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Election Opponents Spar at Buckingham Meeting

Challengers for township office and their supporters protested the denial of a Right-to-Know request.

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.
Diane September 29, 2011 at 04:17 PM
Henry, you should probably apologize for the lying and cheating you have done over the last 10 plus years to our residents and township employees. Instead of worrying about Mr. Forest. I've been at the meetings when you gone on your rant...its not pretty. Just remember when you point the finger at someone, three are pointing back at you.
Bob September 30, 2011 at 02:04 AM
Taxpayers are entitled to this information and if not delivered, I am sure the voters will speak in November
Chris October 03, 2011 at 11:20 AM
Hey Bob, taxpayers are entitled to information that doesn't exist? Have you read the request? It would have required the township to hire an employee to copy thousands of pages of documents, create documents that don't exist, and cost thousands for a political fishing expedition. Stop drinking the cool-aid, these requests get denied everyday and this one was written to be denied so that people with no reason to be elected to office can make hay over it. Harry Heinzl can't even run for office, he's a state employee and is restricted under Federal law. Kathy Sugarman's claim to fame is that her deceased husband was a municipal attorney. She obviously got her experience through osmosis. Henry Rowan is behind this and by electing these two, we slide back to the days when Henry ran the township and the local government was his little plaything and expense account.

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