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Editorial no. 1                                                                                             

July 23, 2004

County’s officials need a refresher in ethics laws

It’s obviously time for elected officials in Chester County to stand up, raise their right hands and state, "I will not take part in any vote or use my office in any way that specifically benefits myself, my spouse, or members of my immediate family in an economic fashion."

Elected officials pledge essentially the same thing when they enter office and promise to abide by Pennsylvania’s law. But it looks as if we need another pledge with this specific ethics-related language; some Chester County township supervisors simply are not getting it, or following it.

•     In March the Pennsylvania Ethics Commission fined Sadsbury Supervisor Ralph T. "Joe" Garris Jr. for participating in his township’s decision to contract his son’s auto-repair business and its decision to hire his daughter as its part-time secretary and treasurer.


•     On June 8 the commission fined Thornbury Supervisor Barbara Iacovelli $500 for voting on a project that included constructing 40 feet of curbing adjacent to her South Concord Road property.


•     Also last month, the ethics board fined Upper Oxford Supervisor Betsy Huber $1,000 for voting numerous times to retain her husband as the township’s zoning officer and to set his salary.

Huber on Tuesday acknowledged her mistake but also expressed her frustration.

"When you spend a lot of your time working for the township for a salary of $1,800 a year, it’s upsetting that somebody would go to this length to attack you and defame my character in the press," Huber said.

We don’t deny Huber’s 13 years serving on Upper Oxford’s board of supervisors: we regularly commend those like her who give a lot of time for very little money. Nor do we want to take this situation out of context: her husband got the job with the township in 1987 -- before Huber’s first term. His yearly salary for the part-time position is small; last year he earned $5,035. Upper Oxford’s supervisors appoint or reappoint their officers on an annual basis in one motion. So when Betsy Huber voted to reappoint Henry Huber as zoning officer, she was also voting to appoint the township’s building inspector and others.

These facts mitigate what Huber did, but don’t excuse it; she admirably admits as much. We’re sure she will learn something from this expensive lesson. Our hope is others will as well.

©Daily Local News 2004

Reader Opinions: 

Name: Victoria Horan

Date: Jul, 26 2004

Following up Mr. Molnar’s comments, the Pennsylvania Constitution provides that elected officials may only be removed from office if they are convicted of misbehavior in office (such as failing to perform a duty of office) or of any infamous crime (such as accepting money in exchange for official favors).

Unfortunately, it’s hard to know what goes on when the public isn’t present. Not everyone knows that in Pennsylvania, the Sunshine Law requires all public agencies to take all official actions and conduct all deliberations leading up to official actions at PUBLIC MEETINGS. This includes establishing policy, decisions on municipal business and votes taken on any motion, resolution, ordinance, rule, regulation, proposal, report or order.

When officials are unable to articulate their positions or justify their decisions in a public forum, voters are left with the impression that those decisions have been made without a complete understanding of the facts and potential pitfalls therein. Either that, or someone other than the public official recommended or made the decision.

Name: Lucy Chavez

Date: Jul, 23 2004

I agree - we need a law that enables the township people being served to replace their supervisors when they feel (as a whole)that their needs are not being met.

The same for the school board.

Name: George Molnar

Date: Jul, 23 2004

There are approximately 2,400 different municipalities in PA. Of these, there are approximately 1,700 Second Class Townships. In each Second Class Township there are from three to five supervisors. Each supervisor is elected for a term of six years. There is, for all practical purposes, no way to remove a supervisor.

The law should be changed to allow the citizens to request a recall and removal of a supervisor.


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Last modified: 12/01/07