KENNETT TOWNSHIP—Despite one testy exchange, it seems Kennett Township’s residents mostly accept that it may take some time to get answers in the unauthorized-transaction investigation.
Wednesday night was the second public meeting of the Kennett Township board of supervisors since news broke that a bank had found suspicious transactions in the township accounts. And it resembled the first in that it brought out a number of curious residents, formal statements from Scudder Stevens, the board chair, and repeated regrets about the constraints the investigations put on what the supervisors can tell the public.
Stevens told the attendees that the Chester County District Attorney’s investigators and the township-hired forensic accountants were continuing to assemble and examine the documents in the case, and that they anticipated that examination would continue for “an extended period.”
The township had dismissed Lisa Moore, its former township manager, Stevens said, and hired Alison Rudolf as interim manager while a search for a permanent replacement for Moore went on. The supervisors voted at last night’s meeting to ratify both those actions.
Stevens also said the supervisors were continuing to review the situation and working to make sure the township’s work was getting done and functioning properly. He said more information about the investigation would come out at the appropriate time, in keeping with the constraints the investigators had imposed on any public discussion of the situation.
The supervisors took some questions about the costs of the various responses. Township Solicitor David Sander said the forensic auditor fees would vary over time depending on which personnel worked and for how many hours. The interim manager was hired at a rate of $100 an hour, the supervisors said, and currently she was working for 20 hours a week.
Moore was making $125,000 per year when she was fired.
The ad announcing the search has been posted on the township’s website and includes a salary range of between $125,000 to $160,000.
Township resident Art Kaiser asked why the interim manager was not present at the meeting, and was told by Supervisor Whitney Hoffman that she had to take care of some previous commitments. Kaiser said he was disappointed, since the meeting was a “great opportunity” to meet township residents, and made a dismissive reference in passing to the “so-called transparency” of township government operations.
In a second exchange, Kaiser asked about what supervision the supervisors had set up for Rudolf, saying there had been a “failure of oversight” in the past. Stevens said he was constrained in the facts he could offer to refute that accusation but that Kaiser was wrong.
Sander stepped in to tell Kaiser that other attendees had asked questions and accepted the answers without being argumentative, and that he should do the same.
The supervisors said they could oversee Rudolf because they were all spending long hours in the township office, helping oversee the township operations. Hoffman said she had spent as much as 16 hours a day there since the problem with the accounts first emerged.
In response to a question about whether the township could identify points where the financial safeguards were circumvented, Stevens said the investigation would reach as much as 10 years into the past. Supervisor Richard Leff said when the investigation was done, the forensic auditors would identify any needed steps to take.
In other business, Stevens said he had gotten word that work was proceeding on the Clifton Mill bridge and PennDOT believed it would reopen in early to mid-July.
Sander said he had heard the old Stephens Garden Creations site was under an agreement of sale. The business had been destroyed years ago by a gas explosion and fire, and according to neighbors in the Hillingham development adjacent to it on Route 53 just south of Route 1, it was never adequately cleaned up and remained an unsightly and potentially dangerous nuisance. A sale, township staff and residents hope, could finally spur a cleanup.
The supervisors said they will not meet on July 3. Normally they meet the first and third Wednesdays of the month.