In front of an audience packed full of supporters, Doylestown Borough Council voted Monday night to seek out a third opinion on a councilwoman's residency.
Council members agreed to send a letter seeking an opinion from Attorney General Kathleen Kane. They want to know whether the state's principal legal authority has an opinion on residency requirements for sitting borough council members.
But regardless of whether Kane's office agrees to get involved, plenty of Doylestown residents made it clear Monday night that they want Marlene Pray to remain on council.
"She is the type of person that I want on borough council," said Tom Knoble, who lives in Ward 1, which Pray was elected in 2011 to represent. "She has the spirit of civic mindedness, and she also is an inspiration to our youth."
Another Ward 1 resident agreed.
"My husband and I own a home in Ward 1," said Vonna D’Armond. "We support Marlene, she’s done a wonderful job. I don’t understand why this issue has even come up."
Several other people who live in other Doylestown wards echoed those sentiments.
"She has put more work into this community than anyone I know," said one man. "It makes me sleep better at night knowing she’s doing what she’s doing."
At a December council meeting, Pray announced she had moved out of her Ward 1 home due to personal issues. She is temporarily living in Ward 3 but seeks to return to Ward 1.
At the January council meeting, Ward 1 resident Dick Schoenkopf called on Pray to resign.
Schoenkopf, who has previously called for all nine members of council to resign en masse, threatened unspecified legal action over Pray's move.
"Have you signed a lease in your neighborhood?" Schoenkopf asked Pray. "If I have to file a lawsuit, I’ll file a lawsuit."
Though Doylestown Borough encompasses only about 2 square miles, it is divided into three political subdivisions. Each ward elects three members to borough council.
Other Doylestown Borough Council members have temporarily moved out of their wards in the past but were never criticized or challenged for it.
"This is not the first time that a council person has had to move out of their ward," council president Det Ansinn said Monday. "It is the first time that someone was attacked for it."
Pennsylvania's borough code requires a candidate for office to have lived in their ward for one year prior to election, which Pray did.
It is vague, however, on specific residency requirements once elected.
The borough's solicitor, David Conn, has said that as long as a move is temporary, it does not impact a council member's ability to continue serving.
Because Conn and Pray are in a relationship, the borough sought additional opinions.
Conn did not attend Monday's meeting. Sharon Montanye, another attorney from the borough's law firm, attended in his place and said she would be advising Doylestown for the time being.
District Attorney David Heckler declined to get involved in the issue, Ansinn said, as did the state's Association of Boroughs.
So council voted to send a letter to the Attorney General's office to see if it has a clear opinion on the matter.
Councilwoman Joan Doyle said move was not personal; the borough wants to make sure it is doing the right thing, she said.
"This is not about the person," Doyle said, "it is about what is proper or not proper."
But Ansinn said he doubts that the attorney general will get involved.
"If someone was doing something illegal, Dave Heckler would not just sit by and let it happen," Ansinn said of the Bucks DA. "We anticipate sending this letter to the attorney general out of an abundance of caution."