By Tarek Tannous , Staff Writer
SADSBURY -- A former township supervisor abused his authority
when he utilized public equipment for private projects and altered the plans of
a sewage line that would have cost him, as a property owner, more than $17,000,
a State Ethics Commission investigation has concluded.
Heineman, who served as a township supervisor from January 1996 to December
2001, and was at one time chairman of the board of supervisors, was ordered to
pay $3,500 to the township by the ethics commission, which had launched an
investigation into Heinemans actions after a complaint filed in 2001.
The township will now examine the matter with its solicitor to see if further
recourse is warranted.
"I think there will be further action," said Supervisors Chairman Joe "Ralph"
Supervisor Douglas Doratt, who unseated Heineman in the last election, gave a
"We have to look into it. He abused his power," Doratt said.
Ethics commission investigators found that Heineman violated an ordinance of the
state ethics act when he used the authority of his office to move a proposed
sewer line to a far enough distance from his personal and rental properties that
he would not be obligated to tap into the system and pay the necessary fees.
Another violation of the ordnance, that Heineman used township-owned
construction equipment for personal work on his property, was deemed
"unintentional" by the ethics commission.
Heineman was cleared of a third allegation, that he received a salary for his
position as township treasurer without having the figure approved by the
township board of auditors. Investigators concluded that, since the township
auditors resigned before Heineman took the position, and since the payments
Heineman received were reviewed by a certified public accounting firm, there was
The allegations stem from when the issue of the township sewer system had become
a concern. A 1994 study by the Chester County Department of Health had found
that half of the townships sewer disposal systems were faulty and concluded
that the township needed to provide an alternative system.
Heineman, not yet a supervisor, was among a group of citizens concerned with the
costs of connecting the township to an alternative system. He and another group
member, Terry Franciscus, were later elected supervisors and became involved in
the township discussions of the sewer plans, but not before the township had
approved the installation of a new system.
Heineman continued to oppose the plan. The planned sewer system required all
property owners with residences within 150 feet to connect to the system, at a
cost of $2,450. Heinemans property, which includes his house and a nearby
building with six apartment units, sits on Greenbelt Drive and is within the
"One of the reasons for Heinemans opposition was the plan would have resulted
in increased expenses for Heineman for tap-ins of his personal and rental
properties," the ethics commission said.
Investigators found that Heineman used his influence as supervisor and township
liaison to the developers hired to install the system to have the plan changed
so his property would not be within the 150-foot boundary.
The commission found that Heinemans maneuvering in the sewer line matter saved
him from making payments that totaled $17,150.
"He knew better," Garris said. "Hes no different than any other taxpayer who
had to pay for the tap-in."
As for the use of township equipment, the ethics commission ruled that, though
it was a violation of a state ethics statute, it was done unintentionally.
In February 2000, Heineman had approached the other supervisors, Garris and
Franciscus, and asked if they opposed him using a new township backhoe for
personal work at his residence.
"Garris informed Heineman that he, Heineman, would have to be the judge as to
whether it was proper for him to use the backhoe at his residence," the
commission found. "Franciscus was not opposed, but did not approve, the use of
the backhoe by Heineman."
At the time, the backhoe was in use at a project on Buck Run Creek, about one or
one and a half miles away from Heinemans home. Heineman was township roadmaster
at the time and, as work at the Buck Run Creek site was being conducted, he
stored the backhoe on his property.
"The backhoe was left at Heinemans residence for approximately one month in
March, 2000, during which time Heineman used it to demolish a section of his
residence," the commission found.
His use of the equipment was seen by township residents, who complained at a
supervisors meeting the next month. The commissions findings note that the
rental costs for that model backhoe during the year 2000 would have amounted to
$275 a day, $825 a week or $2,400 a month.
Jan, 25 2003
believe that when you work for a company you have special privileges.
Heineman's special privilege was to save himself $2,400 by using the backhoe.
Any other resident in the area would have done the same thing. As for all the
residents within 150 feet to the new sewerline having to pay $2,450 to connect
to the system, that is an outrage! Residents should have the choice if they
want to connect. What is being done for residents that don't have the money?
Why do the residents pay township, county, school and per capita taxes if they
still have to pay for costly township projects? As for Heineman, I do not
blame him for trying to save 17,500 dollars, Had I been in the position where
I could save myself the money I would have done the same thing.
Jan, 25 2003
would imagine that abuses such as this one are only the tip of the iceburg.
The whole system needs to be investigated at the township, borough, and county