Appointing a Supervisor ought to be a straight forward process, but not in Pequea Township.
This week, I am going to write about the process that the Pennsylvania Second Class Township Code provides, and does not provide, for filling a vacant Supervisor seat when one resigns, the role of the PA Township Supervisor Handbook, and the process we are taking and why.
What is the Difference Between an Appointment and an Election… and Why Does it Matter?
Why is this question even an issue?
In February, Supervisor Bob Race resigned effective March 31, 2019. On April 1st, this left the new five-member board with four Supervisors and what should be a straight forward process has been an interesting experience.
I want to say first off, I completely understand why some would ask this question. The challenge is when it comes to an appointment, people on both sides could make a case that Supervisors must listen to the will of the people and vote according to their interests.
Which people do we listen to?
This is the question and the core difference between an election and an appointment.
In an election the people choose among the candidates that get enough signatures on a petition to get on the ballot. For a Township Supervisor, only ten signatures are needed.
On election day, the one with the most votes, wins.
In our case, a vacancy occurred and therefore the Second Class Township Code requires in Section 407 that the Board of Supervisors appoint someone to fill the vacancy until the seat becomes available for election again in 2021. It does not specify a process other than a time period.
While it would be wonderful to appoint someone that everyone agrees upon, that isn’t possible.
The reality is this isn’t an election, it’s an appointment to fill a vacancy.
We are tasked as a Board of Supervisors with putting the person in the vacant seat who we believe will best person to serve the township. In my case, I’m evaluating the expertise I believe our board needs to help move us forward. I explain more below.
Municipal Government is Different than State or Federal Government
As a second class township, Pequea Township follows one law that the state legislature has given us to follow, and that’s the second class township code. There is no other law for us. I encourage you to take a look through it.
If a State Representative resigns, it has a completely different protocol, which may be leading to some confusion by a few residents about the process we are following. The State Constitution requires a special election. There is no appointment of a State Representative.
That is very different than Congress. The Governor can appoint someone to fill a vacant Congressional seat until the next election. In that case, the Governor is not conducting polls to determine who will fill that seat. He may consider the local politics or other factors. However, it’s not an election. He will appoint who he feels best serves that district to serve in that seat until the next election or he may not appoint anyone and leave it vacant.
Why is what I’m sharing with you important?
On April 10th, we held a special meeting to appoint Supervisor Race’s vacant seat. The following put in letters of intent at that time:
- Kenneth Adams
- Scott Edwards
- Stephen Hlavacek
- Keith Haun (who is currently running for Township Supervisor)
Each Supervisor was asked to contact each candidate individually and interview them for the April 10th meeting.
Supervisor Hlaveck had to recuse himself because his son expressed interest in serving on the Board of Supervisors alongside his father. This is the reason I did not interview Stephen Hlavacek. I feel it would not be a good thing to have a father/son tandem serving on the board. Stephen ran for Township Supervisor last year and lost the election to Anthony Cazillo.
With Supervisor Hlaveck’s recusal, we still had a quorum for a five-member board. However, we needed a unanimous vote among the remaining three.
Supervisor Cazillo nominated Scott Edwards and I seconded the nomination.
I explained during my comments that I felt Mr. Edwards was the best candidate due to his 22-year service in the U.S. Air Force where he was responsible to build, maintain, and repair runways across the globe. He understands roads and equipment… which if he were to serve our township in this capacity moving forward would be a great asset to our community. None of us on the board have his expertise.
Our roads and infrastructure have many problems due to two primary reasons:
- Neglect over the last three years on roads that should have been taken care of and were not, arguably, at the expense of roads that were taken care of and perhaps should not have been (Kendig and West Willow).
- The wet weather over the last year contributed to new maintenance and repairs that need to be planned for and addressed over the next several years.
It is true that Mr. Edwards served as the Roadmaster for two months before resigning. As a personnel matter, I will not get into those details. In my opinion, he is a great candidate to fill this position! Mr. Edwards also has a great reputation among the Road Crew.
Then It Happened…
When Supervisor Evans-Herr made her statement, it was clear she intended not to vote. She spoke about the Township Supervisor Handbook and how we were violating it. She accused the Solicitor of giving me bad advice about the process we were following and said they corrected their wrong (which they never admitted because they didn’t). Then, she irresponsibly got up and stormed out of the room leaving us with no quorum and no ability to vote (not that a vote would have changed the outcome).
What was her rant about?
Ultimately it is a delay tactic. She does not want to serve with Scott Edwards.
The point she wanted to make is that we were violating the Supervisor Handbook by not having public interviews. As established above, the Second Class Township Code is our obligation not the Township Supervisors Handbook which is an interpretive guide put out by the PA Department of Community and Economic Development.
After watching the meetings for thirteen months (late 2017 – 2018) I witnessed a lot of things… screaming, hollering, cussing out residents, and a Supervisor walk out of a few meetings (guess who?). It was pure chaos. Does anyone who observed the meetings really believe that public interviews would have been a good thing?
I don’t, I believe it would have been a circus show. Inappropriate questions would have been asked and a game of gotcha would have been on full display. That would not be fair or appropriate for any of those who put in a letter of intent.
FYI, later this week I will share what the Townships Supervisor Handbook is and is not as I share the process we have been taking to fill the vacancy.
Where Do We Go from Here?
At our April 17th meeting, I put the nomination back on the agenda hoping we could come together and vote without spending any more money and using the Vacancy Chair to finalize filling the vacancy. Additionally, Lucille Gillichbauer put in a letter of intent just a few days before.
We failed to fill the seat.
Therefore, the end of the first week of May we will schedule a special meeting that will include the vacancy chair which will afford us another person who can vote. In theory, it should break any ties.
Be sure to check back later in the week as I go into more detail about the process as stated above…
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If you want to contact me, I’m accessible two ways:
- Phone: 717-584-3071
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
While you’re always welcome to our public meetings the third Wednesday of each month at 7pm at the New Danville Fire Department… don’t wait until then to contact me if you have a need or desire to do so. I want to hear from you.