Editorial: Thorpe was out of line

Chadds Ford Township Supervisors’ Chairman George Thorpe was out of line on at least three occasions recently and should reconsider how he approaches his position as supervisor.

Twice he was less than forthcoming when asked about a public employee’s salary and he denied one resident the right to ask a question during the public comment period of a workshop session.

As previously reported, during the November Board of Supervisors’ meeting — when the board was reviewing the preliminary budget — he was asked what salary Township Manager Joe Barakat made. A public employee’s salary is a matter of public information because they get paid from tax dollars. All such salaries and retainers must be part of the public record because taxpayers have the right to know what they’re paying people.

Yet, Mr. Thorpe stonewalled the questioner saying he didn’t have the figures in front of him. He should have taken the time to get the information right then and there. He didn’t do that and the matter festered.

This month, when the board was considering the final budget, the same question was asked. This time Mr. Thorpe said he didn’t know the salary because the new budget had not yet been passed. It was a disrespectful response to a legitimate question.

In politics and in governance, perception is reality, and Mr. Thorpe’s comment made it easy for observers to perceive him as either arrogant or hiding something from residents, something to which they are legally and morally entitled.

Making his perceived image worse was the chairman’s decision during the Dec. 3 workshop two days before the regular board meeting. During that session, the elected tax collector wanted to address the issue of permits and Certificates of Occupancy that were either not sent to the county or were not recorded by the county assessor’s office, leaving the township under assessed for three years.

Mr. Thorpe said he would not entertain such discussion because it was not on the agenda. Only agenda items could be broad up during public comment in the workshop, he said.

From what dark, dank hole did that policy ooze? It was a grossly inconsiderate response and a slap in the face to representative government and all concerned residents.

This was not the first time Mr. Thorpe has shown a cavalier attitude toward rights. When the board passed the Noise Ordinance several years ago, the township solicitor said that a clause banning congregating at the township build could be challenged because it violated the First Amendment guarantee of the right to assembly. Mr. Thorpe responded by saying he didn’t care.

This is the type of attitude Americans have been dealing with from politicians on a national level for decades. The people of Chadds Ford have little affect on what those Washington, D.C. politicians do, but they can and should demand better from their township supervisors. If Mr. Thorpe doesn’t adjust his attitude on his own volition, township residents should bring pressure on him to either change his ways or leave office. He has stayed too long at the fair.

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