Editorial: The facts of history
● By Richard Gaw
In the weight of what determines our major decisions, the assimilation of facts are often the easiest to interpret. Because they are unclouded by judgment, they are often assessed well before that of our emotions, our motivations, and the implications of past history. Therefore, we choose to begin with them:
Fact One: While operating a police vehicle on Oct. 4, 2011 on Creek Road in Kennett Township, Kennett Township Police Chief Albert McCarthy collided with a 2000 Jeep Grand Cherokee that held Hockessin residents Paula A. Sharpe and George A. Pigford. The resulting crash led to Sharpe receiving serious personal injuries, which included acute post-traumatic lumbar spine sprain, as well as other medical problems. Citing negligence and carelessness on the part of McCarthy, Sharpe and Pigford then filed a personal injury lawsuit against the township in Sept. 2013, and were later awarded a substantial sum of money following the settlement of the lawsuit.
As a result, McCarthy was temporarily placed on administrative leave from his position, and was confined to desk duties. He later publicly explained the course of his accident, including his admission that he had suffered a brief blackout due to a medical condition, caused by an absence seizure, which is categorized by brief epileptic seizures that occur suddenly and impair consciousness.
Fact Two: On April 16, 2014, the Kennett Township Board of Supervisors voted 3-0 to award McCarthy with a contract extension, a contract still in effect that pays him a little more than $90,000 a year. McCarthy is entitled to health, medical an dental benefits through the township's group health and dental plan; as well as receive three weeks' vacation, long-term disability; access to two police vehicles; and be the recipient of a $100,000 life insurance policy paid for by the township.
Fact Three: On April 13, 2015, Chief McCarthy, while on patrol, accidentally rammed his 2015 Ford Taurus police vehicle into the rear of a 2006 Honda Accord driven by Michael S. Hammon, 51, of Kennett Square at approximately 12 noon on Hillendale Road. At the scene of the accident, McCarthy told State Trooper Erick Baker of the State Police that the accident was caused by a temporary blackout – a brief seizure – that McCarthy attributed to a previous brain injury. Hammon sustained a minor injury but did not require EMS transportation. McCarthy was uninjured in the accident, and a family member picked him up from the scene.
At a recent meeting of the Kennett Township Board of Supervisors, the board voted 3-0 in favor of placing McCarthy on administrative leave from his duties, and appointed township police officer Lydell Nolt as its acting interim police chief.
Over the past several years, this newspaper has taken Chief McCarthy to task for the indiscretions described above as well as many others he has been involved in, most notably a 2001 incident when he accidentally left his loaded gun in a bathroom at Mary D. Lang Elementary School. This time is different. This time, we ask that you direct your attention back to Fact Two. Given McCarthy's 2011 accident, we again question the factors that contributed to the supervisors awarding McCarthy his current contract, which he continues to draw during his administrative leave from his duties.
The Board of Supervisors' decision on the evening of April 16, 2014 has now come back to haunt the township in more ways that it can imagine. Complete damage to McCarthy's police vehicle is estimated to be more than $10,000. It has been reported that the expense of paying an acting police chief and the salaries of part-tie officers during McCarthy's leave has forced the township to dig into its general fund.
The next meeting of the Kennett Township Board of Supervisors is May 20, beginning at 7:30 p.m. at the township building. We encourage the supervisors to explain the reasons why, less than three years removed from Chief McCarthy's first accident – they voted to authorize a new contract for him. More importantly, we encourage the residents to demand that their supervisors explain the future course of the township's police department, which includes the role McCarthy will play after his administrative leave expires.
In their decision to grant a new contract to Police Chief Albert McCarthy in 2014, there was just one small thing that the Kennett Township Board of Supervisors failed to take into account: That if we do not understand our history, we are bound to repeat it.