Action on Township Manager Doug Cleland’s proposed contract was again postponed at Wednesday night’s Lower Merion Board of Commissioners meeting.
Cleland’s contract, which expired December 2011, was scheduled for a vote at 7:55 p.m. Wednesday. The meeting began at 8:40 with President Liz Rogan informing the packed room that the board would not be acting on the proposed contract.
Changes will need to be made to the contract language, Rogan said, and she asked that anyone who came to speak to Cleland’s contract speak more generally on the topic because of the anticipated changes.
Former Board President Joe Manko spoke on behalf of 11 former commissioners, including the most recent former board President Bruce Reed and former board Vice President Mark Taylor. Among them, he noted, were five Democrats and six Republicans.
“How do we view Doug Cleland?” Manko asked. “Quite simply, as one of the most extraordinary public servants any of us have ever encountered."
Manko went on to say that Cleland has shown “prudent and effective leadership in both good and bad economic times.”
Maley, and the aftermath
Bala Cynwyd resident John Maley said he was there to get an apology from Commissioners Jenny Brown and Lew Gould.
Brown and Gould, both Republicans, when compared with other nearby township managers, and to the contentious issue of .
Later in the meeting, Commissioner Phil Rosenzweig, also a Republican, said he was “disgusted” by Maley’s comments.
“He denigrates my colleagues and then promptly puts on his coat and leaves,” Rosenzweig said. “I would defend any of my colleagues on this board from such comments.”
Republican Commissioner Scott Zelov and Democratic Commissioner Dan Bernheim also noted the impropriety of Maley’s attacks.
“At times we disagree quite strenuously with each other,” Bernheim said of his colleagues, “but it is done, or it should be done, with respect for one another.”
Democratic Commissioner Jane Dellheim lamented the state of public discourse.
“I agree Mr. Maley’s comments were harsh, but I do not think they were any harsher than we have witnessed in the past,” Dellheim said. “It is an unfortunate sign of these times that people have taken, even nationally… The level of discourse is in the toilet. And it is very, very hard to sit up here and represent the township that I love and have people come before us for various reasons and behave the way they do and say the things they say.”
In the “old business” portion of the meeting, the topic of Cleland’s contract re-arose.
Gould advocated, after “four months of fooling around,” hiring independent counsel.
“This is the second time we were called together to go over the agreement with the township manager,” Gould said. “For reasons I don’t fully understand, without casting blame on anyone, that did not happen.”
Gould said it is unfair to residents who appear to comment on the topic and is unfair to Cleland to soon be going into a fifth month without a contract.
Commissioner Brian Gordon disagreed.
“I don’t think we should be criticized for not acting on a contract that was not ready to be passed,” Gordon said. “A number of residents made a number of suggestions to Jenny Brown, which she brought before us at pre-board [in executive session]. Amendments to contract language are needed; that’s not a bad thing, it’s actually a good thing.”
Gordon also thanked Rogan for creating a subcommittee with commissioners from both parties to analyze the contract and for allowing more public process on the contract.
Brown emailed an update on the contract status to her constituents on Thursday.
“I do not know exactly when it will be back on the agenda but I assume it will be next month,” Brown wrote. “Regardless of the changes to the contract language, when it comes back on the agenda, the total proposed compensation, which will cost taxpayers in excess of $550,000 for two years, will still be unreasonable for the job description, excessive compared to similar positions, and unfair to taxpayers.”