A handful of residents approached Buckingham supervisors Wednesday night demanding to know why their Right-to-Know requests had been denied.
The 30-minute public comment session turned into an hour, punctuated with heated exchanges and allegations of pre-election tactics.
Supervisor Chairman Jon Forest, a Republican, is up for re-election this November. An opponent, Kathy Sugarman, a Democrat, was one of the residents questioning the Right-to-Know denial.
Resident Harry Heinzl, a Democrat running for the elected post of township auditor, said he made the request in mid-August. He said he asked for engineering bills submitted by township engineers Knight Engineering as well as a travel itinerary for township manager Dana Cozza.
Aside from her salary, Cozza also gets a $500 monthly car allowance earmarked for township business.
“I think in this day and age, with the Sunshine Law and Right-to-Know Law, it is outrageous for the township manager to deny this,” said Heinzl.
Cozza, who also acts as the open records officer for the township, said the township gets Right-to-Know requests almost every day.
Cozza said some of the requests were either vague or too broad in scope and some were for documents that may not exist or were not considered public record. Her personal calendar is an example, she said.
And since she doesn’t submit for mileage reimbursement and uses her own vehicle for township business that requires her to travel, that also isn’t considered a public record, she said.
Some of the engineering bills the residents were requesting referred to building projects such as , Covenant Presbyterian Church, SICOM Systems Inc. and a lot line change along Anderson Road.
Resident Ginger Hendrick called the denial “an appalling misuse of authority.”
There is no reason why bills from contractors should be excluded from resident scrutiny, she said.
“Is there an election coming up?” Forest asked, somewhat snidely.
Hendrick countered by saying that’s “all the more reason for transparency in the township.”
When Sugarman addressed supervisors, the verbal sparring between her and Forest disintegrated into finger-pointing.
At that point, supervisor Henry Rowan, a Democrat, looked at the camera which tapes the bi-monthly meetings, and said he “apologized for the appalling behavior of our chairman.”
Rowan said, “There’s no reason why these questions can’t be answered.”
Heinzl said he plans to appeal.
In other business:
- Supervisors announced that leaf waste bags will be available at the township building between Oct. 3 and November 27. Pick up will begin Oct. 31.
- “Keep Buckingham Beautiful” is Oct. 15 and 16. to the Township Maintenance Building at 4991 Upper Mountain Road between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m.
- A preliminary land development plan for Bagley Asset Partners was extended until October 2012. The former Robertson and Thornton Antique Store on Route 202 and Mill Road is set to be renovated as a studio-art gallery and a second-floor apartment. The township still is waiting on topographical surveys in order for supervisors to give the final OK to the project.