Editorial: Kennett Township's 'personnel matter'
By Richard Gaw
On July 15, 2015, before the township's board of supervisors, township residents and his family, Lydell Nolt was officially sworn in as the Kennett Township Chief of Police, following a brief tenure as the township's acting police chief, after the retirement of Albert McCarthy that May.
From the time Nolt began his tenure in Kennett Township in 2010, and in particular during his time as police chief, he has exemplified the trademarks of leadership, vision and integrity, and woven it deep into the confines of community policing. Leading an expanding team of law enforcement officials, Nolt championed the belief that his department should be front and center – at schools, at public events – all in an effort to promote true transparency with the residents he and his unit serve.
Over the past few months, however, the residents of Kennett Township have not had a police chief, and no one outside the governance of the township knows why. Now, all of the accomplishments that Chief Nolt has made free-float randomly, no longer weighted to their architect but tethered to Nolt's mysterious disappearance. It is a vanishing act that has confounded everyone who owns even the tiniest link to the township. It is a flimsy rumor swell of strung-together hearsay, one that now rages like a river in a flood, and the more it continues to flow, the more it diminishes the importance of truth and facts, and the more it potentially damages reputations.
On Dec. 17, 2019, more than 500 township residents and stakeholders of Kennett Township attended a town hall meeting at the Red Clay Room in Kennett Square. For nearly four hours, they heard the township supervisors, forensic accountant Ricardo Zayas, investigative attorney Joseph Poluka and township manager Eden Ratliff discuss the findings of the recently-concluded investigation of former township manager Lisa Moore's “accused” embezzlement of more than $3 million from township funds.
During the second phase of the meeting – one that offered those in attendance the opportunity to ask questions of those on the panel – former Kennett Square Mayor Leon Spencer momentarily broke from the news at hand to ask a question that has been left unanswered for the past several months: “What is going on with the chief of the Kennett Township Police Department?”
“Personnel matters are very complicated, and unfortunately this is a personnel matter,” Ratliff said. “It's Kennett Township's policy not to comment on matters of personnel until the matter is concluded. There is not a lot that I can say. When the process is concluded, I will be willing and able and frankly, eager, to communicate this to the public. I do not believe in creating mystery where it doesn't exist.”
See it for yourself. The mystery now hangs over us like an albatross.
To date, there has been no public statement on the status of Chief Nolt, either at a public meeting or posted on the official township website. Consequently, an entire township has been left in the dark, a fact that we can't help but chalk up to irony, given that it was the governance of the township itself who waited eight months for twin investigations into Moore's alleged fraud to be concluded.
Still included on the Kennett Township Police Department's website, Chief Nolt's message reads like a letter of promise to the residents his department serves. Two sentences stand out above the others: “We realize that our ability to be effective is dependent on good communication with our citizens and a cooperative approach to problem solving,” he wrote. “Our pledge to the citizens of Kennett Township is that we will provide professional police services that are innovative, community-minded and integrity-driven.”
Whether Chief Nolt's leave is temporary or permanent, the governance of Kennett Township holds all of these truths and facts about what led to his departure, and while we appreciate – and will continue to honor – the delicate nature of what the township is calling a “personnel matter,” we also believe that the residents of Kennett Township need to be kept informed about the status of their police department – and their police chief. Paraphrasing Nolt, the township's ability to be effective is dependent on good communication with its citizens.