Four employees terminated as part of township's realignment
● By Richard Gaw
Four long time staff members of Kennett Township were recently dismissed from their duties as part of an effort to realign the structure and priorities of the township's management.
On Jan. 24, the township terminated receptionist and permit coordinator Cathy Rowe; assistant to the treasurer and right-to-know officer Megan Cadreau; and Michael O'Brien, assistant to the township manager.
A fourth employee, Sara Meadows, who had served as the township's historian and records keeper, was also terminated because her position was not funded in the 2020 budget.
The decision to terminate the four employees was made by Township Manager Eden Ratliff in consultation with the township's Board of Supervisors and Finance/Human Resources Director Amy Heinrich.
Rowe, Cadreau and O'Brien were all offered severance packages at the time of their termination. Ratliff has not heard yet whether any of the three have accepted those packages, which include a continued salary for a period of time and a longer continuation of the township's health care benefits.
The transition was part of an effort to shift the township's priorities and departments towards planning and governance and to create a stricter and more robust form of financial management and controls.
“The township conducted a thorough review to determine the best path forward to restore trust and confidence in all parts of township operations and services,” Ratliff said. “There was a lot of push and pull to make sure that we were making the right decision for the township in the long-term, and ultimately it was a team decision, and we're all on the same page.”
Ratliff said that although the salaries for the three employees was higher than the position responsibilities demanded, they were not a factor that led to the dismissal of Rowe, O'Brien and Cadreau. Ratliff found that their annual salaries far exceeded those of comparable positions held at other municipalities in Chester County. Rowe, who had been employed at the township for nearly 22 years, was earning an annual salary of $90,189; Cadreau, a 16-year employee, was making $91,680; and O'Brien, a six-year township employee, was paid $72,600.
Ratliff said that a “re-set” of the township's staff salary structure was necessary, and will go into effect immediately.
Ratliff also said that another peek inside the township's compensation structure revealed that some employees were receiving between six to eight weeks of vacation time a year that included carry-over allowances and pay-outs. He called the vacation package “inconsistent with municipal government” and has put in new vacation policies for township employees.
“We obtained data from over 20 municipalities in Chester County, where we could see salaries that were offered and benefit packages that were extended, and it was clear that we were inconsistent with other municipalities,” Ratliff said. “We want to be competitive and attract the talent to work here, but we don't want to be able to provide three months of paid time off to every employee, because it doesn't allow us to properly deliver government services.
“It is also unfair to the Kennett Township taxpayer who is paying for greater compensation for employees of their township than what a taxpayer in another municipality is paying for.”
Ratliff said that these terminations are not directly connected to the eight-month investigation into potential fraud in the township, which led to the December arrest of former township manager Lisa Moore, who is alleged to have embezzled more than $3 million of township funds.
At the Jan. 15 Board of Supervisors meeting, board chairman Dr. Richard Leff said that “substantial changes” have already been completed in the realignment of the township staff, and that Ratliff has reorganized four departments. Ratliff said that he will provide additional information about the changes being made to township staffing, structure and operations at the board's Feb. 5 meeting, which will take place at 7 p.m. at the Township Building.
To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, email firstname.lastname@example.org.