Where’s the sunshine? Visitors bombard East Cocalico supervisors on manager hiring process

By on April 12, 2017
The East Cocalico Township supervisors are (from left) Chairman  Douglas Mackley, Noelle Fortna, and Alan Fry.

The East Cocalico Township supervisors are (from left) Chairman Douglas Mackley, Noelle Fortna, and Alan Fry.

More than 20 residents, four times the usual number of people who attend East Cocalico Township supervisors meetings, showed up for the April 6 meeting.

After listening, several commented on what supervisors said regarding the allegation that they violated the state’s Sunshine Law.

Jed Kensinger, an LNP editor, attempted twice to speak during the “public comment” part of the meeting. His second attempt cited state law permitting such comments.

Supervisor Chairman Doug Mackley responded with a “duly noted.” He said the supervisors wanted comments regarding the hiring of Scott Russell as new township manager held until later on the agenda.

“It’s listed under the heading ‘Supervisors’,” said Mackley, citing the agenda.

Supervisors unanimously appointed Scott Russell to the township manager post at a salary of $95,000 later in the meeting.

Scott Russell

Scott Russell

Citizens voiced frustration prior to the vote based on two things: the supervisors’ explanation of why employees were told on March 28 that Scott Russell would be their new manager and why on March 29 a press release was issued that said the township is “proud to announce the hiring of H. Scott Russell to serve as the next township manager.”

Melissa Melewsky, media law counsel for the Pennsylvania News Media Association, said hiring can only take place at a public meeting, and only after there’s an opportunity for public comment. (LNP, April 7th edition)

Steve Brubabker, expressing the collective concern of several residents at the meeting asked: “Wouldn’t the process be to vote on hiring the manager before putting out a press release?”

Supervisor Secretary Noelle Fortna responded.

“I think the news release was premature,” she said, after a similar question by resident, Brian Wise.

Fortna stressed that hiring a capable, competent manager like Russell is good news for the township and folks needed to move forward.

Wise then asked Fortna: “So when he (Russell) gave his employer notice that he was leaving that was premature?”

“He likes his employer,” said Fortna, “and he wanted to give them ample notice.”

Supervisor Vice President, Alan Fry, said: “He (Russell) knows he has a job after the vote tonight.”

“What man tells his company that he’s leaving a good job for another one unless he knows for sure he has it?” asked resident Ramao Carrasco.

“No one gives notice on a well-paying job on a ‘maybe’,” said resident Jeff Mitchell.

LNP reported: “According to Russell, he was interviewed by supervisors on March 6, was offered the job by chairman, Doulas Mackley, March 7 and accepted the post March 10.”

On March 16 supervisors told the public that the board held several executive sessions over the past few weeks for the purpose of interviewing candidates for the position of township manager, extended an offer of employment to one candidate and is waiting on a reply.

At the April 6 meeting, Kensinger, an advocate for transparency and openness, said: “It sounds like you held an unadvertised executive session. On March 16th you told the public you made an offer when you had actually hired him.

“The public’s trust was broken,” Kensinger said, “and you (supervisors) have an opportunity tonight to make this right.”

Kensinger requested that his protest letter be recorded into the official minutes and sought assurance that in the future supervisors would follow the letter and spirit of the law.

Mackley said the timing was wrong and there was no attempt at collusion.

“I’m black and blue from getting beat up every meeting” by people asking why so much money is being spent on a part-time manager and why we can’t hire a manager more quickly, Mackley said.

Residents have consistently questioned the status of hiring a township manager, a position vacant for more than a year, due to supervisors not mentioning anything about it at public meetings.

“Our intent,” Mackley explained, “was to inform staff that a manager was hired so that they didn’t hear it outside of the building, like at the grocery store or some other place. We wanted to tell them first.”

Interim manager Steve Gabriel said Solicitor Tom Goodman stated that the supervisors were compliant with the Sunshine Act.

Mackley read from Goodman’s response, which cited sections, 708 (a) and 708 (b).

Goodman responded to information faxed by supervisors to him. He also recommended supervisors vote on Russell at their next meeting.

“He said that?’ asked Wise. “He’s willing to stake his license on that.”

Gabriel nodded his head in the affirmative while Mackley said, “yes, he said that.”

In other business, supervisors:

* Awarded the lawn care re-quote bid to TruGreen, Lititz, for $2,141.76.

* Awarded road project bids to Martin Paving, Lititz, for oil and chip work at $41,950.32, Stewart and Tate, York, for microsurfacing work at $19,440.15 and H&K Group, Skippack, for asphalt work at $189,203.55.

* Approved $5,073.00 to Yarnell for five cameras and peripherals for inside the police department.

* Heard Police Chief Terry Arment, report that of 29 criminal cases in March, 22 were cleared.

* Approved a toll road Saturday morning, May 6, at Reamstown Square by the Cocalico High School Leo Club.

* Approved closing East Church Street between Reamstown Road and Park Street from 3:50 -5 pm May 28th for the Memorial Day service in the park.

* Approved Lancaster Farmland Trust’s 2017 Pedal to Preserve bicycle ride through part of the township on Saturday, June 3.

* Approved the Lancaster Bicycle Club’s 39th Covered Bridge Metric Century ride through part of the township on Sunday, Aug, 20.

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