‘Betrayal’ in Kennett Township

Betrayal and distrust were common themes in victim impact statements from current and former Kennett Township supervisors, a former township employee, and township residents.

Victim impact letters, 13 in all, sent to Chester County Judge David F. Bortner all spoke of how former township Manager Lisa Moore, who embezzled $3.2 million in township funds, hurt and betrayed those she was tasked with serving.

“There is no plausible explanation for her actions beyond pure greed and selfishness,” resident Joe O’Sullivan wrote.

“I am angry, disgusted, and frustrated that Lisa Moore felt she was ‘entitled’ to this vast sum of money,” resident Diane Fourney wrote.

The victim impact statements were included in the District Attorney’s “Memorandum in support of (Moore’s) proposed negotiated guilty plea,” a thick document now in the public record that lays out the plea deal, the background of the case, the victim impacts, restitution, and more. Since Moore worked for the township, all residents and businesses could technically be considered victims.

Residents feel betrayed by Lisa Moore who will now serve three to 10 years for embezzling more than $3.2 million from Kennett Township.

In mid-September, Kennett Township sent correspondence to those within their boundaries notifying them that they could submit victim impact statements to the DA’s office, advising them, “The Chester County District Attorney’s Office and the Kennett Township Supervisors are inviting all Kennett Township residents and area businesses to write a victim’s impact statement to the District Attorney’s office via email … the letter should explain the direct and/or indirect ways an individual, family or business was impacted by the embezzlement and related crimes.”

Moore pleaded guilty Oct. 4 to theft by deception, dealing in unlawful proceeds, forgery, tampering with public records, and access device fraud. Prior to her plea deal, residents of and businesses in Kennett Township were asked to send victim impact statements to the judge about how the embezzlement affected them.

The current supervisors sent a multi-page letter to the judge, outlining the impact Moore’s embezzlement had on the township, township staff, and themselves.

“Kennett Township’s illusionary view of itself and Lisa Moore was shattered in April (2019) with one phone call from a banking representative none of us had ever met,” the supervisors wrote in the letter. “Slowly over the next two years, the crimes unraveled … this betrayal by Moore plunged the township government into an unfathomable crisis of trust and uncertainty.”

That crisis of trust, they wrote, affected everything from the way the public now viewed the township to the township’s day-to-day operations. In every public supervisors’ meeting since mid-2019, the supervisors or the new township manager would give the updates they could on the investigation, often not being able to answer many questions because of the status of the investigation and court case.

“Township staff and the supervisors alike have been publicly humiliated, shamed and rebuked for Lisa Moore’s actions, with some residents still musing on social media and even in public meetings that we must have participated in Lisa Moore’s crimes,” the supervisors wrote. “Many of us – both elected and employed and tarnished by Lisa Moore’s actions – are unlikely to ever fully regain our reputations.”

Several of the victim impact statements reflected residents’ frustration at those in charge of Moore, as well as Moore herself.

“I feel betrayed by Lisa Moore and her fellow cohorts for mismanagement of funds from the township,” resident Anthony Slezak said. “Miss Moore should be held accountable and punished to the maximum extent of the law, and any supervisors on board at the time should be asked to step down for their incompetence allowing this to happen on their watch.”

Residents Diane and Mitch Arvey said they don’t trust the supervisors after this.

“We have lost trust in our elected officials to properly monitor the township’s finances,” the Arveys wrote in an email, adding that Moore’s embezzlement has affected them and other senior citizens on fixed incomes, among others. “Also, the large amount of money she stole from us all could have been used for senior services or to help other poor folk…Lisa Moore’s embezzlement has contributed to our hardships.”

Resident Patricia Slezak wrote that she felt betrayed by both Moore and “all officers/supervisors at Kennett Township.”

“I have lost all trust in my township,” she wrote.

Former Kennett Township Auditor Geoffrey Gamble wrote to the judge that the “blind faith” in Moore and a lack of safeguards helped set the scene for her embezzlement.

“With the extraordinary bureaucratic growth in township government, woefully inadequate financial safeguards, and the blind trust in herself that she engendered on the part of township leaders, she succumbed to the temptation to embezzle some $3.2 million of Kennett taxpayer money,” Gamble wrote. “I suspect that the combination of a lack of accounting procedures and the misplaced blind trust by township officials proved irresistible to her.”

Former township Supervisor Michael Elling wrote to the judge how angry and betrayed he felt.

“I served as a supervisor for 18 years when she was [township] manager,” Elling wrote. “I had complete confidence in her. I now feel betrayed, disappointed and angry. I will never understand how someone like her could be so two faced!”

Former township employee Michael Guttman told the judge how he was personally affected by the embezzlement, detailing how Moore hired him as the grants program coordinator and how he raised more than $4 million in grants for Kennett.

“Four years of intense effort … effectively came crashing down when Moore’s embezzlement was discovered,” Guttman wrote, adding that Moore “had apparently failed to properly document and/or get approval for changes over time that we had verbally agreed to regarding the terms of my employment relationship, and this caused the township to hold up my being paid.”

Guttman also wrote of being asked to remain a township employee after the embezzlement was discovered but finding that it wasn’t possible.

“It soon became clear that any real continuity was impossible,” Guttman said. “This was due to the continuous distraction and intense administrative turmoil following Moore’s sudden departure, including the discovery of the wide reach and complexity of her years of theft and deception, covered up by her duplicitous and fragmentary recordkeeping.”

Some residents talked of how they felt that Moore betrayed them.

“I’ve been distressed that since this was discovered in early 2019, she’s been living life at the beach instead of jail,” resident Adrienne Fornoff wrote. “Something is wrong with our system that allows justice to take so long. She can try to plea to guilt … but that doesn’t get the stolen money back.

“In her case her lying, cheating, and stealing must have the consequence of jail. What message would we be sending to Kennett Township children if she doesn’t go to jail?”

Resident Charles Shattuck said Moore needed to be sent to prison and made to pay back the money she embezzled.

“Lisa Moore is a scoundrel of the worse sort,” he wrote. “She would put on a smile at meetings and talk nicely on the phone, all the while she was stealing residents’ hard earned tax money. Lisa knew what she was doing was wrong and criminal and she kept doing it.”

Resident Barbara Carrington talked of the distrust that Moore’s actions elicited in the community.

“I would like to contribute how this embezzlement has caused me to distrust,” Carrington wrote in an email. “We have a very big tax bill each year. To think that someone (Ms. Moore) has spent our hard-earned money to enhance her lifestyle just pains me. I feel violated. It is a core problem that has reduced the value of our community.”

As part of the plea deal, Moore was sentenced to 3-10 years in a state correctional institution on the theft by deception, as well as five years of probation on the charges of dealing in unlawful proceeds, forgery, tampering with public records, and access device fraud.

Other terms of the plea agreement include full restitution of the $3,249,453 to the township, a $2,500 fine, and $1,842 in state police lab fees. She also has to forfeit her pension from the township and can never work for a non-profit or government where she is responsible for money, according to the plea agreement, which also read that “Defendant shall be required to inform any private employer of her conviction and supervision for whom she would work in a fiduciary position while on parole.”

About Monica Fragale

Monica Thompson Fragale is a freelance reporter who spent her life dreaming of being in the newspaper business. That dream came true after college when she started working at The Kennett Paper and, years later The Reporter newspaper in Lansdale and other dailies. She turned to non-profit work after her first daughter was born and spent the next 13 years in that field. But while you can take the girl out of journalism, you can’t take journalism out of the girl. Offers to freelance sparked the writing bug again started her fingers happily tapping away on the keyboard. Monica lives with her husband and two children in Kennett Square.



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