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.

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