Court decision on Lisa Moore expected to be reached on Oct. 409/07/2021 02:41PM ● By Richard Gaw
Richard L. Gaw
While the effects of Hurricane Ida that swept through Chester County on Sept. 1 may have canceled the regularly-scheduled Kennett Township Board of Supervisors meeting, the township addressed the lead story that has been on the front burner of its agenda for the past two years.
In an email to township residents and business owners, board chairman Richard Leff wrote that former township manager Lisa Moore is scheduled to appear in front of the Hon. David F. Bortner at 1:30 p.m. on Oct. 4 in the Chester County Courthouse in Court Room 6.
The court appearance will ultimately determine the fate of Moore, who was arrested on Dec. 10, 2019 after an eight-month investigation by the Chester County District Attorney’s Office reported that she had allegedly embezzled a total of $3,249,453 from the township, dating back to 2013.
Moore was charged with felony theft, forgery, computer crimes and related offenses.
A once-prominent figure in local politics and the Kennett Square community, Moore is alleged to have devised her own personal parlor game of trickery with township funds that were intended to be used for employee benefits, the township's police department, land preservation and several other township operations.
There remains a strong speculation that Moore will plead guilty to her alleged crimes and negotiate a plan that would require her to pay the township back the money that was lost. While the terms of negotiation are still being discussed between Moore’s attorney Julia Alexa Rogers and the District Attorney’s Office, the length and extent of her prison sentence – or whether she receives only a probationary sentence -- is expected to be ultimately determined by Bortner.
While Moore’s case has become the subject of widespread scrutiny throughout the community over the past 22 months, she herself has managed to evade the bright glare of a courtroom. Her preliminary hearing scheduled for Feb. 11, 2020 was waived until April 21, 2020; a formal arraignment that had been scheduled for June 8 was continued; and a criminal trial that had been set for July 20, 2020 was also waived.
On July 19, 2021, Rogers appeared before Chester County Court of Common Pleas Judge Jeffrey Sommer and asked that the case be continued until September in order to “prepare for plea to comply with terms thereof and determine scheduling.” Sommer, who has presided over the case since it was first set for trial in April 2020, signed the continuance order.
“As we learn more, we will continue to keep the community updated,” Leff wrote. “It is important to remember that the timing, details, and judicial process are not at the discretion of the Board of Supervisors and are subject to change any anytime.”
Leff has blocked off the afternoon of Oct. 4 to attend Moore's appearance at the Chester County Courthouse.
“There are a lot of feelings wrapped up in all of this,” Leff said. “This date has been delayed and delayed for a variety of reasons, not only through the U.S. judicial process that was done on purpose, but COVID-19 slowed it down even further. Nothing is written in stone and things could still change, but if it proceeds it would close a sad chapter in someone's career in Kennett Township.
“It will also be an additional step forward in recouping as much of the stolen money as possible. The criminal case is one way the township can recover money. Criminal cases tend to have more weight in impacting people's lives, so hopefully that will come to fruition. I am hopeful that working with the District Attorney's Office – who has not only been sensitive to the obvious needs to have an appropriate penalty in place but also has been working with the township – will help make the township as whole as possible.”
Leff said that since late April of 2019 – when the first inklings of a scandal had begun to implicate Moore's role in fiscal wrongdoings in the township – he has kept his private emotions “bottled up” and clear from the public to see and hear, as he and his fellow supervisors Scudder Stevens and Whitney Hoffman continue to cooperate with the judicial process.
While the township has instituted several layers of checking and cross-checking in the township's fiduciary system and hired staff who have been thoroughly vetted, an ever-present albatross still exists in the form of a public perception that believes the residual effects of Moore's alleged thievery will linger in the political lives of Leff and his fellow supervisors, and worse still, implicate their names in Moore's alleged crimes.
Speaking for himself and his colleagues on the board, Leff plainly rejects all connections to the former manager.
“The public perception of this scandal is on one person,” Leff said. “They say you go to battle with the army your predecessors gave you, and we certainly have, and now we have had to change that army. We've made those necessary changes, and my goal is to make sure that this doesn't impact Kennett Township in terms of our ability to get grants and make improvements that help people's lives in the township.”
Leff said that after a decision on Moore has been reached, the township plans to schedule a public informational meeting with township residents.
“When I go around the township, my head is held high, knowing that we did what we thought was appropriate at the right time, and where we are now is in a much better place than we were three years ago,” Leff said. “We have learned from what happened, and we have created a better government for the people of Kennett Township.”
To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, email [email protected].