KENNETT TOWNSHIP—A curious calm prevailed at the first public meeting of the Kennett Township supervisors since news first broke that suspicious transactions had been noticed among the township’s bank accounts.
The crowd only filled about three-quarters of the available meeting room seats, far fewer than the room had seen in past controversies that have broken out in the political world of the idyllically rural township.
Judging by their questions, the crowd took seriously Chairman Scudder Stevens’ opening statement, delivered in a calm, sober manner, emphasizing that the supervisors took the situation as seriously as possible, wanted to be as open and transparent as they could, but were very constrained in what they could say in public for fear of jeopardizing the investigations being conducted by the county’s prosecutors and the township’s hired forensic auditors.
Stevens confirmed that long-time Township Manager Lisa Moore was on paid administrative leave and that all other township employees were working as usual. He said the township was searching for an interim manager.
National accounting firm Marcum LLP was chosen by the township to do the forensic accounting investigation, Stevens said. Their investigation may take a few months to complete, he said.
But most questions that had to do with particulars of the situation were left unanswered, as Stevens repeatedly cited the need to keep specifics confidential until the investigations were over. He said the Chester County district attorney’s office would probably take at least a couple of months to complete its own investigation.
Township resident and former supervisor Chris Burkett asked if Moore was on paid leave and if she were believed to be involved in the transactions. Stevens confirmed her current work status. “I can’t answer beyond that,” he said.
Lynn Nathan, another township resident, said she found it “amazing” that it was the bank that alerted the township to the suspicious transactions, rather than township-based accounting safeguards. She pointed out that Stevens had run on a platform of having greater financial transparency than previous administrations.
Stevens responded that it was because of internal controls the township had put in place since his tenure began that the transactions in question were discovered.
“All of that will come out, I assure you,” Stevens said.
Amy Heinrich, a township resident who is the finance director for West Whiteland Township, questioned Stevens about various practices in the township’s finances. In particular she wondered if the township had enough staff on its finance side to discourage wrongdoing. Heinrich also offered to help the supervisors if possible, given her professional experience.
Stevens told her the supervisors had been reviewing all those procedures since the situation came to light on April 25. He told Heinrich the township already had in place procedures like multiple check signers and a financial committee. And he said the supervisors themselves, all of whom had at least a background knowledge of financial practices, were currently taking care of the township’s books with the help of their hired auditing firm.
With no further questions from the public, Stevens went over once again the steps the supervisors had taken since the first learned about the problem. Tbey brought in the authorities, told the employees to cooperate with them, and asked them not to discuss or speculate about the situation.
The supervisors also brought in legal counsel to avoid conflicts of interest, protect employees’ rights, and avoid any continuing financial misdeeds, Stevens said. He added that they hired forensic auditors and other experts, locked down and reauthorized all their bank accounts and line of credit, and moved to hire an interim manager.
“The proper functioning of the township has gone forward, business as usual,” Stevens said.