Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Shot Heard 'Round The Township

By now most of you have probably heard that long-time township manager Joe Dunbar was unexpectedly and unceremoniously dismissed from his duties late last week by the current Board of Supervisors.

Well, by most of them, anyway (Rick Brown, Chris DiPaolo, Don Thomas voted in favor). Mrs. Eckman voted against it. Mrs. Altieri didn’t even know it was coming;  she left after the public meeting adjourned and before the evening’s second executive session commenced. It wasn’t on the agenda, and apparently no one spoke to either of the women beforehand, so they appear to have been ambushed by it as much as Mr. Dunbar was.

There are all kinds of rumors swirling around as to why.  Officially, it was due to ‘personal reasons’ per the Times Herald. I don’t know or have any evidence as to whether any of those rumors are true or not, or what “personal” reasons are being referenced, so I’m not going to perpetuate them here. As with anyone who’s a public figure, you make friends and you make enemies in the course of doing your job, and Joe’s no exception.   Joe and I haven’t always agreed, but we did respect each other’s backgrounds and abilities and always remained friends over many years.

Personally, I doubt any alleged ‘personal’ reasons were to blame. Those stories were circulating long before Joe’s contract was renewed earlier this year, and those rumors did not prevent the supervisors from renewing it. Now we have to buy him out of his contract, for which two and a half years remain, AND hire someone else.  It just seems like a handy excuse to me. My guess is, Joe was dismissed purely to clear the position for a Rick Brown crony to take.

The timing is suspect to me, as is the ‘search committee’. 

With two new supervisors coming on board in a few short weeks, continuity is crucial, and Joe would have been the main person to help bring them up to speed on the processes and issues of immediate concern, educate them as to the practical rules and guidelines that apply to various scenarios, and ensure no balls are dropped during the transition.  

Then again, if you are expected to vote in unquestioning lockstep with the chairman, I suppose you really don’t need to know anything, or do anything other than answer your phone when called and told what to do. Independent thinkers need not apply.

The ‘search committee’ is comprised of not only both new supervisors (one of whom, Jill Zimmerman did not support the dismissal and one, Jason Sorgini, who did) but a supervisor (Chris DiPaolo)  who is not only stepping down in less than a month but who could not get re-endorsed by his own party to run again after the still-continuing fallout of the 2009 defamation lawsuit, in which court documents show he played a central role.  Why on earth is HE on this committee?

As to the timing, well, we just concluded an election less than a month ago in which I was a candidate, and I am all too aware of instances that got back to me where promises were made in exchange for certain people to do, or not do, certain things to advance my opponent’s cause, or to just stay home and not help me out, one of which was the promise of a particular seat on a particular township board if someone just changed their driver’s license address to their business address (which is located in LP).

The ‘bill’ for those favors comes due shortly.  It should be interesting to see who fills the vacancies.  It is, just as I said during my campaign, yet another example of putting personal agendas ahead of what – or WHO – is best for the Township, and whether you liked the guy or not, Joe WAS the best guy for that job.
As I wrote about in another post some time ago, the overwhelming consensus has been (both here and in other communities in our area) that Joe did an outstanding job as an ambassador for Lower Providence. Everywhere I went while campaigning this year, whether meeting with residents or business owners, with only one exception I heard nothing but rave reviews about him…how responsive he was to issues, how quickly he followed up, etc.  He is innovative and kept us on the cutting edge of best practices.  He was both knowledgeable and tirelessly devoted to his job and this community. He has great connections – something absolutely irreplaceable in an age where so many issues that affect us are regional -  and was a driving force in his ability to get things done. He’s a respected community leader and an excellent people manager, in my observation.  He knew how to motivate to get the best out of anyone, and the township staff was known to be exceptionally loyal to him.
 In short, if there is anyone more in love with this Township than I am, it would be Joe Dunbar.  We’ve had good ones and horrible one in our past, and a good township manager can really put you in the top tier of communities. Joe was one of those, and it’s truly a big loss for us.
Best of luck, Joe…our loss will be someone else’s gain.


Anonymous said...

As usual you did not do your homework before running off at the mouth about Mr.Dunbar. The archaic title, C.P.M. Mr. Dunbar used after his name was for "Certified Purchasing Manager" not Certified Property Manager as you have stated. Please don't give Mr. Dunbar credit something he never earned. After all we all don't love the man as you do. Who's shoulder do you plan on crying now that Joe's gone?
Friend of the Winning Team,
Lower Providence Township

Anonymous said...

Ms Kearney,

I appreciate the service you provide to the public with this blog but this particular post was disappointing.

I read thirteen paragraphs only to learn that Mr Dunbar is your friend and that you think he should not have been fired.

Meanwhile, you acknowledge that there have been problems in the past while dismissing them because they weren't enough to fire him before. You never identify those problems and you don't defend him except to say he cares and that he's well-liked by some people.

The only reasonable inference this ordinary citizen can draw is that those problems of the past (whatever they were) got worse or that they never went away and became intolerable.

You argue that Mr Dunbar is some kind of victim of politial intrigue all the while allowing the inference that he got the (all too well-paying, IMHO) job in the first place because he had allied himself with the right people.

If you want this ordinary citizen to see things your way, you're going to have to do a better job than simply spinning out a bunch of words to say there are winners and losers in local politics.

I'm interested in this subject (and the township, in general) but this blog post told me next to nothing.

Again, I'm disappointed.

Janice Kearney said...

Anon #1 - my error, thanks for pointing it out.

Anon #2 - You have misinterpreted much of what I wrote, and I don't care whether or not you see anything 'my way'. I put my own observations and knowledge out for digestion; take it or leave it, read it or don't.

Not only did I not 'acknowledge' problems; I explicitly pointed out there have been no known problems and nothing more substantial than rumors about him; those same rumors were (correctly) ignored by the sitting Board earlier this year when they renewed his agreement. Nobody has sued the township or filed any government agency actions for anything to do with Mr. Dunbar. And, everyone else I know in politics, including myself, have been the victim of wild, crazy, and (sometimes laughably) untrue rumors, so I will not repeat anything I can't prove or have no personal knowledge of).