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Supervisor 'blindsided' by conflict charges

December 07, 2005|by RICHARD F. BELISLE

waynesboro@herald-mail.com

WAYNESBORO, Pa. - Washington Township Supervisor Art Cordell said Tuesday he was "blindsided big time" by allegations that he and fellow Supervisor Richard H. Mohn Jr. are influenced by campaign contributions from developers.

Supervisor Chris Firme, at a meeting of the board of supervisors Monday night, surprised many by saying that Cordell and Mohn each received $500 in campaign contributions from R. Lee Royer, a local surveyor, and $100 from developers N. Frank Miller Jr. and Geoffrey Miller.

Cordell and Mohn said they were not told of Firme's accusations before the meeting.

Both were defeated in the May 17 Republican primary by John Gorman and Carroll Sturm. Gorman and Sturm won in the November general election and will be sworn in in January.

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Cordell and Mohn end their terms Dec. 31.

Firme, who could not be reached for comment Tuesday, asked Township Solicitor John Lisko Monday night to look into the allegations to see if the two supervisors have a conflict of interest.

Lisko said the contributions were legal and that it would be up to Cordell and Mohn to decide for themselves if they are in conflict.

The board, on a motion by Firme Monday, voted unanimously to table three rezoning requests and a land development plan to Dec. 19.

Gorman and Sturm said they knew before the meeting that Firme would bring up the allegations. Sturm provided the press with copies of Cordell's and Mohn's campaign finance reports.

Gorman and Sturm said they ran for office because the supervisors are moving too fast approving residential and commercial development requests.

In the last two years, the board rezoned more than 1,000 contiguous acres that paved the way for Rouzerville Commons, a shopping center anchored by Wal-Mart and Lowe's stores; residential development for up to 3,000 homes; and Washington Township Boulevard, a new road that will connect the new developments and serve as a bypass around the Borough of Waynesboro.

Sturm said Tuesday that he, Gorman and Firme think alike concerning development and that they expect a slowdown in the rate of rezoning and land development plan approvals. He also said the three will control the board.

The current board of supervisors, Cordell, Mohn, Stewart McCleaf and, until he resigned in October, James Kirby, usually voted together on rezonings, with Firme opposing.

"The votes will be 3-2 now instead of 4-1," Sturm said.

Gorman said he wants to hold off on new requests until the township can update its zoning ordinance. The township needs more pedestrian-friendly developments with more open space, he said.

"We'll have the power to do it," he said.

Sturm said Cordell and Mohn have a "moral obligation" to recuse themselves from further rezoning or land development plans until they are off the board.

"They have been working very hard to approve all they can. We want to delay them," Sturm said.

Asked if Firme's surprise accusations Monday were a cheap shot, Sturm said, "No. I think the people need to know what the good ol' boys have been doing."

Cordell said he never let the contributions influence his votes.

Asked why he did not respond to Firme's allegations, he said, "You want to very much, but sometimes it's better to be mute. Sometimes when you reply, you add fuel to the fire, but I was biting my tongue."

Mohn said Royer and the Millers have been his friends for years.

"I guess that's a problem in a small community. That's just the way things are. I never tried to hide anything."

Royer said he gave the money to Cordell and Mohn because they are good friends.

"That's all there is, just good friends," he said.

Campaign finance reports for Sturm showed that he put up $1,208 of his own money for his campaign.

Gorman's report showed about $900 in campaign contributions, all from friends and relatives in amounts ranging from $75 to $130.

Staff writer Don Aines contributed to this story.

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