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January 8, 2009

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The Chestnut Hill Local
8434 Germantown Ave.
Phila. PA 19118
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Letters

Local lost own Pete Dexter

I was very disappointed to read about the firing of longtime employee Jimmy J. Pack Jr.

Although I did not know Mr. Pack well, I met him several times on “the Avenue” during public events. He usually had his camera handy and was taking photos for the Local.

He is a colorful figure and had some “snappy patter” the last time I saw him. He was funny but always spoke respectfully the times I was with him. I never heard the man use any bad language.

I enjoyed many of his articles when he would take a trip and then give us the details when he got back. Then, there were his visits to local bars and taprooms where he found the most interesting people. Even the annoying people became interesting in his stories. He was not your average writer; he reminded me of Pete Dexter, formerly of The Philadelphia Daily News.

I am very sorry he’s gone, but it is the Local’s loss. Like many things today, I think there is more to the story than we are being told.

George Baylie
Roxborough

 

Driven to resignation

Members of the Chestnut Hill Community Association (CHCA) elected me to the board of directors of the CHCA in 2007 for a three-year term. On the 23rd of December 2008, I resigned from that position. This note provides a brief and necessarily limited explanation. I resigned because of a recent action by the officers and the board. I regret that I will no longer serve as a member of this current board of directors.

George L. Spaeth
Chestnut Hill

 

The Final Outrage 

The information surrounding the firing of Jimmy Pack in last week’s Local should be seen by CHCA members and readers as the final outrage from a group of CHCA executives and board members who have run roughshod with this organization for years, violating by-laws, making false statements to the board, fabricating documents, altering financial records, knowingly filing false tax returns, and illegally moving trust funds without due process. Now, despite challenges from some board members in the closed meeting, they fired a longtime employee without due process — an employee who has just been involved in an ugly and public display where a board member and committee chair hurled insults that became part of a formal complaint. Of course, that issue is not discussed when the kangaroo court headed by Dina Hitchcock brings charges forth and railroads Mr. Pack into oblivion without any opportunity to defend himself.

These tactics are actually not new to this organization, which only a few years ago held an inquisition using the Chestnut Hill Hospital meeting room, sealed with security guards and Philadelphia Police, to remove a board member for what they claimed was a personal insult hurled at another board member. I was witness to that event, and this is not second-hand information.

The insiders who still run both the CHCA and CHCF will do anything to protect what they must believe is a Chestnut Hill that is exempt not only from basic fairness and justice, but from the very legal system we live under. This “Chestnut Hill” is a fantasy of the imagination of a few who want to protect their personal sandbox they play in from reality, — but that Chestnut Hill never existed in the first place.

The larger problem is that they use a reputation garnered from the well-intentioned efforts of many others over the last 50 years and the tax exemption granted them that expects the trust funds to be used only for broad community purposes, and to be invested wisely. 

Like all those who intentionally misuse power and money, they spend just as much effort covering their tracks as perpetuating the fraud.  And so it has been for years as the Local and its editors attempt to report accurate and complete information and the CHCA management often tries to manicure the news for protection.

If you have had enough, write or call the Attorney General who has already subpoenaed all the records of these two organizations and whose investigation is ongoing.  Tell them the community needs responsible leadership and the rights these power-mongers have should be rescinded in short order and their finances impounded until a new group of honest citizens are willing to run an organization with transparency.  His contact information is:

Mark A. Pacella
Chief Deputy Attorney General
Charitable Trusts & Organizations Strawberry Square
Harrisburg, PA 17120

 

Jim Foster
Mt. Airy

 

Truth and consequences

It appears that the CHCA Board felt that Mr. Pack violated some regulation contained in the Employee Manual and determined that this violation was so egregious that it warranted emergency action without affording the employee due process. Perhaps there is more to the story than reported in the Local, as a confrontation as alleged, outside of the workplace, would likely not justify termination.

The board may have the authority to terminate employment, but it does so at its own peril. Those readers whose entertainment tastes stoop as “low” as the Blue Collar Comedy Tour may understand the philosophy of comedian Ron White: I Had the Right to Remain Silent...But I Didn’t Have the Ability. Perhaps they should have let this opportunity pass.

The biggest problem is that employee and employer, boss and subordinate, are bound by the same rules. In Mr. Pack’s 11-year tenure it is likely that he received and acknowledged the Employee Manual. It is equally unlikely that the Board members were given such an opportunity. Too bad. The bosses, those who can fire, should know their responsibilities.

Now that the die is cast, you, the CHCA, have the following options:

1. Rely on the fact that Mr. Pack, as an experienced graphic designer, will find a better job elsewhere. And hope you are off the hook.

2. Hire a very good lawyer and trust him to say that I am wrong and that you have nothing to worry about.

3. At your next meeting decide that you underestimated the consequences of your actions and reverse the decision. Direct the editor to counsel the employee if truly warranted. Also inform board members of their own responsibilities (and require them to read the Employee Manual and acknowledge their responsibilities as bosses).

Of course, there are consequences with each choice. Choose #3 and you’ll need to give Mr. Pack approximately $3,000 in back pay for the month of January (and hope he agrees to come back). Choose #2 and you may need to give approximately the same amount to the very good attorney (and hope that he/she is right). Choose #1 and hope that your loss is someone else’s gain (or expect a lawsuit likely to take the few dollars you have left).

While there are no doubt many sides to this story, the ones displayed so far are quite ugly. It seems as though the board members did not hear of these issues before their vote. It also appears they did not understand their responsibilities by taking on the role of “boss.” I suggest the CHCA take option #3 with additional savings possible by agreeing to this at the next executive meeting, saving both dollars and face.

 

Ed Budnick
Chestnut Hill

 

Bylaws violations significant

The continuing violation of the CHCA bylaws by its officers, certain committees and the board is not an insignificant act.

The bylaws outline the purpose of the CHCA and the means by which that purpose can be implemented. The bylaws define the rights of the membership, the purpose of the Local and the obligations of board and committee members.

It is incumbent upon board members and committee chairs to be familiar with these bylaws and to work within that framework for the benefit of the entire community or to change that framework as needed.

New board members understandably expect to be given full, correct and unbiased information from their officers and committees. Unfortunately, that has not typified this administration.

That fact, combined with the abbreviated agendas for meetings, formulated by the officers for the Chestnut Hill Local, mean that board members come to meetings unprepared for the subjects to be covered and without time to formulate questions that need answering before decisions are made. This includes the subject matter of executive sessions of a very recent bylaw change.

In addition, abbreviated, non-descriptive agendas prevent community members from participation in those matters, that they care about, thus impoverishing both the community and the effectiveness of the association.

The current officers of the CHCA have long been associated with, and active in the association; two have been co-chairs of the Bylaws Committee and another currently serves in that position. We do not like to think that they are willfully ignoring these procedures. If, however, they are unwilling to adhere to the bylaws, it would be appropriate for them to resign from their positions immediately.

Ann Spaeth
Chestnut Hill

 

Why did Hill library not get the ax?

Here’s hoping the New Year begins differently than the last one ended: farcical town meetings at which the Mayor trotted out his cabinet, not to hear citizens but to justify, among other things, a decision he already made to close 11 branch libraries. Sadly, it has taken lawsuits and now a court order to stop the closings — at least until citizens can be heard in City Council hearings. By copy to City Council, I am asking that this letter be made part of that hearing record.

I demand a detailed analysis of the decision not to close our own Chestnut Hill branch library. A large, well-stocked and hospitable Borders bookstore with long hours stands practically next door to the branch; the excellent Lovett library branch in Mount Airy, not slated for closure, is as close as a mile away; the Jenks public school has a staffed (albeit less than glorious) library; and a relatively higher proportion of Chestnut Hill library visitors already have Internet access at home.

My belief is that on the whole, Chestnut Hill would be impacted far less than the distressed communities like Mantua where the branch library is on the chopping block. Might closing the Chestnut Hill branch be a little less stupid than closing other branches, except, perhaps, from the Mayor’s perspective on his political future?

I challenge the high IQ Nutter administration to quantify the hidden economic costs of attempting to govern without the due process of the hearings that have now been judicially mandated. I challenge the administration, also, to quantify the true economic cost of closing libraries, which, in the era of gated communities, private schools, private clubs, are among the dwindling number of public places which anchor our American experiment in democracy.

Brian Rudnick
CHCA Board Member

 

501(c)(3)?

A recurring question is whether the CHCA is a 501(c)(3) orgaization. Anyone interested in its current status should visit.  www.irs.gov/app/pub-78/.

There are 19 organizations in this zip code. The Chestnut Hill Community Association is not among them.

Should the CHCA begin (again?) to file as a 501(c)(3) or some other 501 organization? That depends on its goals and intentions  If you want to be part of that decision, to research that topic, a couple of good places to start are www.floridacdc.org/forms/501self.htm  and www.lectlaw.com/files/tax13.htm. 

 

Darlene Heep
(LLM in taxation)
Chestnut Hill

 

Thanks for the treats

More than 40 shivering carolers warmed themselves at the Chestnut Hill Library on the night of Dec. 22 with delicious hot mulled cider, cookies, cakes, muffins, and pretzels donated by eight of the community’s generous shop owners.  After bravely withstanding frigid temperatures as they sang carols led by Jeanine Dwyer at the Top of the Hill Plaza, the hardy group of singers, both children and adults, finished the night inside the library enjoying treats supplied by: Rollers, The Night Kitchen, Metropolitan Bakery, Bredenbecks, Baker Street, Cake, The French Bakery, and A Taste of Philly.  On behalf of all those who savored the treats and the Friends of the Chestnut Hill Library, I extend sincere gratitude to all who donated.

Mary Sue Welsh
President, Friends of the Chestnut Hill Library

 

“08 in Hill Review”

As a former resident of Chestnut Hill, moving to a new single house on a quiet-quiet cul-de-sac street — in Oreland — across from a small field, where the rabbits play, 20 years ago.

All four of our kids went to Our Mother of Consolation — no better grade school in the U.S.A.!!

At the time of moving I was employed outside of Philly — for financial reasons — no wage tax, lower property taxes and property upkeep. The move made sense. We can still walk to some ‘little corner stores.’

Yes, physically we moved, but thanks to the Bocci Club allowing me to give the opening tribute at the  “4th at Watertower” for almost 20 years, and the Local? Well, the finest community newspaper to be found anywhere. My heart is still “on the Hill.”

Why the “08” article prompted me to write this?? Darn, if I know … But I did!!

Tom Woodruff
Oreland

 

Marauding mountain bikes

In several incidents on the upper trails of the Wissahickon, I have been threatened by cyclists. I have been bumped intentionally, and my life has been threatened. The exact words were, “get out of the way” and “I should kill you”.

In his recent letter [“Mountain Bikers have rights, too, Dec. 25] ,Tim Woods attempted to equate pedestrians and equestrians with mountain bike use of the upper trails.  Horses are not bikes. Horses have hearts, and blood, a pulse and a brain.

Families go to the Wissahickon Park to be in a natural area. They come because of the trees, the river, horses, the majestic natural looking landscape, etc., and the lack of vehicles.  The use of the mountain bikes on the upper trails diminishes this. Use of a vehicle on the upper trails is a privilege, not a right. A special use fee for the privilege to ride a vehicle on the upper trails of the Wissahickan is appropriate in this circumstance. The license fee would pay to enforce the rules governing bikes for the good of the Wissahickon.

If mountain bikers were not riding the upper trails in the ‘Wissy,’ would they care about the park, or for the Friends of the Wissahickon, or for storm water runoff or for trails maintenance, etc.? Every issue they get involved in from storm water runoff to trails maintenance is to secure leverage for the increased use of the upper trails for mountain bikes. Further, it is a beachhead for the Off Road Industry to access more natural areas, potentially at the expense of the greater remaining wild areas of the United States.

Next time you see a mountain biker marauding down a pedestrian trail  in the Wissahickon, on which mountain bikes are forbidden, let him or her know that you know. And shame on them.

Erik Werner
Germantown

 

 

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