Secrets, secrets, and more secrets

Feldman wasn’t allowed to see Main Street’s minutes even though she’s on Council and participated in the vote when they were given $25K two years in a row. Councilor DeStefano is on the Board of Main Street. Mayor Maxwell is on the Board of Main Street. Councilor Rakoff is heavily involved with Main Street. MSA is even funded by the borough. Yet Councilor Feldman isn’t allowed to see their minutes. Why not? What are they hiding? What is so damaging that Main Street doesn’t dare let Feldman or the public see their minutes?

Check out this Office of Open Records’ denial of a Right to Know records request appeal. Neither the Borough nor Downingtown Main Street Association would provide Main Street’s minutes to Ann Feldman when she requested them. So, Feldman appealed to the Office of Open Records, and they also denied the appeal saying Downingtown Main Street Association isn’t subject to the Right to Know law.

Here’s what Feldman submitted and Main Street Association’s attorney, Jay Fischer, submitted this response. The Office of Open Records found that MSA isn’t subject to the RTK law, because the borough isn’t in “control” of Main Street. Oh really? If the borough (a.k.a. taxpayers) didn’t pony up $25K, there wouldn’t BE a Main Street Association at all. That sure looks like control to me.

Take a look at the copy of their bylaws that were submitted to the OOR (at the above link). Note that two pages are missing. Note also that they have whited-out several paragraphs, and they added in a sheet that isn’t part of their bylaws at all. What’s with that? What are they hiding even from the Office of Open Records?

This is the group that has currently received $50K in taxpayer dollars. What have they done with our money? They have paid Steve Plaugher — ex-D’town police officer and ex-assistant borough manager — $25K each year for his part-time work. What work? We’ll never know, because no one is allowed to see their minutes. MSA put up lights on the trees along Lancaster Ave., they have put up “Downingtown” flags that were supposed to be paid for by sponsors, they have put up a wind chime that was supposedly donated, they have cleaned up the little raised gardens along Lancaster Avenue (they refer to them as “pocket parks” — presumably because they’re small enough to fit in your pocket), and they painted the Mexican restaurant with money from a grant. That’s what they did with twenty-five THOuSAND dollars of taxpayers’ money. “Impressive” is the last word that comes to mind. This year, the big project is a mural on the side of Amani’s restaurant. It’s only going to cost $11,500. Such a bargain. If you live in the Borough, every time you drive past the flags and the mural, you can smile (through gritted teeth) and say, “I paid for that!”

Go ahead and submit your own Right to Know Request. You know, you can submit a RTK to any agency for any public information. No, you don’t have to say WHY you want the records. In fact, if the agency (i.e., Borough) asks why you want the records, go ahead and report them. It’s your business, and your business only. What would you like to know about that goes on in your municipality? Do you want to see minutes, records, emails, itemized expenditures? You can get those, but make sure to be specific, such as, “Please provide a copy of the document that Council President handed to Councilor Brenda Brinton during the Comprehensive Plan public hearing on September 4, 2013.” Who knows, maybe you’ll have more success than your elected representative in obtaining public records.

March 19 Council meeting video available

This video is in three parts.

Prez Gazzerro was on his best behavior and actually let council members discuss the Human Relations Commission ordinance, for the most part. He still has a god-complex thinking he can interrupt, take the floor, answer questions directed to the solicitor, or rephrase (“steal”) others’ questions (to redirect focus away from the speaker). How sad that Councilman Winkler actually thanked the prez for allowing discussion — as if Gazzerro was granting a favor — that is Council’s RIGHT and RESPONSIBILITY that the VOTERS granted and the Constitution upholds, NOT a gift to be given or withheld at the whim of his lordship.

The mayor was his typical self. Lots of words. Lots of attitude. Rude. This is the person who is running for State Rep. Ugh.

What’s up with Main Street??

Main Street Association won’t share the minutes of their meetings — not with the public or even with council members. I heard their meetings are closed, but I never tried to attend one so can’t verify that.

Ann Feldman asked for a copy of Main Street’s minutes and was denied. That was a surprise! So, she asked for them as a member of council. After all, Council gave them $25K two years in a row, so Council should be privy to MSA’s meetings, right? Nope. That didn’t matter. Plaugher denied Councilor Feldman’s request for a copy of MSA’s minutes.

So, Feldman filed an appeal with the Office of Open Records –>

Main Street Association’s attorney, Jay Fischer, filed a response –>

What’s interesting about MSA’s response is that pages 4 and 5 are missing from their Articles of Incorporation, and info in their bylaws was obviously whited-out. Why would MSA want to keep info from the Office of Open Records? Why, it sure does look like they’re hiding something, doesn’t it?

The OOR is supposed to provide their decision within 30 days (unless they request an extension). This should be interesting.

So, hey, if you’re bored, go ahead and file your own Right to Know Request with Main Street for a copy of their minutes. Maybe you’ll have more luck.

Be at the March 19th Council Meeting

Ordinance 2014-05 has been advertised in the Daily Lacka News and will be adopted this Wednesday the 19th. A big thank you to the people who attended and spoke out at the March 5th meeting. The one person who said he’s okay with 2014-05 just happens to be on Main Street Association and needs to stay in Council’s good favor in order to get his skate park built in the flood plain in the middle of Kerr Park. Other than him, citizens were not in favor of Council adopting this ordinance. Really good questions were raised, but Council Prez Gazzerro and Councilor Rakoff plowed ahead to get it voted on (with a minimal change proposed by favored newbie Pat McGlone). The solicitor said he hadn’t really read the ordinance, so wouldn’t you think Council would want him to read it over prior to taking a vote?? Nah.

Why is Council going to pass 2014-05 that creates a Human Resources Commission? Is it because the LGBT community is not protected against housing and employment discrimination? Nope. That can’t be the reason, because Council does not have the ability or authority to provide protection. Even though everyone on Council was in agreement that LGBTs should be protected from employment and housing discrimination, the State does not currently provide such protection. If the State doesn’t have a law about it, the Borough can’t take it upon themselves and create their own. Imagine what laws this Council would make, if they didn’t have to comply with State law! The Borough cannot enforce anti-discrimination acts against LGBTs, because the State has not given them the authority to do so. It’s as simple as that.

So, why is Council going ahead with this ordinance when it could land the them in court? More than likely, it’s because Josh Maxwell is running for a spot on the State Legislature. This ordinance would be a fine feather in his cap and would appeal to the LGBT voters, right? Let’s hope not. Any person with half a brain can see that this ordinance is NOT enforceable and NOT legal. It’s nothing more than a political stunt at the taxpayers’ expense. It is powerless to protect LGBTs against housing and employment discrimination. There are no laws in PA that provide such protection at this time.

Welcome to Downingtown. Check your rights at the door, please.

Ordinance 2014-05 Human Relations Commission also known as Ordinance 2014-05. Just like bad wine and limburger cheese, this ordinance pairs perfectly with the older Ordinance 2011-13 (Borough exempts itself, and anyone building on borough property, from complying with the zoning laws).

Ordinance 2014-05 adds Chapter 90 “Borough of Downingtown Human Relations Commission.” Sounds all nice and warm & fuzzy, doesn’t it? Sure. Nice and fuzzy just like Stalin in a teddy bear costume.

Actually, the PA Human Relations Commission was established in 1955, and it is a pretty solid Act. It was amended in June 1997 by Act 34 of 1997 (43 P.S. 951-963). Look at the dates. In 1955 discrimination was rampant and measures were needed to ensure that minorities and others were not discriminated against for housing and employment opportunities. Sixty years later, we have the Equal Employment Oppty Commission (EEOC), the Fair Housing Act, and volumes of case law that clearly define discrimination and defend people from being discriminated against. So, WHY would we add another layer of bureaucracy provided by lay people and at the taxpayers’ expense?? And WHY would we allow our elected officials to “deputize” volunteers to decide our fate? Those are good questions to ask on Wednesday.

With the adoption of Ord 2014-05 Council would appoint five citizens to hear discrimination complaints (who needs courts or the Constitution?). There are two options. (1) The Commission could just hear discrimination complaints and try to get the parties to play nice by using “persuasion, conference, or conciliation”, or (2) The Commission could adopt “expanded procedures”. Those expanded procedures are mighty scary to anyone who embraces the Constitution. Hey, isn’t Borough Council supposed to embrace the Constitution? Don’t they take an oath to support the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of Pennsylvania and to execute the duties of their office with fidelity*? Why, yes they do! Whoa whoa whoa, wait a minute. The Council prez Chip Gazzerro said in a public meeting that he doesn’t really know the Constitution (right after he tried to prevent Councilor Feldman from speaking as a citizen). How can he (or the rest of Council) support the Constitution if he (they) doesn’t even know it?? Disgraceful. It’s like putting chimpanzees in charge of a construction site; there’s a lot of activity, but most of it ends up in disaster for someone else to clean up.

This “expanded” Commission will have the authority to subpoena other citizens (“gimme your private records and shaddup about that there 5th Amendment.”), listen to testimony from attorneys, accept evidence (ah, but the rules of evidence are relaxed. Hearsay anyone?), and then act as judge and jury to decide if the “accused” is “guilty” of discriminatory practices. Why, they even get to impose hefty fines (we’re talking five figures).

Ah, and let’s not forget about the cost to taxpayers. This expanded Commission can hire people, and there will be attorney fees.

Scared, yet? I am.

1. strict observance of promises, duties, etc.: a servant’s fidelity.
2. loyalty: fidelity to one’s country.
3. conjugal faithfulness.
4. adherence to fact or detail.
5. accuracy; exactness: The speech was transcribed with great fidelity.