Saturday, February 26, 2011

Conduct Unbecoming

Typically local Planning Commission meetings are usually only slightly more exciting than watching paint dry, but they serve a necessary function in that the board members review land development plans submitted to the Township for approval, and make recommendations about them to the Board of Supervisors for action. The PC doesn’t have any binding authority but is merely an advisory board.

Their normal reorganization meeting having been cancelled due to snow last month, one of the items on the PC agenda February 23 was to appoint a new chair and vice chair for 2011. Longtime chairman (18 years) Warren Schlack had not sought reappointment.

Nominations were put on the floor to appoint Mike Comroe or Jill Zimmerman (a local attorney and candidate for supervisor this year) as the new chair. Before a vote could be taken, PC member Bill Brooke asked for the floor. He informed the other PC members that Mr. Comroe had called him back on January 24,  stated that the supervisors wanted him to be named chair, that they expected him to ‘clean house’, and threatened that if Mr. Brooke wanted to be reappointed in two years, he’d better support him for chairman, but that Mr. Comroe further indicated he ‘didn’t really need his [Brooke’s] vote anyway', begging the question as to why Comroe even bothered if this was the case.

Mike Comroe

Both supervisor liaisons to the PC, Colleen Eckman and Chris DiPaolo, were present, and Mr. Brooke took the opportunity to ask them point-blank if what Mr. Comroe had said were true, since he’d claimed to be speaking for them. While Mr. DiPaolo had nothing to say (or if he did, it could not be heard by the audience) Ms. Eckman went on at length, stating that she didn’t feel it was the supervisor’s place to tell a board or commission who their chairs should be. Neither supervisor directly denied Mr. Comroe’s assertion, however, nor did they indicate that they felt Mr. Comroe was out of line in speaking on their behalf.

Mr. Brooke said he was outraged and offended at Comroe’s attempted ‘muscling’ of him, and noted for the record that Mr. Comroe, an Army veteran, has a criminal record and has admitted guilt in at least two incidents involving the Township in the recent past.

One incident was theft/destruction of a campaign sign belonging to a 2009 candidate for supervisor – which he committed in front of an off-duty state trooper - and another was more serious, involving hacking into the Township’s email accounts and impersonating the township manager (the police reports are on file with the Township). In light of this, Mr. Brooke called on Mr. Comroe to resign; Comroe declined. When asked to respond to Mr. Brooke’s statements, Mr. Comroe only said that on the advice of his attorney (hopefully not the supervisors’ solicitor), he could not comment, and did not deny Mr. Brooke’s accusations.

When the vote was taken, Mr. Comroe was appointed chair by a vote of 5-4. PC members Satterwhite, LaPenta, Baird, Supplee and Comroe voted in support of Comroe; members Kuberski, Endlich, Brooke and Zimmerman supported Zimmerman (4 of the 5 who supported Comroe were appointed since 2010 by the current BOS). Upon the conclusion of the vote, PC member Tom Endlich, who has served approximately 15 years on the PC, got up and left the dias, stating ‘that’s it…I resign…I’m done…this is ridiculous’.

The PC then moved through the rest of their short agenda. Before the meeting concluded, former chair Schlack asked to speak. Among his comments, he said "this board has become political, loaded with political appointments" and is in his opinion "unable to do its job"...that it's 'sad and absolutely pathetic'.

New appointee Harold (Ted) Baird responded, stating that ‘there are no political appointments here’. Personally, I find that laughable – Mr. Baird, a retired plumber, is arguably the poster child for political appointments in Lower Providence. This is the same Mr. Baird who has gotten the Township to fight his zoning appeal against the DeLuca property on Pawlings Road (which you can read  more about herehere, and here ) for him, at taxpayer expense and who was instrumental in getting out the vote in Audubon for candidates Eckman and Thomas in 2009.

Mr. Baird opined that ‘it doesn’t matter who is the chairman’, and, if all members are equal,  I have to agree.  If it doesn’t matter, why then did Mr. Comroe feel the need to strong-arm a board member? (it was unclear whether Comroe had tried to reach, or did reach, any of the other three who supported Zimmerman and made similar threats). It’s customary if you want to be chair to call around to members and ask for their support. It’s certainly not customary to bully or threaten them for it. I do think, however, it does matter who's chair, in that it doesn’t send a great message to the community to have an apparently ego-driven bully with the lack of character Mr.Comroe evidently has on a board or commission at all, let alone in a position of leadership.

It should be obvious that anyone who's a bully and who has demonstrated that they do not have the best interests of all the Township’s residents at heart over their own vested interests does not belong on a commission making recommendations about anything to the governing body (nor does someone with a criminal record of offenses against the very community he’s supposedly serving), but lately it seems that these may be prerequisites for consideration. Regrettably, Mr. Baird is hardly the only recent board or commission appointment that’s political in nature; there are others. Several recent appointees in LP are or were involved in litigation against the township – a blatant conflict of interest if ever there was one.  Indeed, Mr. Comroe was reappointed to the PC last year by the current board in a 4-1 vote (from the minutes  of that meeting; Ms.Altieri voted against); presumably Ms. Altieri was not the only supervisor aware of Mr. Comroe's history.

For a BOS who supposedly wanted to do away with alleged ‘cronyism’ in the past, it seems rather hypocritical. It would appear that people who have been politically useful, regardless of qualifications, integrity or conflict of interest, are fit to do the business of the township and represent its interests.  And that is the face that the majority of our township’s leaders want to put forward to its residents, businesses, and community neighbors.


Anonymous said...

Wow a little full of himself isn't he? i really hope the supers did not bless this type of behavior.

Anonymous said...

know him from the LP gun club. He's a legend in his own mind.

Outraged in Audubon said...

"It should be obvious that anyone who has demonstrated that they do not have the best interests of all the Township’s residents at heart over their own vested interests does not belong on a commission making recommendations about anything." Wow, I couldn't have said it better myself, you should know as you served as a township supervisor for 4 months and pushed the CVS and Commerce Bank down the throats of the Audubon Residents against their verbal outcry. You didn't listen to the voice of the people then and now you are calling the kettle black. YOU caused more harm in those four months than most supervisors do in their four year term. People who live in glass housed shouldn't throw stones. And by the way, who else on the planning commission has a criminal record, you don't seem to mention him.

Janice Kearney said...

As to anyone else's criminal background, if there is one, that's not ideal, but then again, whoever that is did not try to strong-arm someone for a vote, speak for the supervisors, or act against the Township, did they? As to the rest of your comment, how did I "not have the best interests of all the Township’s residents at heart over [my] own vested interests"? What 'vested interest' did I have? I did not own the construction company that did the work, did not benefit in any way from any vendor or business involved, nor did the improvements make my life substantially easier since I live on the other end of town. I listened to the 24,000+ residents who were NOT objecting to the improvements over the vocal minority who were.

For nonlegal issues, those in office have to have the big-picture view of what's best for the most people in all parts of the municipality, knowing no matter what you do someone will probably be upset. One resident, one street, one neighborhood can become a special interest as much as a corporate entity could be perceived to be, if the majority of residents are harmed in some way (financially or otherwise) to give in to what they want.

As to pure legal issues, you have to adhere to the statutes or code, case law/precedent etc. regardless of whether you feel it makes moral or common sense (today's Westboro Baptist ruling from the US Supreme Court comes to mind as a good example of that). Traffic improvements benefit everyone, especially when they are being paid for by private parties and not taxpayers – which as a Republican, is a value I am proud to support. Of the small group of people who were concerned about it, most were pleased with the result, and the Township actually won a county award for it. If you want to discuss further please feel free to call & we can chat further. Otherwise, elections are coming up; throw your hat in the ring and tell us how you'd do it differently. Anonymously venting to a blog gets you nothing.

Steve said...

You know how it is Janice. People say they have Republican or Democrat values right up until it's in their own backyard or wallet. Then those values go right otu the window.

mike siegel said...

Janice, the CVS/Commerce Bank was the best thing that could ever happen to the Township. I was damn glad to be a part of that, even the my health went to the crapper. 5-8 million dollar savings to the Township for intersection improvements, stormwater flooding eliminated and an intersection that finally does look like a village. Now that Turkey Hill is almost done, again another intersection will be improved and when the economy does pick up, things will get much brighter for LP. Thanks

Anonymous said...

Anybody who was involved in getting the intersection of Egypt Rd and Park improved should be commended. It is so much easier to travel that area now. I know the vocal minority in Lower Providence has a way of influencing local politicians but way to stick to your guns! Hopefully we'll get new blood instead of a reelection of Rick Brown's lackey...

Anonymous said...

I think outraged in Lower Providence sounds like another Ted Baird!!! Always at Supervisors meeting running up & down to speak on Rick Browns behalf. They are like little puppets,speaking out loud like they no what they are talking about. They always want something in return that costs Tax payers tons of money!!!