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Chester County Press

Leff to chair Kennett Township board

01/21/2020 01:05PM ● By Richard Gaw

By Richard L. Gaw

Staff Writer

Following a year when Kennett Township was embroiled in the most controversial investigation in its history, Dr. Richard L. Leff was elected as the new chair of the township's Board of Supervisors, during the board's annual reorganization meeting on Jan. 6.

Whitney S. Hoffman elected Vice Chair, taking over a position that Leff held in 2019. Each appointment will be for a one-year term.

Leff, who was elected to his second term as a supervisor last November, replaces Scudder Stevens, who served as the township's chief spokesman during the eight-month investigation of suspicious transactions in the township's accounting systems, which led to the December arrest of former township manager Lisa Moore, who was found to have embezzled over $3 million from the township, beginning in 2013.

“Rich has done an outstanding job as vice chair, and it is time for him to expand his role,” said Stevens, who had served as board chair for six of his eight years as a supervisor. “Last April, when we discovered the embezzlement of township funds, Rich stepped in and took over all of the financial responsibilities of the township.”

Leff said that while the fraud investigation took a personal toll on him, it will be crucial for him to hammer home the silver linings that have arisen out of the cloud of controversy.

“As a supervisor and the first person who received the first call that something was remiss, I have had a series of emotions, and a lot of those were reflected in public meetings,” he said. “But once you get past the anger and the betrayal, it is important to make changes so that it doesn't happen again.

“What we all went through last year affected so many in the township, mostly in terms of missed opportunities, but as we begin a new year, we have to continue to focus on recovery.”

At the board's Jan. 15 meeting, Leff spelled out the township's goals by introducing the measures it has recently enacted that are intended to provide more financial checks and balances in the future. They include requiring supervisors’ signatures on all checks, and two for over $2,000; outsourcing the township's payroll; the hiring of financial manager Amy Heinrich and township manager Eden Ratliff; changing the procedures for bill and mail processing; requiring three staff members to review financial records; placing township expenses and transfers online for residents to see; the acquisition of new financial software, likely in the first half of 2020; and doubling efforts to ensure more secure and frequent auditing practices.

“We're continuing to get our financial system in order,” Leff said. “All of those things take effort and they are not without cost, but these enhancements are enabling us to do the things that people and businesses will notice.”

During his statement, Leff said that the township will continue its commitment to preserving open space. Currently, he said, 23 percent of the township is preserved, a figure that he hopes will approach 30 percent in the future.

“That land preservation has occurred along side of population growth in the township is remarkable, and speaks to our commitment to work with our residents and other townships to foster creative and cooperative plans to enhance land use, traffic, commercial and residential options,” he said. 

Leff also pointed to the continued expansion of the township's trail network that links with Kennett Borough, the greater variety of housing options that are becoming available, the expansion of the township's 24/7 police department, cooperative agreements with neighboring municipalities, planned road improvements and increased ambulance and fire services.

During his Jan. 15 statement, Leff encouraged the township residents to remain engaged in the business of the township.

“The most important resource we have in Kennett Township is our residents,” he said. “In order to make this township the best it can be – a township that reflects the kind of place in which our residents want to live and businesses want to be located – we want and need to hear from you.”

To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, email [email protected]