Pattye Benson

Community Matters

John Nagle

Radnor and Tredyffrin Townships . . . Home Rule Charter Issues and Troubling Behavior of Elected Officials

In 1975 the voters of Tredyffrin Township approved the adoption of a Home Rule Charter which tailored the structure of our local government to meet the Township’s current and future needs. The Charter became effective in January, 1976, coincidentally and most appropriately the Bicentennial of American Independence.

In the past, I have referenced problems with the Radnor Township’s elected officials. Since becoming president of Radnor’s Board of Commissioners a couple of months ago, John Nagle has continuously made headlines with his behavior, most recently his attempt to control free speech of the citizens. If you follow Radnor Township’s issues, a similiarity begins to surface when compared to the behavior of some of Tredyffrin’s elected officials (most specifically, Supervisors Lamina and Kampf at the last Board of Supervisors meeting.) I thought that this week’s As I See It article (written by a former Radnor Township Commissioner) in the Main Line Surburban offers interesting commentary . . . just substitute Radnor Township with Tredyffrin Township as you read it. Ms. Williams is concerned about Radnor Township’s reputation and the integrity of its elected officials. She speaks to issues concerning government transparency, public notification procedures, citizen free speech rights . . . any of this sound familiar?

As I See It: Public-comment plan is against spirit of Radnor’s home-rule charter

By Jeane B. Williams

On Nov. 2, 1976, the majority of the electors of Radnor Township, voting on that date, approved the adoption of the proposed Home Rule Charter, as it was submitted by the 11 members of the government study commission of the township, in its report dated May 4, 1976. The yes vote indicated that the charter would become effective (official) Jan. 1, 1977, under the conditions specified in the charter.

Listed among the advantages of the provisions of this document is #2: openness and responsiveness of township government.

The charter guarantees:

A. Open public meetings of the Board of Commissioners with opportunity for citizen discussion.

Because it does not state that a form of gag rule (time or term limit on speakers) is permitted to be imposed as a rule, especially on those opposed to the party-line agenda, does not make it acceptable. I would not support any change to the current open dialogue that follows the provisions and spirit of the Home Rule Charter.

B. Availability of advance meeting and agenda notices to interested citizens.

The purpose of this clause was to encourage public dialogue with the electorate.

C. Public notice, public availability and public discussion of proposed ordinances and proposed budgets prior to adoption.

First public notice of the above, when it appears on the agenda sheets the Friday before the Monday meeting, is not adequate study time.

D. Availability of all township records to interested citizens upon request.

The recent redaction of employee names from the salary list is a violation of the spirit and intent of the charter. The employee names are part of the township records and are paid through taxpayer dollars and are therefore public. The electorate should not be required to resort to requesting the names through a Pennsylvania Right to Know document request.

I will be the first to admit that I did not foresee Radnor Township citizens electing persons to office who do not recognize that Radnor Township has maintained its reputation as a desirable family living area. One of the contributing factors is that its public officials (until 2008) have presented and kept a respectable public reputation. If political vigilance has waned, please reread and remember you still have the HRC at your back! There are more do’s than don’ts in it because elected and appointed officials are expected to have integrity to themselves, their families, their neighbors and Radnor Township.

As one of the 11 home-rule charter study commissioners, I have grateful memories of the hours we spent together crafting a document that could be read and understood by men or women on the street, as well as school students, and also reflect the kind of governmental structure would continue to keep Radnor Township a present-day model of William Penn’s Green Country Town.

Jeane B. Williams is a former Radnor Township resident.

Radnor Township Sets the Example for Tredyffrin Township or Maybe it Is the Other Way Around

How about this headline coming out of Radnor Township, “Public Rights to Comment is Actively Under Assualt in Radnor Township”. Have you been following the media coverage of Radnor Township’s elected officials? Close on the heels of Dave Bashore (Remember Bashore is Radnor’s township manager that awarded more than $600K in bonuses to himself and other employees without the authorization of the Board of Commissioners) and his trial, John Nagle won a commissioner seat in November and at the first board meeting of 2010 was elected president of Radnor Township’s Board of Commissioners. In just a few meetings, Radnor Township commissioners have become their own version of reality TV. President Nagle has quickly positioned himself against many members of the community with a determination to control and attempt to silence the commentary of the public at commissioner meetings. As an example of Nagle’s distructive behavior and lack of civility, the public at a board meeting was greatly disturbed when he aggressively shouted profanity at a resident, who dared to disagree with him.

Dan Sherry, an attorney from Radnor Township received a copy of a proposed Radnor Township resolution that is circulating which I found very apropos for Tredyffrin Township readers. Although Mr. Sherry has not verified the resolutions’s authenticity, he believes it to be real. Please read proposed resolution here. Could this be a sign of what is to come for Tredyffrin residents?

In discussion of the proposed ordinance, attorney Sherry writes, “The proposed ordinance, plain and simple, is designed to restrict the public’s ability to engage the Radnor commissioners at official Board meetings, and to prevent the public from asking questions, receiving answers, or alerting the Board (and the public) of complicated matters of concern which can not possibly be expressed in three (3) minutes. . .

Moreover, the proposed ordinance is a shameless attempt to insulate the commissioners (and their corresponding actions) from public scrutiny, and to imbue the President of the Board (currently John Nagle) with unprecedented power and discretion (see, among other places Paragraphs 2, 3 and 4). Accordingly, if this proposed ordinance is adopted by the Board (which is currently comprised of four Democrats and three Republicans), any professed commitment by the commissioners to “accountability” “openness”, or “transparency” can be dismissed as demonstrably (and laughably) false. . . “

Mr. Sherry concludes his thoughts on this proposed legislation by saying, ‘” . . . emphatically, an issue that the local press should examine, and that the identity (or identities) of the commissioner(s) responsible for drafting this document should be discovered and made public immediately.”

In response to Tredyffrin’s Board of Supervisors decision to return escrow to St. Davids Golf Club, I have received emails from residents of Lower Merion, Radnor, Easttown and Willistown Townships. These neighboring residents have followed the decisions of Tredyffrin’s supervisors from the December supervisor meeting which included the BAWG report and with its alleged $50K offer from St. Davids Golf Club, to the $23,200 cardboard check presented to the fire companies and now to this latest supervisor decision (in opposition of ‘past practice’ of the township) to return escrow money without applicant request (or without the contracted work being completed).

Do you see the grey cloud hanging over Tredyffrin Township . . . our neighbors are talking about us, wondering where is the accountability of our elected officials? Wondering why a group of 4 individuals (Lamina, Kampf, Olson, Richter) is allowed total control of this community. Do we as residents of Tredyffrin Township care what our neighbors think of our government and the decisions of the officials that we elect?

I am really struggling to find a solution that could work to turn the clock back for Tredyffrin and its residents . . . to a time not long ago when elected officials of this community did what was right. Supervisors Lamina, Kampf, Olson and Richter need to reflect that it was the voters who elected you to serve them — that is, elected you to serve all the residents. I fear that unless we move towards changing this picture that these four have created, this may be the legacy of those who serve on the Board of Supervisors.

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