At a hastily-called meeting of the West Whiteland Board of Supervisors, the two sitting supervisors attempted to appoint a new supervisor without public input. It would have worked, except for a popular uprising and a sharp-eyed lawyer. The meeting represents a victory for anti-pipeline forces and is a further indication that the pipeline opposition has become a political power to be reckoned with.
First, a little background. West Whiteland has three Supervisors. One of them, Joe Denham, resigned December 19, creating a vacancy. When there is a vacancy, the remaining supervisors can appoint someone to fill the position until the next election. The supervisors called a meeting on Friday, December 22. It was announced only a day ahead and publicized only via a small classified ad in the local paper. Ostensibly, it was a meeting to accept Denham’s resignation. But rumor has it that more business was planned.
Bud Turner and his rumored plan. One of the two remaining Supervisors, Bud Turner, was defeated in the local November election. His term ends at the end of the calendar year, after which his replacement, Teresa Santalucia, will be sworn in. The timing of Denham’s resignation made it possible for Turner to play a role in naming Denham’s replacement, but only if the replacement was done immediately, in December.
Bud Turner is a controversial figure in West Whiteland. He has been on the Board of Supervisors for many years and is also the Fire Chief. His support of the Dragonpipe (Mariner East 2 pipeline) thrust him into the limelight and ultimately resulted in his electoral defeat. He was targeted in the November elections by the increasingly vocal pipeline opposition in Chester County. He is seen as one of Sunoco’s closest allies in the area.
Rumor has it that Turner wanted to continue his involvement as West Whiteland’s contact person with Sunoco. His plan was to get someone appointed to the Board of Supervisors in December who would then immediately join him in creating a new Township position, Sunoco Liaison. Then, early in the new year, Turner (who would no longer be on the Board at that point) would be appointed to that new position. Whether that rumor was true or not, we’ll probably never know.
A big turnout and a legal technicality. The rumor spread quickly during the 24 hours prior to the meeting. A large crowd of pipeline opponents turned out, despite the short notice and unusual weekday morning timing. It was clear that the meeting would take place in a contentious atmosphere.
Almost immediately, the meeting took an unplanned turn. An audience member, lawyer Matt Morley, stood up and questioned whether there had been a sign on the building announcing the meeting, as required by the Sunshine Act. The township manager acknowledged that there had not. After a brief discussion, which included the possibility of rescheduling the meeting later in December, the Board disappeared into a nearby room to confer with the Township solicitor.
When they emerged, it was announced that the next meeting would be in January, and the Denham resignation would be handled then. The secret plan (if there was one) had been thwarted—at least for now. The crowd cheered.
Added on 12-24-17: Hugh Brownstone has made an excellent video based on footage of this meeting. Highly recommended!