Kennett Township explains recent employee terminations
● By Richard Gaw
On Jan. 24, Kennett Township dismissed four long-time staff members from their jobs.
The transition, Ratliff said, was part of a restructuring that will shift the township's priorities and departments towards and planning, governance and a stricter and more robust form of financial management and controls. Those whose jobs were eliminated were 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.
The position of a fourth employee, Sara Meadows, who had served as the township's historian and records keeper, was earlier terminated because the job was not funded in the 2020 budget.
“It was one of my charges at the time of my hiring at the end of September to evaluate the government services the township was delivering,” he said, “and whether we were doing so effectively and efficiently and then make the determination as to whether we had the best team in place to continue doing that.
“It required the evaluation on my part of the employees and the job descriptions to determine the best way forward, and if any changes needed to be made. With the board's guidance and support, we determined that changes were necessary for a number of reasons.”
Ratliff addressed the annual salaries and compensation packages for Rowe, who was earning an annual salary of $90,189; Cadreau, who was earning $91,680; and O'Brien, who was being paid $72,600. The salaries and compensation packages of the former employees, he said, were inconsistent with what those in similar positions were making in 23 other municipalities in Chester County.
Ratliff also said that the township's employee compensation structure revealed that these and other employees were receiving between six to eight weeks of vacation time a year that included carry-over allowances and pay-outs. They too, he said, were inconsistent with other municipal governments in the county.
A member of the audience asked Ratliff to explain how those salaries were determined, and by whom.
“A lot of people here are trying to make that determination, as well,” said Ratliff, who referred to the the board of supervisors. “One of the things we've heard since the end of December was that the township was managed in such a way that there was a lot of misinformation and manipulation of data that was provided to the board and to the public, all intentionally designed to enable a pretty complicated scheme of fraud and theft.”
Ratliff was clearly making reference to his predecessor Lisa Moore, who was fired from her job last May and became the key figure in an eight-month investigation that led to her arrest in December for allegedly embezzling $3.2 million of township funds. While none of those employees who were recently terminated by the township were named in the 43-page police criminal complaint that implicated Moore in the crime, there is the subtle implication that they may have been terminated as part of the township's effort to sweep it clean of anything having to do with Moore. Ratliff vehemently rejected the implication, and said that the investigation had nothing to do with the dismissal of Rowe, Cadreau and O'Brien.
“The criminal complaint only implicates one person, which is the former township manager,” he said. “When we say that there is no direct involvement, it would not be true to say that the investigation exposed other people that would lead to employment decisions.”
Ratliff said the township will soon fill a number of positions that will be filled with what he called "qualified professional people on our team that can ensure in the delivery of government services." The jobs available are an accounting assistant who will work in the finance and human resources department; an executive assistant to the township manger; a front-office receptionist and permit coordinator; a township planner, a position added in the 2020 budget; and a building code official/deputy zoning officer, who will replace the position that had been vacated due to a retirement.
The salaries for each position will be posted, Ratliff said, and will be competitive with other county municipalities.
At one point in the discussion, the topic veered away from compensation for the former employees and addressed their value to the township and its governance. Long-time township volunteer and coordinator John Haedrich spoke highly of his association with two of the four employees who lost their jobs.
“I've worked here as a volunteer for the township for 28 years, and I can't think of any better employees among those four, because I knew them well,” he said. “The job they did and their performance was outstanding, in my opinion. I do not understand the rationale for saying that they're not professional.”
“I have a fond appreciation for all of the former employees of Kennett Township that we've discussed today,” Ratliff said. “I think they are good people, and I've come to enjoy knowing them over the past 100 days.
“This decision is not easy. It is not taken lightly. It is very serious and I understand greatly the impacts of the decisions, but I am committed and believe that they are in the best interests of the township.”
To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, email firstname.lastname@example.org.