Editorial: Day 232: Kennett Township held hostage
By Richard Gaw
Editor’s Note: The findings of the dual investigation conducted by the Chester County District Attorney’s Office and an independent forensic auditor into possible fraud in Kennett Township were made public on Dec. 10, one week after the following editorial was written. Whether the sentiments expressed in this editorial helped to expedite the conclusion of this eight-month investigation is of little concern to this newspaper. We will, however, endeavor to provide our readers with the continuing facts of these investigations, and any information shared at any public meetings that is pertinent.
On Thursday, April 25, the Kennett Township Board of Supervisors were notified by the fraud department of the township's bank that its authorities had found a number of suspicious transactions on township accounts.
In the days that followed, township manager Lisa Moore was placed on administrative leave and later dismissed from her job, and two investigations – one by the Chester County District Attorney's Office and the other by Marcum, LLP, a forensic auditor who was hired by the township – began in early May.
Now here we are, eight months later – 232 days removed from the initial announcement – and neither the DA's Office or Marcum has concluded their respective reports. Consequently, these delays have continued to hold the township in a vice grip and kept its residents in a holding pattern, waiting on a proverbial tarmac for information to arrive.
Even worse, both of these investigations have been conducted behind a complete and unpenetrable veil of secrecy, and nowhere is this more profoundly apparent than at the beginning of township board meetings, when board chairman Scudder Stevens reads from a prepared statement, under the heading of “Township Investigation Update.”
These announcements have been, for the most part, devoid of facts – empty cartoon balloons that share no details and no leads, which leaves the supervisors, Township Manager Eden Ratliff and solicitor David Sander left to tip-toe on ice in an effort to provide answers to facts they can not share, or have not been given. They can't talk, they say; the investigators have told them not to.
And yet, with each passing month, we continue to hear that the DA's Office and the forensic auditor are “nearing their conclusions,” and it is this carrot-and-stick teaser that is digging a deeper rift between the government of Kennett Township and its taxpayers and give the word “transparency” – applied to the township's mission to open its books and let its residents in – a new kind of shallowness.
At the conclusion of each statement, Stevens promotes a town hall meeting that the township will host soon after these investigations are completed, that will finally allow the township to respond to the many questions they are now unable to answer. At the Dec. 4 board meeting, it was shared that this event will likely be moved to a venue much larger than the Township Building, in order to accommodate more residents.
Until then, there can be no closure on this chapter of Kennett Township, however, until those facts are provided. While these investigations slog on, we can only surmise that this delay to reach conclusions – to find out who did what and when and where and how much money was involved – sends a warning that when these eventual facts are made publicly known, that they will tumble down over southern Chester County like the ashen demolition of a high-rise, unveiling the ugly truths of greed, malfeasance and egregious indecency in the rubble and the dust.
The Kennett Township Board of Supervisors, its governance and its residents have waited patiently over the past 232 days to know the facts of what happened. To the Chester County District Attorney’s Office and to Marcum, we say that while patience is a virtue, beware the fury of a patient man or woman. There are many men and women in Kennett Township who have been told by their elected leaders to continue to demonstrate patience, and it’s a virtue that they're quickly running out of.