Kennett Twp. sued over ‘secret’ retirement pact

A Kennett Township resident has filed a Sunshine Act lawsuit against the township and its supervisors, alleging that they negotiated a secret retirement agreement with the township’s former police chief.

The suit, filed by attorney Mark A. Sereni on behalf of Michael Hammon. accuses the supervisors of violating the Sunshine Act by entering into an agreement on May 7 with ex-township police chief Albert McCarthy, a pact that will cost township taxpayers “well in excess of $45,000.” The complaint asserts that at no time during any public meeting did the Kennett Township's Board of Supervisors invite or receive public comment on the agreement.

Contacted for comment, Supervisors’ Chairman Scudder G. Stevens said he and the board had been advised by counsel not to comment on the litigation.

The suit further alleged that the agreement contained a secrecy provision that generally prohibited the township from disclosing even the existence of the agreement unless compelled to do so by a Right-to-Know request. “It was only after Mr. Hammon's representative had made a Right-to-Know request about any retirement agreement that the township was forced to disclose it,” the suit said.

In a press release, Sereni said the Sunshine Act was enacted by lawmakers because “they explicitly found that the right of the public to be present at all meetings of governmental agencies and to witness the deliberation and decision-making of governmental agencies is vital to the enhancement and proper functioning of the democratic process, and that secrecy in public affairs undermines the faith of the public in government and the public's effectiveness in fulfilling its role in a democratic society."

McCarthy, who joined Kennett Township in 2007, is credited with creating the first Kennett Township Police Department, which Stevens called “a one man show” until Officer Lydell Nolt, now the police chief, joined the force in 2012. McCarthy previously worked for more than 30 years as an officer in Kennett Square Borough, including 19 years as its chief. McCarthy’s tenure in the borough ended with litigation over back pay.

The suit said that under the retirement agreement, McCarthy would continue to be paid his normal salary through Oct. 1. In addition, McCarthy would receive payment for any unused sick or vacation leave as of May 1 and continue to receive healthcare coverage through March 31, 2016, as long as he remains “responsible for any existing employee premium co-share or co-payment/deductible obligations.”

Under the terms of the agreement, which also includes a non-disparagement clause for both sides, McCarthy agreed to “make himself available, as requested by the township, to facilitate any transition in the police department, as well as to assist in the completion of any additional pending investigations while he remains employed” without additional compensation, the suit said.

 

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