Supervisor's arrest: Residents press township for answers
● By Richard Gaw
By Richard L. Gaw
The London Grove Board of Supervisors reserved the first portion of their March 2 meeting to answering the questions of its constituency, regarding the February arrest of newly-elected supervisor Raymond Schoen.
For more than 30 minutes, residents peppered William Lincke, an attorney with the Media firm of Beatty Lincke and the township's solicitor, with inquiries and opinions about Schoen, a 42-year-old West Grove resident, who was formally taken under arrest on Feb. 10 by the Birmingham Township Police on a triple count of criminal trespassing, theft and receiving stolen property, for his involvement in the alleged stealing of firearms from a Birmingham Township home in December. Without making direct reference to Schoen – who was not present at the meeting – board chairman Richard Scott-Harper began the meeting by telling the audience that as part of being a “pro-active board,” it was decided by the supervisors that residents would be given the opportunity to ask questions about Schoen's arrest.
Lincke began his comments by telling the audience that because Schoen's arrest is a criminal process being conducted by the District Attorney's office, “It is something with which this board has no involvement,” he said. “This board has no ability to take action as a result of what may or may not happen, and that process is just getting staged.
“The theory is accepted as law is that those who are elected by the people serve for as long as they are eligible to serve, and that can only be contested in this kind of a process at the end of such a proceeding mad requested only by the District Attorney's office, not by this board. There is no vote that this board can take in order to make any change to affect the seat of a sitting supervisor. It is not in their hands. This is a function of the State constitution.”
One resident asked Lincke if the general public has the legal right to ask the board for Schoen's resignation.
“Legally, there is no impediment to your asking,” Lincke replied. “It's not something that you normally see, and I don't see that it's good policy, because people are not making judgment relative to this case. People who are charged – until they're convicted, you don't know whether or not they're guilty of what they're charged for. In the mean time, the taxpayers have determined that this individual is to perform public duties, and until that person is convicted, it's certainly not a practice to have boards vote to ask for resignations. It happens, rarely.”
London Grove Township is made up of a five-member Board of Supervisors, a number strategically selected to break potential ties during voting. Schoen, the newest member of the board, ran unopposed in the November 2015 election, and began his tenure on the London Grove board on Jan. 1, 2016, for a six-year tenure that will end on Dec. 31, 2021. Lincke said that the township can not appoint an interim supervisor to fill Schoen's spot on the board, while he settles his legal matters.
“The second class township code provides for an appointment mechanism in the event of a vacancy, and there is no vacancy in the position at this time, and there will not be a vacancy, unless and until there is either a resignation or there is a conviction of a crime that would qualify as one that would disable someone from serving,” Lincke said.
Lincke said that a 180-day rule usually applies with trials of this kind – a six-month time line that forces the Commonwealth to bring a matter to trial during that time period.
None of the four other board members have been in personal contact with Schoen, who, to date, has not submitted his resignation to the board.
The charges filed against Schoen stem from an incident that was reported to Birmingham Township police on Dec. 16, 2015 by township resident John Fraser of Queens Ranger Lane. As detailed in the official police description, Fraser said that he was getting ready for bed on Dec. 15, when he noticed that a gun case beneath his bed -- one that held a Beretta Weatherby Mark V Deluxe SC682 and a shotgun -- was missing. Following a search of the house, Fraser opened his gun safe -- located in the closet of the master bedroom -- and found that a single bolt action from the rifle was also missing.
Fraser told police that prior to departing for vacation with his wife Mae that he had hired Schoen -- who identifies himself as a tax accountant and a pet sitter through his website www.thepackleader.net -- to watch the family cat while the Frasers were away. Fraser told police that Schoen was given a key to the residence and its alarm code.
On Feb. 3, Fraser contacted the township police to inform them that he had spoken with a representative from Miller's Gun Shop, located at 97 West Jackson Avenue in New Castle, where he had orginally purchased the now missing guns in 1998. The police report stated that Lawrence Hudson, the general manager of the shop, informed police that a white, middle-aged male had visited the store in late December, carrying a Beretta Weatherby Mark V Deluxe SC682 and a shotgun, in a beretta gun case.
Hudson later identified Schoen from a lineup of eight photographs, circling and identifying Schoen as the man who possessed the firearms. Hudson told the police that Schoen had entered the store with the intent to sell the guns to the store, at a value more than what they are valued at. Schoen then left the store carrying the guns.
On Feb. 10, accompanied by a search warrant, members of the township police entered Schoen's home in London Grove Township and, after a thorough search of the home, found both the Mark V Deluxe and the shotgun, and later identified both guns as stolen.
Schoen was then placed into custody and transported to State Police Avondale. He was later released on his own recognizance, and received a preliminary hearing on March 1 in the Kennett Square District Court, with Magisterial District Judge Gwenn S. Knapp presiding. Schoen will report to his formal arraignment before the Court of Common Pleas on March 17 at the Chester County Justice Center in West Chester, beginning at 9:15 a.m.
In other township business, members of the board recently met with agents from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection [DEP], regarding the township's water monitor sample testing of area creeks and waterways – namely, those near the Nutra Soils, Inc. facility in West Grove. The meeting drew mixed results, supervisor Dave Connors said.
“The DEP seems generally interested in our concerns, but the frustrating part is that the DEP people arguing our results, so we basically ended up asking them, 'What do you want to see?'” Connors said. “We've essentially brought the DEP information that demonstrates that there is an issue in our creeks, and it's really [the DEP's] responsibility to take it from there. Unfortunately, the responsibility still seems to continue to fall in our lap.”
Connors said the stream pollution issues at Nutra Soils, Inc. have drawn the attention of the DEP, “but it's just frustrating that we have to continue pushing this, and continue testing,” he said. “I believe that it's the DEP's responsibility to continue the testing, but unfortunately, if we want something to happen, we are going to have to bear the financial burden.”
Connors said that the township will conduct two more water tests before the end of March, and share those results as part of a public discussion.
Tom Bolko of the Inniscrone Golf Course submitted a cost benefit analysis to the board, for the purchase of a Toro 3500 trim mower, at a cost of $32,322. The board is expected to make a decision on whether to purchase the mower, at its April meeting.
Bolko said that public events at Inniscrone have increased over the last several months, and have included Christmas and birthday parties, communion celebrations and several baby showers.
Based on a recommendation by the township's Environmental Advisory Committee, the board appointed Tom Szakas, a chemist who focuses on water analysis, to the committee.
To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.