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- Sept 2020
A new proposal
- Resolution 20-039 Public
Comment Policy was voted in at
the 9-10-20 Board meeting. In 2018 they
reduced our speaking rights dramatically - and this included all
those onerous conditions and many more. It further
reduces our rights and adds nothing that couldn't have
been done before . They already could hold information sessions,
for instance .. like on THIS issue. They siomply chose not to. By
putting it in this resolution, what they codified was their
supposed right to BAN certain people from information sessions...
The way this was rammed through was nothing short of appalling
( timing at holiday weekend &
opening of school // for no reason whatever they cancelled
the committee meetings where it would have been vetted // did not
post it at the proper posting time - instead 4 days later, so only
3 days to read a 20 page resolution that did not even define brand
new terms/// // refusal to answer questions by township //
refusal to answer questions by individual Commissioners ///
no written or other explanations available// sunshine law violated
by refusing to accommodate the missing Committee meetings
with comment allowed at individual items in the full Board
meeting /// long after most had accessed the link and would have
no reason to return, Manfredi posted "additional Information"
which was a false representation of what was supposedly added //
The agenda did not have a presentation for this on it --- he added
one last minute -- again just to circumvent putting this on next
month's agenda so that it would have a Committee meeting to
be vetted. One move after another to thwart the proper process
for residents. )
It was stunning that what was being passed in this
fashion was a document that Manfredi touted was to
increase residents' access to information and participation and to
expand their public comment opportunities. Mind boggling.
Because they purposely did the exact opposite in order to ram this
99.9 % of Abington taxpayers and voters
didn't even KNOW about it before it passed. Those that did were
refused both answers to questions and adequate speaking time.
Their goal instead was to pass more onerous conditions
and not open it up to any debate that might cause them to lose the
onerous ones they already had secured when they misrepresented
their actions in 2018.
THE ACTUAL DOCUMENTS
The policy is here
The laughably false description of what
was being done is here :
Comment Resolution Additional Information
A correction about the ability to
discard videos: At the Board of
Commissioners meeting 9-10-20 the Manager Manfredi
tried to explain that his poorly worded paragraph about audio and
video destruction didn't mean what it actually said. In fact
they passed it as he originally wrote it , so any video that is
used to help create the minutes may be discarded. Even though Mr.
Manfredi insists that is not his intent... That is still what it
Here's what it actually said :
3 ) Audio and
Visual Recordings: the written minutes of the Board of
Commissioner meetings shall be the sole official record of public
meetings. Audio or video recordings of the meetings of the board
of commissioners may be produced to assist the Recording Secretary
in the compilation of minutes
a.) Audio or video recordings of the Board of Commissioner
meetings, if any are made,
discarded after the board of commissioners approves that meeting'
are no video recordings
known to myself or others other
than the one that airs, which is the original, and
unedited ( except for which camera view is chosen) version
of the meeting. There may be other
recordings made, but given the main copy is already made and could
/should/ might be used to help in the compilation of the
minutes, if help was needed?
it were, it would then be, according to this, able to be
discarded - with the minutes only kept as the
. That clarification should appear in
the wording. Simple solution. Easily fixed with further
explanation in that clause. But not one single Commissioner at the
meeting on 9-10-20 offered that solution and the resolution was
passed with this faulty language in it - which could cause an
"accidental misunderstanding" if someone wants a certain record to
To have a manager
who chooses the least accurate, and often,
tragically, false re-creation of a meeting as the "official copy" is
should be offered only as a helpful summary of a long video,and
both versions would bve appreciated - the vieo from which a full
transcript can be made and the summary used to help find what was
discussed and where in the video to look.
important for readers to know that having correct minutes has been
an issue for years. I am still seeking the answer as
to whether Mr Manfredi, or his stenograher, Liz Vile, or someone
else altered a recent meeting and eliminated me entirely as
though I were not even there. I spoke for my
full three minutes at that one. The minutes had no mention of me
or the topic whatsoever. That is one instance of many - not just
for me, but for many resident. In the August 2020 Board of
Commissioners meeting, I spoke on several topics. One was removed
entirely. Mr. Manfredi said that this was a "personnel matter" and
we would not learn anything about how it was handled. But because
it might have been him who altered it - it is
important that we follow up further on this. If it is an employee
altering it, they should be dismissed. We cannot allow corruption
and complete non transparency to be the way our Township
This Resolution offers
opportunity for participation.
That is how it was billed - to fool
you. Our rights in this Resolution are reduced, plain & simple
The Committee of the Whole was
"invented", with absolutely no explanation.
Who would put out a document referring to an entity that is
completely unknown &
never explained ? No resident could cogently comment about
it until they have had time to
ask questions and fully understand its function . No vote
should have taken place until residents had a chance to ask
questions and get answers ( were were given 3 minuites for 16
items - this being one of them.
It is completely unclear how
the expanded written comment periods are to work and what
the downsides might be. Will all residents be able to see the
comments of their fellow residents, for instance? Why has Mr
Manfredi ( and Commissioners John Spiegelman, Tom Hecker et al)
decided residents should have no right to understand these things
before their comments are made. The one used for the
Economic Development Committe was surely not ideal. How will it be
Rules of Order are not rules at all –
they can be broken at any time at the whim of the presiding officer.
It a farcical attempt at
pretending there are actual rules to protect residents from
improper behavior. The
first statement of Manfredi's "additional information is
that he is establishing a standard for operations to provide
consistency and transparency to the public . Seriously? Where is
the consistency when each presiding officer can make up his own
rules depending on which side of the bed he woke up on and whom he
likes and dislikes and what he likes to hear and doesn't want to
hear? He MAY refer to Robert's Rules of Order - Meh. Unless he
doesn't want to. NIRI
are forbidden to use the overhead projector
to present documents that both the commissioners and the
audience would be able to see, while developers or others with
views contrary to the taxpayers who paid for that equipment are
allowed free access to it NIRI
are not guaranteed answers to questions that they have
- a right that we fought years to get and which was removed
without any discussion or consultation. The inability to have
truthful answers about the operations of our Township is
guaranteed to promote corruption …. In a Township that recently
endured (at great, great taxpayer expense), a Grand Jury
investigation with disturbing results and which currently also
has a whistleblower suit in full swing, making oversight harder
to do can only be imagined is “for a reason”.
Residents are able to be banned from
Information sessions at will…
without cause …. whether or not tax monies are used to hold the
sessions. In the past residents who were banned were the
only residents that had the documents and had communicated , for
instance with EPA and done the work. Residents were told things
that were not true. No residents should be banned from an
informational or government run session. We have a right to
see how our tax monies are used and have a right to all have a
hand in forming our communities.
will be allowed to speak longer than the 3 minutes, while others
won’t. Others will be strictly
held to the 3 minute “rule” – meaning there is no rule at all.
The decision is at the whim of the Presiding Officer who may
decide if he likes what you are saying or doesn’t.
Sunshine Law violations have been the hallmark of this Board
and this Administration .
Not allowing a reasonable
amount of time to comment, refusing to recognize residents
rights to interrupt to note a
perceived violation of the law, etc.
This suppression of speech is
purposeful and intended to prevent citizens
from hearing other citizens or
exposing “uncomfortable” facts.
We cannot expect our
government to work properly under these circumstances.
A pattern of purposeful egregious
behavior to quickly vote
on measures that
residents would object to -- like the budget that was
decided in five days of having been seen by residents in Nov
2019 … and the Economic Development Corporation that they tried
to pass before anyone understood what it even was – and then
tried to do again during Covid times. There is a clear pattern
in this administration with this manager, this Board and this solicitor.
No adequate time to
comment -- a violation
of the Sunshine Law. Our comments are
limited to three minutes for this lengthy and complicated
resolution and also for 16 other items at the same time -violation
of the sunshine law that requires a reasonable amount of time to
required before any explanation of terms like "Committee of the
Whole" can be had or before the
consequences of destroying records can be properly discussed.
Comment is at the beginning of the meeting with no option to
understand what you are commenting on. And our
committee meetings where such matters are to be fully vetted were again cancelled for no reason. It
is fully ironic that what they were passing was supposedly an
increased opportunity to comment and increased information
in issues........ their choice here was to violate all
their own rules and give LESS opportunity for that - so they could
jam this through.
have been crafted without input from residents.
Residents were never made aware that this was underway nor asked
for their concerns about public comment issues.
And the Commissioners and Mgr
Manfredi are aware that we have MANY. The
effort to bully this through so quickly shows us the
little regard they hold for our concerns
Notification was inappropriate
– residents normally
can see agenda items on Friday this was not available til
Mon afternoon. Literally three days before the vote
. They violated even the scant courtesy of their own rules
in order to bully this through quickly.
No time for residents to look up the
laws or to alert their fellow residents
--- 20 pages worth to digest in three
days. On a holiday weekend where families are away
and come back to for school.
If any issue deserved an information session before any
vote, it is this issue ….this resolution
should be “For Discussion Only” at the 9-10-20 meeting.
vote taken without proper public participation and input on a
matter this important is a violation of the public trust.
above appears to be a repeat of the devious tactics that removed
many of our our speaking
rights shortly after Mgr. Manfredi's arrival - again it ahppened
with a false calim of what was being done and without any proper notification.
It was a loss of many things we had worked hard to get.
: I would dare to say
that literally no one knew the Commissioners were revamping your
speaking rights when they passed a measure 1-11-18 that took
away nearly every rule they were required to follow and
tightened restrictions on residents. They did this on a
packed meeting day with no prior Committee meeting, right after
the holidays and while everyone was focused on the YMCA and
BET's proposal to build on every inch of it . Manager Manfredi completely misrepresented what they were
doing ( knowing that the written details were well buried and
most people would'nt understand what was being removed. Those
kinds of actions are exactly why we need better speaking rules
---- and Commissioners that hear us and who are willing to
require that their Managers serve our interests!
Nearly every other Township has a far better method of
interacting with their residents ..... In Abington, we are still
fighting for very basic rights.
This is being hastily done - I will revise if I can find
time.... but here is an
idea of just a few of the things we are asking for --- and
have been...for a decade
PLEASE PUT UNDERSTANDING AS A PRIORITY OVER CLOCK WATCHING
" or other reasons for curtailment . Allow residents to
re-explain what may have been misunderstood or ask for
clarifications in a response .
If they did not know an earlier segment was the place to
address a concern, allow the concern or comment anyway, and help
them understand where it might better have been brought.
PLEASE AFFORD RESIDENTS A BRIEF ANSWER TO A QUESTION
WHENEVER ONE IS KNOWN
offer a longer or more thorough answer later
if one cannot
be had during the meeting
PLEASE DO NOT INTERRUPT speakers :Let them
speak as you would like to be allowed to speak
- but if they
are timed they must be allowed to interrupt an official who
might be using up all their speaking time with a longer than
ELIMINATE THE "SIGN UP FORM"
IN THE LOBBY
- If someone doesn't sign up and then hears something
important - the sheet gives the false impression they can't
speak unless they signed up. Instead of the sign up,
have a sheet
instructing residents that there will be a place
where they will be asked for their comments and that they
have 3 minutes and that they may comment again at the end on any
topic. Let them know they have a guaranteed
right to speak
( Currently they often
don't even see the form, let alone know how to use it .
PLEASE ALLoW RESIDENTS TO COMMENT AT THE BEGINNING
OF A MEETING.
They should be allowed their 3 minutes on any, open
topic at the beginning, or at the end as they see fit.
Some have to leave early . If they wish to comment on an item
when it comes up for the vote, they can be asked to save theri
comment til then - but some may want to leave early. It is
a great disrespect to residents to require them to wait 3 hours
to speak to you for 3 minutes.
DISCUSSION - IT IS OFTEN THE KEY TO UNDERSTANDING
- most all other township engage in discussion freely with
residents. It is vital for understanding. Please stop calling it
"debate" and understand that it is part of a healty process.
PLEASE SHOW HOW EACH COMMISSIONER VOTED - a show of hands is the
only way we can tell
our Commissioners are representing us . They should leave them
up long enough to know who was aye and who was nay
PLEASE DO NOT require
down once they ask a
question - allow them to
hear better by being closr, see the faces and the lips of
those they are dialoguing with and allow that they may
have a clarification if a question or comment has been
misunderstood. These things help prevent misunderstandings
PLEASE DO NOT shorten
the brief 3 minutes residents are afforded
in any other way
as by interrupting
PLEASE DO NOT
comment in a
way that negates or changes speakers remarks at all
if you are the chair
PLEASE DO NOT allow anyone to negate speakers
remarks with out offer a brief 30 second rebuttal from the
speaker to provide
PLEASE DO NOT discredit
the speaker - or "undo" their point after they have left the
podium and can no longer
speak or offer a rebuttal ( the chair should never be
entering the conversation - if he wants to enter the
conversation the co-chair or vice-chair should take the
leadership role. .
PLEASE ALLOW RESIDENTS AT A FULL BOARD
MEETING TO ALSO
3 MINUTES AFTER AN AGENDA ITEM IS PRESENTED
but before the vote. Residents often
first learn about an issue when they see it on tv or hear about
it after the Committee meeting. They should not be first hearing
about it AFTER their right to speak on it is exhausted.
RESIDENTS TO RESERVE LEFT OVER TIME
-If they have not used their 3 minutes – please allow them
briefly back to the podium.
RESIDENTS TO HAVE OTHER RESIDENTS REPRESENT THEM
by reading what they wrote if they are unable to be in
PLEASE ALLOW A RESIDENT TO APPOINT ANOTHER ABINGTON RESIDENT TO
SPEAK FOR THEM
if they are also in attendance.
PLEASE GET RID OF THE CONSENT AGENDA
- residents have
never been asked if THEY consent to these items being dispensed
of with no sunlight on even what the topic is.
COMMISSIONERS & RESIDENTS SHOULD TREAT ONE ANOTHER POLITELY
Residents shall be treated with the same courtesy as staff and
SEE THAT ANSWERS AND COMMENTS BY COMMISSIONERS shall not
be counted as part of a resident’s time allotment.
PLEASE ALLOW RESIDENTS TO COMPLETE THEIR SENTENCES OR THOUGHTS.
INCLUDE ON THE SPEAKING RULES SHEET a link to the
Sunshine Laws, to Robert’s
Of Order, to the Right to Know Laws and information on how to
contact Commissioners and staff to obtain information about a
matter in the Township.
Please especially include the
paragraph that allows a resident the right to bring to the
Board’s attention a perceived violation of the Sunshine Act.
Please also include where they can find the video’s agendas and
other Public Comment information on the township website
Some History on the Development of the Current
Regulations ( incomplete - will try to find
In 2006, when I first began to come to the podium, we found
that meetings were run with barely a breath in between the "PW1"
and "all in favor say aye". residents who had come to a meeting
to express their views found that the topic had passed and was
voted on before they even knew what was happening, as they were
unfamiliar with the agenda and the process. We took a
great deal of time to get that sorted out and finally got them
slowed down to the point of asking after each item on the agenda
for comments from commissioners and then comments from staff and
Speaking time was reduced at 1point to only 3 min. if you
come well prepared and knopw that you have to squeeze everything
into 3 min. you might do OK . It is sometimes is sufficient to express
your view. But most residents are not prepared to
compactly present their case. And so
this has been at times problematic as they are cut off. Or also
problematic as some ( who bring up unhappy points ) are cut off
while others ( who praise the commissioners ) are given far more
time. . Also problematic has
been the fact that while residents are cut off from speaking
about important items that impact their lives, commissioners
give themselves great leeway to speak about nearly any topic
they desire including their children's sports events and yes,
even sorting socks. This while people are prevented from
discussing in depth flooding and fire safety violations and
other serious issues.
Eventually, the plan that was set allowed that residents
could speak at a Committee meeting for 3 min. after
any agenda item was introduced ( and before the vote ) and also for 3 min. at the end of each
Committee topic on any open issue that was not an agenda item
but related to that topic . At full Board Meetings, residents
could chose to have 3 minutes of open topic comments either at
the beginning or the end of the meeting as well as 3 min. after
any agenda item was introduced ( and before the vote ) At one
point they also could speak at full Board meetings at the end of
each section with 3 minutes of open comment -- but
that right was very soon removed. Again exceptions are made for some and not granted to others in regard
to these rules.
In Spring 2012
, new Manager, Michael Lefevre, proposed that we move
all public comment to the beginning of the meeting and eliminate
comment during the rest of the meeting, including on agenda
items after Commissioners' discussion showed us what they were
intending to do. Citizens vehemently argued for their
right to continue to comment on agenda items before they were
voted on and after they learned what the pklan was. Citizens also
asked to have the right to speak before the meeting, but not in
conjunction with their other rights taken away as Manager
LeFevre was trying to do. The
Commissioners did not implement changes at this time
Some 2012 points as we
were formulating new rules
First and foremost - all citizens should know, NO they do not
have to SIGN UP to speak. The sign up sheet has led people
to believe that if they did not sign up, they cannot speak
- and it should be abolished altogether, since half of the
residents in a meeting don't even know they just walked past a
sign up sheet - or upon which page to write their name.
Public Comment has
been a real political football, with Commissioners actually
campaigning on the issue, but then later trying at nearly every
opportunity to reduce our rights to speak unless there is great citizen outcry.
Our speech, especially when televised into many of our fellow
residents homes or with a shareable computer link, is an incredibly valuable tool that each Abington resident
should seek to protect and to use.
of 9-12, although I have heard that everyone understands the
current plan for what is allowed a little differently, it is my understanding that residents
can speak in this manner:
They are encouraged to sign up on the sheets in
the hall outside the meeting-however
, as noted above, residents are not forbidden from speaking because they have not
signed up and, in fact, as noted above, the sheets frequently
make things more confusing and I believe they should be
abolished for that reason. The Commissioners or a clerk
could simply make understood by a "rule sheet" or orally what
the speaking rules are. They are required per the Sunshine Act
to provide for comment at public meetings.
Residents must state their name and address for the
record before speaking ---- Yes, every time they speak. Residents can speak at a Board of Commissioners
meeting for 3 min. after any agenda item as well as 3 min. at the
end of the meeting on any topic. At one point
they were also allowed to speak for 3 min. at the end of
each Committee section . That was then removed --- You will see that exceptions are made for some and
not granted to others in regard to these rules.
During Committee meetings, (as opposed
to the full Board meetings) residents
are able to speak for 3 min. on each agenda item and are able to
speak at the end of the particular Committee segment .
The Commissioners are not required to answer you (
which they like to call "debating" when they don't want to
answer, but which they gladly do, when they don't mind
They have also been
known to hold up signs indicating how much of your time is
left. At times, they have done this so frequently during
the 3 min period of "selected" speakers that one could only
interpret the action as an attempt to "interrupt the speaker
". They continued the practice even when asked not to do so. Many
residents are quite nervous when
speaking in public, and Commissioners, generally are aware of
Given the above, it would be good for residents to hold small
group discussions on public speaking issues .
2014 More rights eroded
2016 Commissioners took away
more speaking rights . No more comment after each item at Full
Board meetings - Now, if you just learned about an issue
when you heard the issue at a Committee meeting on TV , your
ability to comment is largely gone
2018 Major rights eroded --- Without
a proper explanation at all & buried in page 79 of an enormous
agenda ( without the summary at top as it usually is )
they passed new and despicable rules . For a year they heard me
saying that they had improperly listed speaking rules on the
agenda - and not a single Commissioner, manager, staff person or
other said to me, "no - they're correct. We changed them when no
one was paying attention" -- and Mr Manfredi falsely
described what they were doing on 1-11-18 when they were
changing them . This was incredible decit . I have yet to find a
single person who said his or her commissioner alerted them to
the upcoming change --- even though they knew we had petitions
and passionate testimony the last time they tried that.
In fact, what they did is ...they took
away all rules that they themselves had to
follow - and gave the chair of any meeting tthe right to change
any rules or procedures on the fly. That is the wequivalent of
have NO RULES at all for themselves - while they increased the
restrictions on resident somment . The only theing ethey
had to abide by was the Sunshine act and the Commonwealth
laws - which they are counting on NO RESIDENTS TO KNOW.
And in the first meeting that we learned about this 7-11-19
they violated the Sunshine act . Amazing.
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