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Antrim Township's decision to fire employees met with shock

August 22, 2008|By KATE S. ALEXANDER

o To see a statement by the Antrim Township Board of Supervisors about the firing of six township employees, click here

GREENCASTLE, PA. -- The decision by the Antrim Township Board of Supervisors to terminate six upper-level township employees has some taxpayers in as much shock as the employees who lost their jobs Thursday, while others say the move was a long time coming.

And the experts? They say that the board's action to eliminate staff and appoint two of its own to fill the gap is all part of what defines municipal politics.

"Local politics is sometimes down and dirty," said Dr. Denis Woods, chair of the Political Science Department at Shepherd University in Shepherdstown, W.Va. "It is not unheard of for public officials to manipulate a situation to their own advantage."

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The board said in a written statement that it eliminated Township Manager Ben Thomas, Utilities Director Charles Goetz, Utilities Superintendent Larson Wenger, Roadmaster Paul Barnett, Assistant Roadmaster Robert Wible and Finance Secretary Eileen Strausner, and appointed Supervisor Fred Young as interim township administrator and Supervisor Rick Baer as interim roadmaster and utilities director to save taxpayers about $300,000 annually and make the township more efficient.

The Herald-Mail called the township repeatedly Friday for more information, and left three messages for Young and board Chairman Curtis Myers, none of which were answered.

Former Supervisor Robert Whitmore said he cannot imagine how the board will run the township without Thomas and his staff.

"I am shocked because it is totally irresponsible what they did," he said. "It will be impossible to run this township without those people because they didn't just cut spending. They cut their knowledge base."

Myers reiterated the board's pledge of integrity, respect and ingenuity to the public Thursday, but not every taxpayer found the "reorganziational" move by the board to be within the scope of integrity.

Ruth Jordan said she left the meeting while the press was asking questions of consultant Matt Dhillon of California-based Dhillon Management Services, thinking if the board was to take action, it would have said so.

"When I picked up the newspaper, I didn't know what to think," she said. "I was shocked and surprised. After all, they made a big thing about reading their pledge of integrity, but then after reading it, they acted without integrity. They undermined our trust with their actions."

Whitmore alleged the board also went against Pennsylvania Municipal Code by appointing Young as township administrator since Solicitor John Lisko said both Young and Baer will be paid for their work as staff.

"It violates the municipal code to have a supervisor appointed as township manager," Whitmore said. "They are making up their own rules now."

However, Allen Jimick said the board did what was right for the taxpayers.

"It should have been done long ago," the former supervisor said.

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