What Sunshine? Lower Merion Below The Radar on Cleland's Contract

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carla's picture
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Apparently, in Lower Merion there is no rest for residents. And while many,many residents STRUGGLE in this economy, in Lower Merion, folks are still being asked to work and sacrifice to support the front office so to speak. This bothers me that they ask the actual workers and even police, fire, and first responders in the township to cut back, yet the township manager gets seemingly carte blanche? Is Doug Cleland worth it at this point? There are many, many better run townships - and they aren't first class. They are home rule charter and second class and their residents aren't treated like second class citizens and they have roads that don't resemble back country roads in Appalachia.

All you people in wards that had November 2011 elections? This is yet another reason why you should have taken the opportunity to elect new leadership. This latest Lower Merion-ism is so outrageous that the media is taking a real interest. After all, Lower Merion taxpayers PAY for Doug Cleland. They should be able to know more about what it is residents are supposed to be buying again.

Thanks to LM Fed of Civic's Hugh Gordon for getting the first post up, and I quote:

Doug Cleland's contract as Township Manager expired at the end of the last year. His new contract has now been negotiated and will be approved by the Board of Commissioners this evening...The agenda item as shown on the Township website is "The Board will discuss a Personnel Matter."

Mr. Cleland's salary as Township Manager (base of $193,323 plus longevity bonus and deferred comp for 2011) is higher than that of the Governor of the Commonwealth ($177,888 for 2011) or the Mayor of Philadelphia ($167,440 for 2011).

It is notable that this item is being presented as far under the radar as humanly possible

Now to expound upon this a bit - certain commissioners like former township employee now BOC Prez Liz Rogan tried to put this waaaayyyy under the radar. Thanks to the honesty and vigilance of Commissioner Jenny Brown, we as residents were informed this afternoon via e-mail thusly:

Friends,

Unfortunately, the confidence that Lower Merion residents should be able to have in their Township government has taken another hit. Please excuse the length of this email, but I believe this is an important and serious matter involving your local government and that you should know how this came about. The public’s trust in its elected and appointed officials is the foundation of our form of government and should be safeguarded at all costs. It is somewhat ironic that on Monday evening (2/13/12), the Federation of Civic Associations met with Board President Liz Rogan to discuss the Directors’ concerns regarding her conduct of Board meetings and the lack of public participation with respect to important Township matters. President Rogan professed a commitment to transparency and openness and to allowing the public the proper amount of time to participate…

You will recall the very serious sunshine problems that the Board had a few years ago, improperly conducting budget discussions in the back room. There were pickets, protests and sit-ins by Township residents. The then Board President told the residents that if they didn’t like it, they should sue the Township. The disrespect and condescension toward the Township residents were palpable. With the hasty midterm resignation of that Board President, and the election of Commissioner Liz Rogan to the post, some thought the secretive backroom days would also be a thing of the past. While there have continued to be questionable practices concerning the budget, there has not been the same level of “in-your-face” disrespect of the public…until now.

Here’s what is going on. There is a single, innocuous looking item on the Board’s agenda for this evening (2/15/12) in the Administrative and Human Resources Committee meeting: “Personnel Matter: the Board will discuss a personnel matter.” I assumed this was a matter in which a Township employee was being disciplined and the code required Board approval of the discipline. (This happens routinely in police matters when the Superintendent recommends the suspension of an officer; the employee’s name is not publicly used and few details are given, although the Board has been fully briefed on the matter in executive session.)

Over the weekend, several constituents asked me what this agenda item was about and whether it was proper for the Township not to give detail. There was no information in my packet, so on Saturday (2/10/12) I contacted Commissioner George Manos (I incorrectly thought he was the Chair of the committee). Commissioner Manos advised me that he also did not know what the agenda item was about, but kindly said he would get information and let me know.

Last night (2/14/12), having received no further information, I emailed the Township Manager and asked him to advise me what the personnel issue was. The unresponsive email I received from the Manager this morning (copy attached) was: “It was at the request of President Rogan.” (no information was given as to what was at the request of President Rogan)

At 8:00 a.m. today, President Rogan sent an email to all Commissioners (copy attached) stating that the purpose of the item on tonight’s agenda is to act on the Township Manager’s contract. She apologized for the “confusion.”

Let’s be clear; there was no “confusion”. Deceptiveness, sneakiness, evasiveness, attempted stealth? Yes; but “confusion”? No.

By way of background, the Township Manager has been working without a contract since the beginning of the year. A committee of three commissioners, Churchill, Bernheim and Zelov, tried to come up with a proposed contract for the Manager, but were unable to agree, with Churchill and Bernheim desiring more generous terms for the Manager and Zelov desiring more reasonable terms. (See the chart below, comparing the Manager’s current compensation with comparable township managers in the region.)

Several weeks ago, I requested two weeks’ notice of the terms of any proposed contract with the manager, just as I had requested and received two weeks’ notice of the proposed terms of the Workers Association contract, so that I could let you, the Township residents, know of the proposed terms. It is, after all, your money that pays the Manager’s contract. (Unlike workers in the private sector, the terms of public sector employees’ compensation are public; the Manager’s contract is a public document and the terms of his employment and compensation are public information; the Board is required to vote on his contract in public.)

You can imagine my surprise in learning that the Manager’s proposed contract is to be acted upon this evening. What contract? What are the proposed terms? (President Rogan has not responded.) Why was the matter not shown on the agenda? Why the disrespect of the Township residents? I know numerous people who would have liked to have known that the Township Manager’s contract was going to be on the agenda this evening. The failure to honestly inform the Township residents (as well as some commissioners) is shockingly arrogant.

There is no question that the Board should not act on the Township Manager’s contract this evening – whatever that proposal may be. The public has not been informed and commissioners have not been informed. Unfortunately, it appears that the Board will act. When/if I do get more information, I will advise you as to the proposed terms, the manager’s duties and his job performance – hopefully you will have a chance to let me know your thoughts.

Jenny Brown

Lower Merion Township Commissioner

Ward 2, Gladwyne/Penn Valley

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======================================================================================================

From: Cleland, Doug [mailto:DCleland@lowermerion.org]
Sent: Wednesday, February 15, 2012 6:31 AM
To: ; Manos,Commissioner George T.
Cc: Rogan, Commissioner Elizabeth; McElhaney, Commissioner Paul
Subject: Re: Fwd: Lower Merion Township: Administrative & Human Resources Committee

It was at the request of President Rogan.

From: [mailto:jenny@commissionerbrown.com]
Sent: Tuesday, February 14, 2012 09:14 PM
To: Manos,Commissioner George T.; Cleland, Doug
Subject: RE: Fwd: Lower Merion Township: Administrative & Human Resources Committee

Hi Doug – what is this about?

Jenny Brown

Lower Merion Township Commissioner

Ward 2 - Gladwyne/Penn Valley

From: George T. Manos [mailto:george@gtmanos.com]
Sent: Friday, February 10, 2012 11:46 PM
To:
Subject: Re: Fwd: Lower Merion Township: Administrative & Human Resources Committee

Hi, Jenny - The packet was the first I heard there was a matter to bring before the A&HR Comm. Soon as I find out the nature of the matter I'll let you know. -George-

jenny@commissionerbrown.com wrote:

Hi George - what's this about? Thx for any info. Jenny

Jenny Brown

Lower Merion Township Commissioner

Ward 2 - Gladwyne/Penn Valley

Begin forwarded message:

From:
Date: Fri, 10 Feb 2012 16:30:41 -0500
* * *

Subject: Lower Merion Township: Administrative & Human Resources Committee

Administrative & Human Resources Committee

All Times Are Approximate

Date: 2/15/2012 7:55 PM

Location: Township Administration Bldg - 2nd Floor Board Room
75 East Lancaster Ave
Ardmore, Pennsylvania 19003-2323

Chair:
Commissioner Rick Churchill

Vice-Chair:
Commissioner C. Brian McGuire

AGENDA

1. PERSONNEL MATTER

The Board will discuss a personnel matter.

PUBLIC COMMENT

===============================================================

From: Liz Rogan [mailto:esrogan@comcast.net]
Sent: Wednesday, February 15, 2012 7:52 AM
To: 'Commissioner Distribution List'
Subject: A&HR mtg

All,

I understand there were questions about what the above noted meeting was in reference to. Since I know both Phil and I have been talking w/our caucus members and the A&HR committee was the venue for publically acting on the Worker’s Association contract, it seemed logical for it to be the same venue for acting on Doug’s contract.

I apologize for the confusion and expect we’ll discuss this topic as needed and time permitting...

See you soon,

L

Elizabeth Rogan, Commissioner

Lower Merion Township Ward 7

610.649-6931

Confusion Liz? More like subterfuge.

Philly.com Montco Memo: Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Brown again protests 'sunshine problem' in Lower Merion

Commissioners Disagree Over Handling of Township Manager's Contract Discussions

Doug Cleland's contract was described only as a "personnel matter" on a Lower Merion meeting agenda.

By Danielle Vickery
Email the author
2:15 pm

Main Line Times > News

Report: Lower Merion township manager's contract to be discussed at BOC

Published: Wednesday, February 15, 2012

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So very clever of our "Queen Elizabeth" to put the blame of her effort-in-tyranny on the dutiful and honorable shoulders of Commissioner Jenny Brown. Face it "L" you were found out before the farce could begin; better luck next time. You and your control-freaks-in-arms thought that you could run a fast one by us. Seems not so; caught in the act. Now let's get down to brass tacks. But you don't do details, do you? "L" needs"DC" as much as "DC" needs "L"; tit for tat. Pay Cleland an unbelievable sum and he will sell his castrated soul to you "L". In return you will get his well paid loyalty. Hoors, all of ye.

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Why am I not surprised by any of this business-as-usual B.S. by Rogan and the Reed leftovers?

Judging by the pay of managers of other townships that Jenny put in her email, I would say it would be appropriate for Cleland to take a $30-40,000 pay cut.

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Why are positions like Township Manager, Solicitor, Engineer etc. not advertised for. If so I'd bet the line would be around the corner. Why is inbred Lower Merion so intent on keeping it all in the back room. I swear our solicitor has worked at LMT longer than some Monarchs have sat. Almost 30 years, yea? Is that right? I mean, is that RIGHT?

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carla's picture
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It all seemingly got punted to a future date. Like nothing is wrong...sigh...business as usual in Lower Merion - cloudy with a chance of B.S.

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Jenny Brown provided us with a copy of the Township Manager's prior contract dated 17th of October 2007 and which, it appers, will be renewed for another two years without any changes. Some have requested that the Township Manager provide monthly Budget to Actual financial comparisons as businesses typically do. This is a simple and inexpensive report generated by Chief Financial Officer. I would hope it could be posted on web site. and that Checkbook Online could be more prominently displayed. It is not easy to find. Which may, or many not, be intentional.

http://www.scribd.com/doc/81828785/Township-Manager-Employment-Agreement

This contract is NOT on the Lower Merion Township web site as far as I can tell. Please correct me if I am wrong.

Commissioner Brown's email:

Everyone, Thank you for your support!

I am pleased to report that because of the public pressure YOU all put on the situation, Board action on the Manager’s contract was postponed to March and when the matter is placed on the agenda next time it will be properly described so that we know what action is contemplated. This will give us time to learn and consider the terms. I will email out the term sheet when I get one; however, it is my understanding that the proposal is to have a two year contract with the same provisions as the prior contract and with an increase in salary next year. I am attaching a copy of the manager’s prior contract and will be reviewing it to determine which terms are desirable for inclusion in any new contract.

As always, I appreciate the thoughts that you have given me on this matter. Jenny Jenny Brown Lower Merion Township Commissioner Ward 2 - Gladwyne/Penn Valley

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Mr. Cleland's salary as Township Manager (base of $193,323 plus longevity bonus and deferred comp for 2011) is higher than that of the Governor of the Commonwealth ($177,888 for 2011) or the Mayor of Philadelphia ($167,440 for 2011).

Somebody please explain to me what Doug Cleland does that is so great, to justify being paid more than the state governor?

My mind == blown

 

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My Point Exactly.

You can add Cleland to making far more than the highest paid members of Congress in my above linked MLT comment.

=================

Brotherhood of Thieves ~ As we must account for every idle word, so must we account for every idle silence.

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Other than market forces, there's no explanation. However, one relevant point here is I'd not want the governor running the township, even if he did it for no salary.

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Township Manager Employment Agreement

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So on top of his astronomical pay and amazing benefits package that surpasses members of Congress, members of the PA General Assembly and the PA governor, Cleland gets a Lower Merion citizen taxpayer funded car for his unlimited personal use within the state of Pennsylvania!?

Why don’t we pay for a vacation home in the Poconos while we are it?

Why can't Cleland afford a car on an outrageous $224,449 a year?

Additionally, Philadelphia Mayor Nutter took a voluntary 10% pay cut back in 2009 on his salary that was and is well below that of Cleland.

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Is there any other Township Manager who gets paid this much? Would Doug Cleland be the highest paid Township Manager in the State?

While we are at it, I would like to know what Gil High does that earns him his pay? $100K or more. Doug shows up every day and supervises a staff. What does Gil High, other than rubber stamp whatever the BOC President wants? And the Board is loaded with lawyers anyway. How many lawyers does Lower Merion need?

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Main Line Times > News

Lower Merion board spars over manager's contract vote

Published: Thursday, February 16, 2012
By Cheryl Allison

The ghost of “Sunshine” protests past haunted the board room in Lower Merion Township Wednesday night, and it was only partially put to rest when a vaguely-worded “personnel matter” on the agenda was abruptly tabled.

The personnel matter, it turned out, was adoption of a new four-year contract for township manager Douglas Cleland.

The controversy started brewing earlier in the day, when Commissioner Jenny Brown sent an account of her questions about the item to her e-mail list, including residents and members of the media.

She, like others, had assumed it was a disciplinary matter similar to some recent police actions, on which the board would be briefed prior to Wednesday night’s meeting.

After some equally vague and somewhat contradictory replies by Cleland and board President Liz Rogan, Brown said she learned it was the contract issue.

....

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Cleland's new contract will be endorsed by the Board of Commissioners on Wednesday.  (No point in pretending that the result is not a foregone conclusion.)

There is now an article about it  by Inquirer Reporter Marie McCullough up on the Philly.com website at http://www.philly.com/philly/news/breaking/20120708_Is__275_000_the_right_pay_package_for_township_manager_.html

The contract can be read at 

http://lowermerion.org/Modules/ShowDocument.aspx?documentid=7289

It appears that the Board, through its habitual inattention, lack of oversight and deference to its leadership over the years, has allowed itself to be backed into a situation where its hands are tied.    

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I commented about this over on the Main Line Times Website.

Click on the link to read Cheryl Allison's article and all the comments - two of which were in response to comments of mine.

I started out by correcting the title of the article that Cleland's salary will be $207k a year.

Actually, Cleland's annual salary is just about $240k when you add the annual longevity bonus and his annual 457b "deferred compensation" bonus which, unlike a 401k, can be taken as salary each year with no penalty other than ordinary taxes.

On top of that he has a taxpayer funded pension, free car, free phone, gold standard health and dental care, five weeks vacation, etc., etc, etc.
----------

Cleland is supposed to be a public servant. $240k a year (closer to $300k with benefits) makes Cleland an elite 1%er.

The next closest township manager in the region (if not the state) is Radnor at $180K, which is about the same pay as the governor of this state and mayor of Philly at about $180K. The Radnor Township Manager and Mayor Nutter have not taken a raise in years due to the economy. Nutter took a pay cut for the past several years. They are both in Democratic run municipalities like LM, so it is not a party thing.

Cleland makes more than the highest ranking members of Congress. Not only does Cleland make far more than any judge in the state, he makes more than U.S. Supreme Court justices.

When you look at where the lion's share of our township taxes go, it is to salaries and benefits - and primarily management staff with their longevity bonuses and "deferred" (yeah, right) compensation bonuses - while they also get fat, guaranteed pensions.

Cleland is essentially a 1%er while township debt has skyrocketed - along with township taxes the past decade. We get a break this year because they could refinance the big debt load of the municipal bonds at a lower rate, but expect double digit tax increases to be back in the next year or so.

Used to be public servants took lower salaries for job security and strong benefits.

Over the past 20 years private sector salaries have remained flat adjusted for inflation while township staff salaries (especially when you include the extremely low out-of-pocket health care and retirement benefits) have allowed staff to have compensation packages that have exceeded inflation.

I say this is an insult to private sector taxpaying workers in Lower Merion who pay Cleland's salary.

Cleland makes almost three times the median income of the average LM household.

About 2,500 of LM's 50,000 residents are below the poverty level making less than $9,000 a year.

Alexis de Tocqueville, who wrote "Democracy in America" and other significant writings about individual and social equality in the mid 1800's provided that in democratic nations the lowliest public clerk is paid well, but the highest public officials are not. This was the expectation of the founding fathers - the opposite of aristocracies and monarchies where those with the political power had the wealth.

That's how public service is supposed to work in a democracy.

These are my points.
----------

Cleland gets 5 weeks of vacation and a week for paid holidays, so that is 46 weeks a year he has to work.

I am calculating his hourly wage based on forty hours a week as I don't think he works much more than that. His contract allows for him to show up late the next day after nights he has township meetings (try that in the private sector - show up late after working late and see if you keep your job) and I actually saw him walking into the township building in overcoat and briefcase about 11:30am on a Thursday after a Wednesday township meeting.

Cleland has been at this so long that it is second nature and the job and its challenges do not evolve quickly like in the private sector. He is, after all, a bureaucrat. Pretty much same thing day in and day out, year in and year out and it is second nature to him. Certainly no pressure to produce or be fired like much of the private sector. It's a cake of a job.

Based on a 40 hour work week, Cleland makes $130 an hour.

Now some may say some lawyers make $300 an hour. True, but the median pay for lawyers in Philadelphia is $112k a year - less than half of what Cleland makes. Most lawyers in Philadelphia would love to make what Cleland makes - let alone all judges in the state who make far less than Cleland.

By comparison to Cleland's $130 an hour wage, the average hourly wage for all private sector workers in the City of Philadelphia is $23.50.

Per the township website, the median household (not individual) hourly private sector wage in wealthy Lower Merion Township is $49.00 an hour (assuming the same vacation days as Cleland - that these private sector workers can get away with taking 6 weeks a year off, which you know is not happening, but then Cleland probably does not take all his vacation, therefore it makes for an apples-to-apples comparison).

So, the average hourly wage of a Lower Merion household (not individual) is $49.00 an hour while Cleland, our lead public servant government bureaucrat, individually makes $130 an hour.

What does Cleland do that is so much more important than the jobs of those in Lower Merion households where those households in wealthy Lower Merion make 62% less an hour on average than Cleland and pay Cleland's immense salary with their taxes?

When and why did the paradigm change where government bureaucrats make more than double the average household income where they work? Further, and as I posted above, why does Cleland make far more than virtually every other high (and higher) ranking state and federal government employee out there?

And, why is the majority of the Lower Merion Board of Commissioners so vehemently defending Cleland's insanely absurd, insulting, wasteful, non-comparable to other similar government jobs, skyrocket high salary?

I would like to see someone else post in defense of this outrage. Would make for a nice debate - but somehow I think with what I have posted that Cleland's insane salary is indefensible.

Should be interesting to see how the majority of commissioners defend it Wednesday night.

Will go something along the lines of what a great job Cleland does, how we have maintained a AAA bond rating to make it a little cheaper to go into never ending debt, etc.

And the Lower Merion households who pay Cleland's outrageous $130 an hour salary, yet only earn $49.00 an hour as a household, are not doing important things with their jobs that actually grows the economy and helps create jobs that provide for economic growth? Heck, that's what private sector jobs do - they grow the economy because the salary they are paid comes from producing products and services where a profit is made and GDP grows. Cleland's job provides an important service, but it does nothing to grow the economy. He manages a necessary service that takes money out of the economy by using the hard earned money of the private sector to provide for these needed services, but it only takes money out of the economy. It does nothing to grow it.

What Cleland does is important, but it is certainly not $130 an hour/$240k a year important.

Never has been and never will be.

=================

Brotherhood of Thieves ~ As we must account for every idle word, so must we account for every idle silence.

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There are two Philly.com articles.

One Here and The Other Here.

Here are some of the comments:

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