As follow-up to last week’s announcement by TESD Superintendent Dan Waters to hire former police chief Andy Chambers as a security consultant, I attended the District’s Finance Committee last night. The meeting started with Waters making a statement addressing the criticism of Chamber’s hiring. A couple of things I learned from his remarks — Waters stated that he had no knowledge of the issues surrounding Chamber’s departure from Tredyffrin Township police department a year ago. Waters also wanted to set the record straight that he did not ‘hire’ Chambers. He made the recommendation to the School Board; the decision required their approval.
I found it incredulous that Waters could claim to have this close association with Chambers yet know nothing of the controversy surrounding the former police chief. Tredyffrin’s supervisors suspended Chambers for allowing his son to drive a police vehicle that was involved in an accident and his failure to report the incident. An anonymous tip notified the members of the Board of Supervisors. Although Chambers was allowed to retire, he left the township under a dark cloud of controversy.
Following Waters statement, I sought further clarification from the school board. Unlike Waters and Chambers, T/E school directors do live in our community and could not claim to have not known the circumstances behind the police chief departure. Board president Kevin Buraks, read from Community Matters, quoting my words, “…The focus needs to be our children and keeping them safe, not the additional drama and controversy that a consulting contract with Chambers may present.”
Although I spoke of concern for the hiring of Chambers (given the circumstances), Buraks claimed that the police chief’s suspension has nothing to do with the safety of the kids and therefore has no bearing on his serving as a safety consultant for the District. Buraks said that the decision to hire Chambers was based on the recommendation from Waters and was a unanimous decision. I found Buraks complete disregard of former police chief Chamber’s actions (which caused his departure from the police department) incredulous.
I asked if Police Supt Andy Giaimo was aware of the District’s decision to hire Chambers before announcing to the public and the answer was yes. According to Waters, Chambers was hired at $125/hr. under contracted services and therefore there was no contract or RFP (request for proposal) apparently required. There was no further discussion of Chambers’ qualifications, other than restating that … he knows our community and the schools.
I believe that the public has the right to participate in issues and be privy to what elected officials are doing by seeing discussions and debates in the open with all the facts clearly stated. In the case of hiring former police chief Andy Chambers as a safety consultant for TESD, that opportunity did not exist. I understand the need to act quickly in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook tragedy, but I believe it is also vital to the community, that all options be adequately vetted and to have a voice in decisions. The school board directors, like the members of the Board of Supervisors, are in their elected positions to be the voices of the people.
Following the Andy Chambers discussion, the Finance Committee turned to the 2013-14 budget discussion. To read notes from meeting and comments, click here.