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By R. Jonathan Tuleya, Staff Writer                                                                                               

June 27, 2004

SADSBURY -- An anonymous letter mailed to every household in the township is proof the conflict between the township’s supervisors and a group of dissenting residents has not subsided.

An organization calling itself JFI Partners -- short for Just For Your Information -- mailed more than 1,000 copies of the document from Harrisburg to residents on June 12.

In it, JFI outlines what it calls the results of a completed investigation by the Pennsylvania Ethics Commission against Sadsbury’s supervisors’ Chairman "Joe" Ralph T. Garris Jr.

According to a copy of the document obtained by the Daily Local News, JFI purports the state found Garris had violated ethics rules three times.

Garris says the information is false.

"This thing is so bogus," Garris said. "The ethics commission did a thorough investigation on me and they found me innocent. I don’t know what else I can say."

Well, sort of.

After speaking with Garris, the Daily Local News obtained a copy of the 13-page ethics commission’s ruling released on March 26.

It stated: "We (the seven ruling members of the commission) determine that the consent agreement submitted by the parties sets forth the proper disposition for this case."

Garris was ordered to pay $800 to the state as part of the agreement.

"Compliance ... will result in the closing of this case with no further action by this commission."

A lawyer for the state ethics commission refused to discuss the ruling, citing commission policy.

Confronted with this information, Garris admitted he had paid the $800 to the state. He also said he had been "exonerated" of any charges related to the investigation.

Garris also maintained that the letter is inaccurate.

The letter and ethics commission’s report both listed three "violations."

For each violation, the state determined Garris either "unintentionally" or "technically" broke ethics rules. The letter residents received did not include the words unintentionally or technically.

Garris committed the violations, according to the ethics report, when he participated in decisions to hire an auto repair business owned by his son to maintain township vehicles.

He also violated rules, the state said, when he participated in decisions to hire his daughter Lisa Myers to work as the township’s part-time secretary and treasurer.

The state found Garris not in violation of a fourth charge, when Sadsbury originally hired his daughter in 1997 as the township’s part-time secretary and treasurer because "such actions occurred beyond the statute of limitations."

Garris, a Democrat, has been a township supervisor for 23 years. He is up for election in 2005.

If he can find out who mailed the letter, he said, he plans to pursue legal action.

"I have every intention on suing them," Garris said. "It’s ridiculous and I’m really getting tired of it."

State Rep. Arthur D. Hershey, R-13th, of Cochranville, has gotten involved. Last week he sent a letter to local newspapers, including the Daily Local News, that called the original letter a fake.

"I just wanted the public to know," Hershey said in an interview on Thursday, "it wasn’t any government agency that sent that out."

He was concerned the Harrisburg postmark would lead residents to assume the letter came from an official source.

Hershey inquired about JFI Partners to the state’s small government committee, which, he said, could not confirm the existence of such an organization.

A reporter for the Daily Local News searched the Internet and statewide phone directories for "JFI Partners" and "Just For Your Information Partners." Neither produced any results.

However, while the sender appears to be fictitious, Hershey stopped short of calling the contents of the mailing a fabrication.

Like Garris, the state representative also suggested the motive for the missive is the zoning dispute.

"Rural townships have unknowingly violated the ethics commission from time to time ... and they don’t realize it," Hershey said. "The only time it gets brought to their attention is when some person gets jealous of another person’s position (in the township)."

Hershey further dismissed the dispute as "just one of those little country township things."

The feuding in Sadsbury stems from the township’s support of a zoning change for a proposed residential development.

Arcadia Land Co. has proposed building a 461-unit residential development on an 80-acre plot the company owns south of Sadsburyville. In order to do so, it needs the land changed from light industrial to residential.

The current zoning would allow Arcadia to build 440 multiple-family units in the residential district.

In April, Sadsbury’s zoning feasibility committee voted in favor of recommending the zoning change. There have been community protests to the action.

İDaily Local News 2004

Reader Opinions: 

Name: George Molnar

Date: Jul, 13 2004

You wrote:  "Apparently you have some anger for him."

Are you qualified to practice medicine in the Commonwealth of PA? Actually I don't even know him.

You wrote: I don't even think you live in our township so I don't know what your problem is."

So what does that have to do with anything - none of us live in Iraq.

As for my "problem" why are you so arrogant and presumptuous to accuse me of having a problem. I simply asked you for clarification of a ridiculous, implausible statement that you made.

You wrote: "I am sorry we all cannot be as perfect as you."

I'm not perfect, I just want the truth. You seem to avoid it.

You wrote: "Seems to me though that your anger could be used more on something worthwhile then just something that is done and over with that you can't change!!!"

Anger? Anger? I don't got to show you no anger. I'm not angry, I just want you to tell the truth.

As for "done and over with", can I assume that this is the way you feel about all past racists, bigots, criminals, fascists, and murderers? Just let them be, because it is all "done and over with"?

Name: Aliah Ammon

Date: Jul, 9 2004

Apparently you have some anger for him. I don't even think you live in our township so I don't know what your problem is. Yes I messed up by saying 23 times, but if you look I wrote 23 years and then I wrote 23 times. I am sorry we all cannot be as perfect as you. Seems to me though that your anger could be used more on something worthwhile then just something that is done and over with that you can't change!!!

Name: George Molnar

Date: Jul, 7 2004

In my previous post I stated that: "This means that there are 3-5 supervisors, each of whom is elected for a three (3) year term."

This was not correct. Supervisors in 2nd class townships are elected for a term of six (6) years. So if he was elected 23 times I would suggest that he claim a record for the oldest living human, in addition to whatever other vacuous claims that you are are making for him.

Name: George Molnar

Date: Jun, 30 2004

You stated that "I think that he must be doing something right to keep getting elected 23 times." A direct quote from your comment.

I simply questioned whether in fact he had been elected 23 times. So, has he been elected 23 times?

Why is this so hard for your to answer?

As far as having to live in Sadsbury township to know what someone did or did not know - what does this have to do with anything? And, why ask us to guess about what he has done - tell us.

Name: Aliah Ammon                                                                                           

Date: Jun, 30 2004 

Mr. Molnar, do you live in Sadsbury Township? If you did then you personally would know what he has done. Second, the article stated that "Garris, a Democrat, has been a township supervisor for 23 years. He is up for election in 2005." Before you try to tell me what I know, get your facts straight.

MRS. Aliah Ammon

Name: George Molnar

Date: Jun, 28 2004

Mr. Ammon, my guess is that Sadsbury Township is a second class township. This means that there are 3-5 supervisoes, each of whom is elected for a three (3) year term. So Mr. Garris was elected say 3-4 times, not 23 as you stated.

Also, your cause would have more substantiation if you could document at least one thing that he did in a positive manner. Simply stating that he has been in office for 23 years is not sufficient. How long was Mao in office?

Name: Aliah Ammon

Date: Jun, 28 2004

See the thing is IF Mr. Garris did anything wrong it is done and over with. The ethics commission took care of it. The people who brought this up are just getting desperate now. Mr. Garris has been a supervisor for 23 years. I think that he must be doing something right to keep getting elected 23 times. Not one person is going to like every decision that the township makes, but what we all have to look at is in the long run it is going to help us out. To JFI get a life, why don't you do something valuable with your time!!!

Name: George Molnar

Date: Jun, 27 2004

I find it totally unacceptable but completely predictable that an elected official who is responsible for writing the laws of our state would excuse unethical behavior by other elected officials by stating ""Rural townships have unknowingly violated the ethics commission from time to time ... and they don’t realize it,"

Maybe the elected municipal officials should be required to attend an ethics class, take a test and have their test scores published.

 

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