BOARD OF SUPERVISORS
REGULAR MEETING OF 8/8/01: Mr. Harp moved to approve the minutes of the 8/7/01 regular meeting. The motion was seconded by Mr. Jirele and passed unanimously, with Mr. Weaver abstaining.
The Newtown Township Board of Supervisors met on Wednesday, August 8, 2001, in the Township meeting room at 8:00 PM. In attendance were Supervisors: Chairman Stephen Sanderlin, Vice Chairman Tom Jirele, Treasurer Scott Harp, Secretary Frank Mendicino and Member Raymond Goodnoe. Also present were: Planning Commission Vice Chairman Allen Fidler, Recreation Board Chairman Bernie Bires, Township Solicitor Stephen Harris, Township Engineer Bob Larason, Interim Township Manager Tom Harwood and Township Finance Director Elaine Gibbs.
GENERAL INTEREST SECTION
CALL TO ORDER: Chairman Sanderlin called the regular meeting to order at 8:00 PM with a moment of silence. Mr. Harp asked those present to pray for a group from the Methodist Church who had a serious traffic accident in Maine.
INVOCATION: Given by the Reverend Jeffrey M. Sweigart, Sr., Newtown Community Primitive Methodist Church. This was followed by the Pledge of Allegiance.
ADDITIONS TO THE AGENDA: Mr. Harwood announced that the Platinum Executive Suites item under the Planning Commission is removed from the agenda; the McLaughlin Sketch Plan under the Land Use Section is deferred until 8/20/01; and it may be necessary to have an executive session regarding an agreement.
INTRODUCTION OF JOSEPH RUDOLPH, ESQ.: Mr. Sanderlin introduced Joseph Rudolph of Reed Smith, who was present to answer questions about the recent ethics investigation.
MINUTES, BILLS LIST AND REPORTS:
APPROVAL OF MINUTES:
REGULAR MEETING OF 7/25/01: Mr. Harp moved to approve the minutes of the 7/25/01 regular meeting. The motion was seconded by Mr. Mendicino and passed unanimously, with Mr. Goodnoe abstaining.
WORK SESSION OF 7/16/01: Mr. Harp moved to approve the minutes of the 7/16/01 work session. The motion was seconded by Mr. Jirele and passed unanimously.
PAYMENT OF BILLS: Mr. Harp moved to pay bills totaling $140,968.52; the motion was seconded by Mr. Jirele and passed 4-1, with Mr. Goodnoe voting “nay”.
INTERFUND TRANSFERS: Mr. Harp moved to approve interfund transfers totaling $322,586.14; the motion was seconded by Mr. Jirele and passed unanimously.
PAYMENT FOR ISTEA TRAIL: Mr. Harp reported that the Township has received $44,000, the first installment of state reimbursement for the ISTEA Trail.
REPORTS OF COMMITTEES, BOARDS, COMMISSIONS:
PARK AND OPEN SPACE COMMITTEE: Mr. Harp reported that the Committee met on 7/30/01. They discussed plans for planting trees at Roberts Ridge Park and a new easement agreement with PECO.
RECREATION BOARD: Chairman Bernie Bires reported that the Board met on 8/1/01. They heard a financial report from Bill Wert which indicated that revenues are running higher than last year. Mr. Wert called this year’s camp program the best ever.
Mr. Mendicino asked if a full day camp program is being considered for 2002. Mr. Bires responded that the Board is looking into this, and will be sending out a questionnaire to help determine the demand for such a program.
Dick Weaver reported for the Skateboard Park Task Force. He said that the Township received a petition with over 1,000 signatures asking for a skateboard park. Also, census data indicates that there are several hundred potential users of the park in the Township. Merchants and the Police Department have expressed support for a supervised, safe place for this activity. The Task Force has visited several existing parks and has learned that they can be self sufficient financially. The Task Force is focusing on the old Acme site as the best location for the skateboard park.
Mr. Sanderlin asked if the Township could build on the Acme site. Mr. Harris responded that it can if the structure is portable. Mr. Weaver said the structure would be portable; other improvements would include fencing and improvements to the paving.
Mr. Goodnoe asked if the project has been discussed with the Capital Planning Committee. Mr. Weaver responded that it had not because the Task Force is just in the information gathering stage.
Mr. Jirele said that when the project is brought to the Capital Planning Committee it should be part of the Recreation Board presentation. Mr. Weaver noted that Mr. Wert, the Park and Recreation Director, is on the Task Force.
PLANNING COMMISSION: Allen Fidler, Vice Chairman of the Planning Commission, reported on their 8/7/01 meeting. Mr. Fidler said that Traffic Engineer Jeff L’Amoreaux gave the Commission updates on the Bypass Closed Loop system, possible signalization of the intersection of Washington Crossing and Linton Hill Roads, and newly installed reflectors at Durham Road and the Bypass.
Mr. Fidler said that a conditional use application for the McLaughlin Tract was removed from the agenda by the applicant. The Commission recommended approval of the Joint Municipal Authority Pole Garage project and the for the preliminary plan for Platinum Executive Suites.
The Commission also discussed a proposal to rezone the area around Durham and Eagle Roads with approximately 20 residents. The residents have been invited back to the 10/2/01 Commission meeting to explore this issue further.
Mr. Fidler reported that Commission members had a lively discussion of Representative Steil’s letter concerning Lower Makefield and Newtown Township traffic issues. The Commission agreed to state that Roadway A has been approved on a preliminary plan, and Roadways B and C have been presented to the Commission on sketch plans.
Walt Wydro, Chairman of the Newtown Area Regional Planning Commission, was present and clarified some questions about the Canal Overlay District proposed by Upper Makefield. The Commission still had questions about where the setback should end, and about restrictions on lighting in the District.
CONDITIONAL USE - STORK LABS - 6 PHEASANT RUN - TMP# 29-10-152: Mr. Sanderlin opened the public hearing on this application.
Architect Eugene Mugnier was present to discuss the application for D-1 Office Use and G-2, Research Use, at a site in the Light Industrial District. The building at #6 will be shared with another company. Mr. Mugnier explained that the proposed activities are an expansion of the company’s current operations at 4 Pheasant Run, which include chemical analysis and mechanical testing of metals.
Mr. Mendicino asked if the site can handle the two to three large truck deliveries expected per week. Mr. Mugnier said that the turning radius is adequate for a tractor-trailer.
Mr. Jirele asked about the handling of hazardous materials. Mr. Mugnier responded that Stork’s materials will be stored internally and not mixed with the other company’s waste. The waste will be removed by a service. Mr. Mugnier said that Stork Labs will provide the Township with a floor plan showing where the hazardous materials are stored.
Mr. Goodnoe moved to approve the conditional use for Stork Labs at 6 Pheasant Run for 1,394 square feet of D-1 Office Use, and 8,236 square feet of G-2 Research Use, subject to the Heritage Conservancy letter of 7/2/01. There will be an average of eight and a maximum of 12 employees, two or three large truck deliveries a week and one to two small truck deliveries a day are expected. The hours of operation will be 6:00 AM to 6:00 PM Monday through Friday. Hazardous waste will be removed by a service, and the applicant will provide the Township with a floor plan showing where the hazardous materials are stored. The motion was seconded by Mr. Jirele and passed unanimously.
JMZO AMENDMENT - CANAL OVERLAY DISTRICT: Mr. Harris said that Mr. Wydro e-mailed a response to the Planning Commission’s remaining questions about this proposed amendment after the 8/7/01 meeting. He provided copies of the response to the Supervisors.
Mr. Goodnoe moved to send the amendment to the Jointure for advertising. The motion was seconded by Mr. Jirele and passed unanimously.
SOLICITOR FOR PLANNING COMMISSION: Mr. Mendicino said that the Planning Commission’s questions about this amendment was an example of the need for legal counsel at the Planning Commission meetings. He suggested that the Planning Commission be directed to discuss this proposal and make a recommendation to the Board of Supervisors regarding whether they should have legal counsel, and what attorney they would like to use.
Mr. Harp said he agreed with this proposal. Mr. Jirele said he is not in favor of multiple legal counsels.
Mr. Mendicino moved to instruct the Planning Commission to make a recommendation to the Board of Supervisors regarding what legal firm they want to have at their meetings. The motion was seconded by Mr. Harp.
Discussion of motion: Mr. Goodnoe said he does not want to create a situation in which there could be a difference of opinion between lawyers advising the Township. Mr. Mendicino said that getting several points of view on complex issues is helpful.
Mr. Mendicino’s motion passed 3-2, with Mr. Goodnoe and Mr. Jirele voting “nay”.
FINAL PLAN - NEWTOWN JOINT MUNICIPAL AUTHORITY - POLE GARAGE - FREEDOM DRIVE AND BYPASS - TMP# 29-9-5-1: Architect Marcus DiPasquale, of Gannett Fleming, was present to discuss the applicant’s plan to build a 60 foot by 40 foot pole garage building and expand the parking area at a 9.1 acre site in the TC-2 District. Mr. Harris noted that this is a preliminary plan submitted as a final plan. Mr. Sanderlin said that the Board of Supervisors does not usually approve preliminary plans as final, but could make an exception because the applicant in this case is an Authority. Mr. Harwood added that all the elements of a final plan had been submitted.
Mr. Sanderlin asked why the Planning Commission recommended a waiver of stormwater management requirements. Mr. Fidler responded that there was no net increase in impervious surface, so the Commission saw no need for a stormwater management plan.
Mr. DiPasquale reviewed Carroll Engineering’s 7/31/01 letter and the waivers requested by the applicant regarding the scale of the plan and the stormwater management requirements. He noted that there will be five parking spaces for four employees. The plan will be reviewed by the Fire Marshal. Mr. DiPasquale stated that the applicant proposes to use a paving material that is superior to the one specified in the ordinance. He said that the Authority was granted a Special Exception to allow expansion of a nonconforming use on 6/21/01.
Mr. Jirele moved to approve the preliminary plan as final, with the understanding that it will be revised to comply with the 7/31/01 Carroll Engineering letter and the 6/22/01 Heritage Conservancy letter. The applicant will obtain all necessary permits and approvals, the plan will comply with the Zoning Hearing Board decision of 6/21/01, all costs of review will be paid by the applicant, the plan will be submitted to the Fire Marshal, waivers regarding the plan scale and a stormwater management plan are granted since there is no net increase in impervious surface. The motion was seconded by Mr. Mendicino and passed unanimously.
REGIONAL TRAFFIC CONCERNS: Mr. Mendicino said that he heard that the homes of four of the Supervisors were marked on the map at the 7/30/01 meeting held with Lower Makefield to discuss traffic concerns. He asked that those involved remain objective in discussing this issue.
Mr. Sanderlin said he attended the 7/30/01 meeting, and felt it was productive.
Ed Leary read a statement describing his reasons for bringing allegations of ethics violations to the Board of Supervisors. He also stated that Mr. Williams, who spoke in support of Mr. Goodnoe at previous meetings, has committed some ethics violations himself according to an article in the Courier Times.
Mr. Leary asked Mr. Rudolph, the attorney from Reed Smith, why the personal e-mail messages were published in the report of the investigation. Mr. Rudolph responded that the e-mails demonstrated that a relationship existed and that the Township system was used.
Mr. Leary also asked how Mr. Rudolph knew that the interviewees were being truthful. Mr. Rudolph responded that the interviews were not sworn testimony, and that having a tape recorder or stenographer present would have been intimidating. He felt the persons interviewed were being truthful.
Nancy Crescenzo of Newtown Grant asked the Board of Supervisors to support the skateboard park project. She noted that there are additional potential users of the park in other municipalities, since there are regional schools nearby. Mr. Harp said he is in favor of providing a safe place for young people to participate in this popular sport.
Dick Mays objected to so much money being spent on the ethics investigation, and said it seems to him that the majority of the Board of Supervisors are trying to get rid of Mr. Goodnoe.
Mr. Sanderlin said that the Township Solicitor and other legal experts recommended hiring a special investigator.
Warren Keyser said that Shawn Ward, an attorney recently appointed to the Planning Commission, could also serve as legal counsel to the Commission. He also stated there are drawbacks to the skateboard park. He questioned the assessment of potential users of the park, the economics of operating the park, and the possibility that the park will be an attractive nuisance. Mr. Keyser also asked Mr. Sanderlin to explain certain aspects of the ethics investigation and questioned the value of the interviews.
Mr. Keyser asked Mr. Rudolph why the investigation was carried out when there was no complaint filed. Mr. Rudolph responded that the Township had a duty to investigate the allegations because of liability concerns. He stated that a hostile environment was created, although no one complained of direct harassment. Mr. Mendicino said that employees did not file complaints because they were afraid of retribution.
Mr. Keyser asked how salaries are approved. Mr. Sanderlin responded that Mr. Hopkins would bring a list of salaries to the Supervisors during the budget process. Mr. Jirele said that the former administrative employee’s raises were questioned several times during this process.
Robert Williams stated that the story about him in the Courier Times was inaccurate; he was never convicted of any fraud.
Tony Passella asked what the next steps are. Mr. Sanderlin responded that the Supervisors must consider the recommendations of the Reed Smith report.
Elinor Campbell said that she and her daughter were the only people mentioned by name in the report, and asked why she was not contacted by investigators. Mr. Rudolph said the incident was mentioned only to illustrate that a Township employee was using the Township system to assist Mr. Goodnoe in his business. Mrs. Campbell complained that the report made it sound as if she was doing something unethical, which was not true.
Louis Kupperman, attorney for Mr. Goodnoe, commented that the names of everyone, even those redacted in the report, were made public in the appendix.
Mr. Mendicino said that Mr. Goodnoe and Mr. Hopkins conspired to hire an assistant to the executive assistant without the knowledge of the other four Supervisors.
Robert Davis, a long time Township resident, said he has a long history of straightforward, honest dealings with Mr. Goodnoe and his family.
Mr. Sanderlin said his experience with Mr. Goodnoe was similar until recently, when he realized that Mr. Goodnoe had lied to him and the other Supervisors about his relationship with a Township employee.
Sue Beasley, a Township resident, asked why a handwritten page of notes appears in the appendix. Mr. Rudolph explained that the notes were on the back of a document submitted by Mr. Leary, and therefore was copied as well. Mrs. Beasley said her name is in the notes, and asked why she was not contacted by the investigators. She also said that Mr. Mendicino had told her in March 2001 that he will do anything it takes to win the election and to get Mr. Goodnoe off the Board of Supervisors.
Marty Bray, a Township employee, said it seemed to him that problems started when Mr. Hopkins was hired.
Jim Bowe said that Mr. Goodnoe’s personal life is not the public’s business, but Mr. Goodnoe’s relationship with a Township employee created an impression of favoritism, which led to a negative environment for other employees. Mr. Bowe said that the Board of Supervisors had no choice but to fully investigate the allegations.
Walter Iwaskiw said he did not feel the report was worth the cost. He asked that the final cost be announced when all the investigative work is done. Mr. Iwaskiw also asked what happened to Mr. Leary’s allegations regarding his experiences in the election a few years ago. Mr. Jirele said that problems with local elections would be investigated by the County. Mr Iwaskiw also asked the Supervisors to investigate whether other employees use e-mail for personal business.
Ken Sharred of Newtown Grant said he worked with the former Township employee on a project a few years ago and found her to be competent and helpful.
Allen Fidler, Chairman of the Community Center Committee, asked whether any progress had been made in appointing a Task Force to carry on the work of the Committee. Mr. Sanderlin responded that the issue will be addressed at the next work session.
REPORTS OF OFFICIALS:
REGIONAL TRAFFIC ISSUES: Mr. Sanderlin noted that the meeting with Lower Makefield was discussed earlier under Members’ Comments.
EXECUTIVE SESSIONS: Mr. Sanderlin reported that the Board of Supervisors met in executive session on 8/2/01 to discuss candidates for Township Manager and pending litigation, and on 8/6/01 to discuss matters of labor and personnel.
OTHER BOARD MEMBERS: No items.
MANAGER: No items for this section.
REED SMITH RECOMMENDATIONS: Mr. Harris reviewed the recommendations made by the Reed Smith ethics investigation report, and asked the Supervisors how they wished to proceed. He said that the Township must negotiate with unionized employees regarding a no fraternization policy, but the other recommended actions can be adopted by resolution.
Ed Twining, a Township resident, expressed his opposition to the spending of nearly $50,000 on the investigation report. He also gave the Supervisors copies of the program for the Middletown Grange Fair, which begins on 8/15/01.
Mr. Sanderlin moved to direct the Solicitor to prepare a resolution to adopt the recommendations of the Reed Smith report, to be considered at the next work session. The motion was seconded by Mr. Harp.
Discussion of motion: Mr. Goodnoe suggested that the recommendations be referred to the Administrative Code Review Committee. Mr. Harp said that most of the persons who served on the Committee are no longer in their positions, and the Township needs to act on the recommendations promptly. Mr. Sanderlin said the matter warrants the attention of the full Board of Supervisors.
Mr. Sanderlin’s motion passed unanimously, with Mr. Goodnoe abstaining.
Louis Kupperman, Mr. Goodnoe’s attorney, stated that the investigation should have stopped when the allegations were not supported. He said that talk about the potential liability of the Township seems to invite claims. He stated that Reed Smith itself was once sued for sexual harassment, demonstrating that no one can protect themselves from frivolous suits.
Mr. Sanderlin commented that the rebuttal written by Mr. Kupperman and made available at the meeting tonight was incorrect about his role in the retrieval of e-mail messages from the Township computers. He said that the computer consultant retained by Reed Smith took possession of the work stations of the two former employees named in the allegations on 5/16/01. On the same day the consultant downloaded some files onto his laptop for later analysis, and met with Mr. Sanderlin. On 7/27/01 Mr. Sanderlin helped Township staff fix a computer problem which had nothing to do with gathering evidence for the investigation.
Mr. Mendicino said that Mr. Sanderlin has often used his expertise to help the Township in this way.
Mr. Goodnoe left the meeting.
ENGINEER: Mr. Larason reported on several items of interest in the project status report:
SYCAMORE STREET: PECO will begin its work around 9/4/01. Mr. Sanderlin asked if materials could be stored temporarily at the Acme site; Mr. Harris will contact Acme’s parent company about this.
WALNUT STREET AND SWAMP AVENUE: This project is expected to be completed by 9/7/01.
NEWTOWN TRAIL #1: The pedestrian bridge should be completed by 9/18/01.
PRESTON TRACT/COUNCIL ROCK SCHOOL DISTRICT TRACT/ROBERTS RIDGE PARK: The Bucks County Planning Commission is reviewing the subdivision and lot line changes proposed.
ROBERTS RIDGE DETENTION BASIN: The design of the basin has been submitted to the Conservation District.
ACME ENVIRONMENTAL TESTING: All invasive testing has been completed, but the Township may need an extension to complete all testing.
LAND USE SECTION
SKETCH PLAN - MCLAUGHLIN TRACT - TOLL BROTHERS: Tabled - 4/25/01.
OLD BUSINESS: No items for this section.
CORRESPONDENCE: Mr. Larason provided copies of recent correspondence regarding the Platinum Executive Suites preliminary plan and the Joint Municipal Authority’s sketch plan for a pole garage.
NEWTOWN CONGREGATION OF JEHOVAH’S WITNESSES: Mr. Mendicino moved to release $73,170.24 in escrow funds for this project, based on Certificate of Completion #2. The motion was seconded by Mr. Harp and passed unanimously.
NEWTOWN SHOPPING CENTER: Mr. Jirele moved to release $35,524.00 in escrow funds for this project, based on Certificate of Completion #12. The motion was seconded by Mr. Mendicino and passed unanimously.
SETTLEMENT AGREEMENT WITH VERIZON: Mr. Harris said he had provided copies of the Settlement Agreement with Verizon by e-mail, and discussed it with Mr. Harp. Mr. Harp said he recommended approval of the agreement.
Mr. Harp moved to authorize the Solicitor to move ahead with the settlement agreement with Verizon. The motion was seconded by Mr. Jirele and passed unanimously.
CONDITIONAL USE - TYRO’S SYCAMORE: Mr. Harris noted that the conditional use approval is ready to be signed tonight.
MANAGER: No items for this section.
PLAN EXPIRATIONS: Mr. Harwood stated that none needed to be addressed on the amended report he distributed.
No items of business for this section.
EXECUTIVE SESSION: Mr. Harris announced there is no need for an executive session.
ADJOURNMENT: Mr. Harp moved to adjourn. With no objections, the meeting was adjourned at 11:55 PM.
Gretta Stone, Recording Secretary
Minutes Approved as submitted _______ as corrected _______
Stephen D. Sanderlin, Chairman
Thomas Jirele, Vice Chairman
Scott R. Harp, Treasurer
Frank Mendicino, Secretary
Raymond Goodnoe, Member