean manipulated . . . ? Only one of the four supervisor candidates, John Bravacos, has stated that he will not be on the ballot for the Special Election in May. Presumably, the other three candidates, Eamon Brazunas, Mike Heaberg and Kristen Mayock, all intend to participate in the Special Election required to fill the vacancy.

To be clear, I am not questioning the credentials of these three candidates but the only non-political appointment for this interim supervisor position is John Bravacos. Additionally, John Bravacos is a former township supervisor and former chair. To appoint one of the other three candidates would be politically motivated and give an advantage to that individual in May’s Special Election. For the record, a Republican (Warren Kampf) held the vacated seat and John Bravacos is a Republican.

I was so convinced that the Board of Supervisors would make the ‘right’ choice . . . the non-political appointment of John Bravacos, that I made a bet with a close friend. I lost that one-dollar bet! Yesterday, John Bravacos decided to withdraw his application for consideration to fill the interim supervisor vacancy. In John’s confirmation to me of his withdrawal, he offered that a recent change in his work travel schedule precipitated his decision. Bravacos served on the Board of Supervisors, two as chair, and the only candidate to state that he would not be on the Special Election ballot in May.

A few weeks ago, there were five candidates and then we learned that candidate Joe Muir withdrew his application. Now two days before the Personnel Committee interviews the candidates, John Bravacos decides that he too will leave the supervisor appointment process. Three candidates remain for consideration, Republicans Mike Heaberg and Kristen Mayock, and Democrat Eamon Brazunas.

What I had hoped the appointment of John Bravacos to the Board of Supervisors would achieve is no longer possible. Sadly, with Bravacos out of consideration, it now appears obvious that there is political party influence in the selection process. Coincidentally the change in the Sidewalks Subcommittee presentation to February 7 corresponds with the appointment of the interim supervisor. The new interim supervisor is to be announced on February 7. Once appointed, the interim supervisor will be in a position as the possible ‘swing vote’ on the land development authority ordinance.

Tredyffrin’s ‘Personnel Committee’ to Interview Supervisor Candidates

Here is the latest installment on the Tredyffrin’s interim supervisor appointment . . . I feel like keeping this interview process transparent has become my life’s work. With so many things going on in the world, why is it so important that this township process work correctly? Because it just is.

So where does the interview process currently stand? Well, here goes. I emailed our township manager Mimi Gleason (and copied township solicitor Tom Hogan and the Board of Supervisors) the link to the specific Community Matters post, along with reader comments. In my email, I addressed the issue of the supervisor’s Personnel Committee conducting the candidate interviews vs. the Board of Supervisors. I suggested “. . . the appointment of an elected official is not a personnel matter.” Further suggested that the “. . . situation could be easily remedied if all the supervisors were in attendance on January 26 and participated in the interview process.”

Here is Mimi’s response to that email:

Pattye,

The full Board must vote on the appointment of the interim Supervisor in a public meeting and will do so.

There is no problem with the Personnel Committee, or any other subcommittee of the Board, interviewing the candidates. The Home Rule Charter does not require the Board of Supervisors to interview the candidates. However, in the interests of full transparency, the Board has chosen to have interviews conducted by the Personnel Committee and has invited the public to the interviews. The Board is going beyond the minimum requirements of the Home Rule Charter and the Sunshine Act in order to provide even greater public access to this process.

I’ll be around all afternoon. Let me know if you have any more questions.

Mimi

After receiving this email, I still had questions for Mimi and sent the following email (copying Tom Hogan and Board of Supervisors):

Mimi –

Thank you for your response, however I do still have a few questions.

(1) You say that the Personnel Committee, or any subcommittee of the Board of Supervisors can interview the candidates, then why the ‘Personnel Committee’ vs. the Finance Committee or any other subcommittee? If appointing an elected official is not a personnel matter, why choose the ‘Personnel’ Committee for the interviews?

(2) Bob Lamina stated at the Board of Supervisors meeting that the candidates would be interviewed by the supervisors. By having a ‘committee’ rather than the Board of Supervisors interview, is this really meeting the objective?

(3) I appreciate that there is no requirement for the Board of Supervisors to interview the candidates in public; however, didn’t that option go away when the township advertised and solicited resumes for the vacancy; which was then followed by Bob Lamina’s statement that the supervisors would interview the candidates. Bob made a commitment to the residents that the supervisors would interview the candidates – there was no caveat from him that the interviews would be conducted by a subcommittee, Personnel Committee, etc. The implication of his words was ‘all the supervisors’ would interview.

(4) If only 3 of the supervisors are going to interview the candidates in the Community Room (without it being televised) how is that the other 3 supervisors (Olson, Richter, DiBuonaventuro) will know the candidates responses to the questions. If this interview process is public, will there be minutes taken of the meeting? How do the 3 supervisors who conduct the interviews discuss the matter with the 3 supervisors who do not attend the interviews, without breaking the Sunshine Law. I understand that the vote will be in public, but how can the supervisors discuss this matter prior to the public vote if 50% of the board does not participate in the interviews?

Mimi, you say that the supervisors are going beyond the requirements to provide transparency. If that is the case, then why not just have a quorum with 4 supervisors present for the interview process and remove doubt and questions about the process. The Board of Supervisors have an opportunity to make this process right.

I will put off posting information related to this topic on Community Matters until after business hours today. It is my hope that all supervisors appreciate the importance of the interview process and will be encouraged to participate . . . or at a minimum, one more supervisor beyond the 3 supervisors currently onboard.

Pattye

Rather than emailing her responses, Mimi called and we talked through my questions/concerns. Here is where we stand . . . the Personnel Committee, consisting of three supervisors (Lamina, Kichline, and Donahue) will conduct the supervisor interviews on Wednesday, January 26 at 7 PM; the public is welcome. Neither Mimi nor any other township staff will be present for the interviews and there will be no minutes of the meeting taken. The three candidates conducting the interview will apparently brief the other three supervisors on the interview process and the candidates.

Mimi explained that it was difficult to find an available date for all supervisors for the interviews. I asked if that was the reason there were only three supervisors instead of all six supervisors attending the interviews and she was not sure why. I suggested that an easy scheduling solution would be for the interviews to be conducted before or after the regularly scheduled Board of Supervisors meeting on Monday, January 24. Presumably, all supervisors could attend and since it was a public meeting, there would be a record of the meeting with minutes. I was told that this option was considered but not accepted . . . it was thought the interview process would take too long and they wanted the candidates to have sufficient time.

Although I encouraged a fourth supervisor should attend the interview process to have a quorum, at this point that appears unlikely. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if one of the other three supervisors, either JD, Paul Olson or Evelyn Richter, stepped up and agreed to participate in the interview process on January 26?

The appointment of an interim supervisor is a serious duty of our elected officials (even if only for a few months) and I do not want to see the process manipulated by politics.

What do I mean manipulated . . . ? Only one of the four supervisor candidates, John Bravacos, has stated that he will not be on the ballot for the Special Election in May. Presumably, the other three candidates, Eamon Brazunas, Mike Heaberg and Kristen Mayock, all intend to participate in the Special Election required to fill the vacancy.

To be clear, I am not questioning the credentials of these three candidates but the only non-political appointment for this interim supervisor position is John Bravacos. Additionally, John Bravacos is a former township supervisor and former chair. To appoint one of the other three candidates would be politically motivated and give an advantage to that individual in May’s Special Election. For the record, a Republican (Warren Kampf) held the vacated seat and John Bravacos is a Republican.

Keeping Tredyffrin’s Interim Supervisor Appointment ProcessTransparent

As a personal effort to understand the township’s interim supervisor candidate interview process, I sent the following email to Mimi Gleason yesterday and copied Tredyffrin’s solicitor Tom Hogan and the Board of Supervisors.

Mimi –

I have a couple of questions concerning the interim supervisor candidates and interview process; and hope that you can help.

(1) Understanding that yesterday, January 10 was the deadline for residents to submit their bios, resume, etc. to the township if interested in the interim supervisor position, could you please tell me if any additional applications were received. That is, any additional applications other than those received from John Bravacos, Eamon Brazunas, Mike Heaberg and Kristen Mayock.

(2) As stated at the January 3 Board of Supervisors meeting by Chairman Bob Lamina, we understand that all interim supervisor candidates will be interviewed. Now that the deadline for receiving applications has occurred, could you please let me know the anticipated schedule for interviewing candidates? With the clock ticking and the time constraints of the individual supervisors and candidates, I imagine that finding an acceptable candidate interview date is difficult.

The residents were informed of the candidate interviews at the last Board of Supervisors meeting and we all understand the importance of the process. As the candidate process is public information, your response to this inquiry would be greatly appreciated. Thank you in advance and I look forward to hearing from you at your earliest convenience.

Kind regards,

Pattye Benson

There are reports of Sunshine Act violations by elected officials in other municipalities almost daily in the newspapers. My email to Mimi was a personal attempt to encourage an open and transparent process in the interim supervisor appointment; thus avoiding any suggestion of Sunshine Act violations by our township officials.

There may be ‘doubting Thomases’ among you, but I am pleased to report that I received a response to my inquiry from our township manager by the end of the day. In an email reply, Mimi confirmed that no additional residents applied for the supervisor vacancy. John Bravacos, Eamon Brazunas, Mike Heaberg and Kristen Mayock are the four township residents to be considered for the interim supervisor position.

Mimi confirmed that it is a “ . . . challenge finding an interview date.” She explained that she does not have a date or any more information on the process. However, Mimi offered that, “When it’s sorted out (and yes, that has to be soon) . . . “ that she would let me know the plan.

It appears that our township manager (and supervisors) understand the importance of keeping the interim supervisor appointment process open and transparent to the community. As information about the appointment process develops, I will keep readers informed through Community Matters.

And Then There Were 4 . . . Tredyffrin Interim Supervisor Candidate Drops Out

I have learned that Joe Muir has withdrawn his application from consideration for the interim supervisor vacancy. Mr. Muir was a member of Tredyffrin’s 2009 Budget Advisory Working Group (BAWG). He has a Marketing and Finance degree from Susquehanna University and his career has been in sales and sales management in the healthcare industry and is currently employed by IMS Health. I do not know the reason for Mr. Muir’s decision to withdraw as an interim supervisor candidate. I also do not know whether Mr. Muir will be a candidate in the Special Election.

Currently, there are four remaining interim supervisor candidates for consideration by the Board of Supervisors: John Bravacos, Eamon Brazunas, Mike Heaberg and Kristen Mayock. The deadline for submission of resumes to township manager, mgleason@tredyffrin.org is Monday, January 10.

Following the candidate interview process, the Board of Supervisors will vote and appoint a supervisor on Monday, February 7.

PA Sunshine Act Requires Tredyffrin’s Interim Supervisor Candidates to be Interviewed in Public

At the January 3 meeting, township supervisor Bob Lamina formally announced a board vacancy. Interested residents were invited to submit their resumes to the township manager by January 10. The process for appointing a new supervisor as explained by Lamina was that the candidates would be interviewed by the supervisors and then a vote and appointment would take place at the February 7 Board of Supervisors meeting.

This process appeared to be straightforward to me. As you know, I called the township manager and received the names of the five individuals that had submitted resumes. I contacted the candidates and asked for their resumes, bio, etc. Three of the candidates (John Bravacos, Eamon Brazunas, and Kristen Mayock) supplied the information to me and the other two candidates (Mike Heaberg, Joe Muir) choose not to provide the information. In lieu of a resume from these two candidates, I provided a short bio.

What a difference a day makes! After numerous calls, emails, etc. I now understand that Pennsylvania’s Sunshine Act complicates what appeared to be a simple, straightforward process to interview the interim supervisor candidates. Under the Sunshine Law, the selection of a replacement supervisor is required to proceed in a fashion that is substantially different from what would likely be the case in a non-municipal setting.

At the beginning of each township supervisor meeting, the chair of the Board of Supervisors announces the topics that were discussed in Executive Session. There are only three topics that qualify for private discussion (for purposes of reaching a decision) by the supervisors. Those three, that qualify under certain circumstances for Executive Session consideration involve: 1) certain legal related items; 2) certain real estate acquisition related items; and 3) certain personnel related items. The twist with #3 (and the reason that interviewing supervisor candidates does not qualify) is that a township supervisor is not an employee, from the standpoint of qualifying as a ‘personnel type’ that may qualify for executive session activity. In other words, the whole process, including the interviews for a replacement interim supervisor, is required by the Sunshine Act to occur in advertised public meetings.

If you are interested in further information, here is a link to the Sunshine Act, http://www.openrecordspa.org/sunshine.html A statement to consider from the Open Records website, “Open meetings are the basis for positive discussions between citizens and their elected officials. Government decisions should not be made in secret.”

So what does all this mean for the selection of an interim supervisor for Tredyffrin . . . ? It seems clear to me that the Sunshine Act requires public agencies to hold open meetings, provides for behind-closed-doors executive sessions in certain cases but specifically prohibits ones “involving the appointment or selection of any person to fill a vacancy in any elected office.” There is a regularly scheduled Board of Supervisors meeting on Monday, January 24 where the interview process of prospective interim supervisor candidates could take place. Since all Board of Supervisors meetings are advertised, I am guessing there would be no additional advertising (or expense) to the township. On the other hand, if I understand the Sunshine Act correctly, a Special Supervisors Meeting could be scheduled (and advertised) for interviewing the candidates.

However, the clock is ticking . . . so I suppose that the township manager, solicitor and Board of Supervisors are working on the next step to schedule the interview date for the five candidates. Again, remember you can still submit your resumes through Monday, January 10 to the township manager, Mimi Gleason at mgleason@tredyffrin.org. Having received emails/phone calls for me to encourage her, I am going to have another conversation with Judy DiFilippo and see if I can convince her to submit her resume to fill the interim supervisor position.

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