I still remember the very first time I attended a meeting of the Upper Macungie Township Board of Supervisors. It was February 5th, 2009. Supervisor Sam Ashmar had proposed closing a loophole in the township's employee benefit package that would allow any employee, regardless of tenure, to take early retirement at age 60 and receive healthcare benefits for the employee and his or her spouse until the age of 65. Ashmar and the other Supervisors seemed to agree that the loophole should be closed and the early retirement benefit should be eliminated. Before the vote could be taken however, Supervisor Kathy Rader had some business to take care of. Mrs. Rader is a full-time township employee and her daytime job is in the community development department. Her boss in that position, Bruce Wlazelek, was planning to take advantage of the healthcare benefit when he turned 60 in several years. Thanks to Mrs. Rader, Bruce Wlazelek retired from the township last month with a full health insurance policy for the next 5 years. Mrs. Rader acted quickly on that February night to insert a carve out to protect Wlazelek, meaning the rules would change for every other township employee but not for her boss.
I kept waiting for someone to say, "Hey wait, you can't do that. You can't have different rules for different people." Surely the solicitor would stop this, right? But things moved quickly from there and Mrs. Rader cast the deciding vote and the motion passed 2-1. Some employers give their retirees a gold watch; Mrs. Rader made sure her boss left with at least $50,000 worth of health insurance. This is local politics at its worst and it's become the answer to the question I'm asked the most: Why did you decide to run for office?
Looking back at that meeting I realize that night and others like it led me to the decision to run for Township Supervisor. There have been many other days and nights since I started this campaign that have reaffirmed my decision and motivated me even more to win so that I can represent all of the people of our township and not just those favored by my opponent. One of those days was last Thursday when I went to the county government center to pick up a copy of Mrs. Rader's campaign finance report.
Mrs. Rader has established a campaign committee called Friends of Rader. The last report I picked up for her committee showed a sole donation of $1,000 from the Friends of Reichley, of which Mrs. Rader is the treasurer. I guess it pays to have connections. Therefore I wasn't surprised to see donations this time from Lehigh County politicians like Jim Martin, Pat Browne and Gary Day. What was surprising to me were the names of some of the other donors: people who do business with the township on a regular basis, including two of the three people who have been entrusted as township auditors. The auditors are the ones who set the pay for the township supervisors. This is the pay that Mrs. Rader takes both for her work as supervisor and for her day position as Assistant Community Development Director. I'm still not sure how she was able to extend her supervisor pay of $33.88 per hour to her duties during the day, but it appears that the township code would allow this to be done by the auditors. Again, it really does pay to have connections!
Mrs. Rader has stated at several township meetings that her day position is township secretary, a position that does not exist according to the job description I was given for Mrs. Rader by the township. She is the Secretary on the Board of Supervisors and her full-time job is Assistant Community Development Director. Apparently she doesn't even know where to draw the line between her responsibilities, although reading the job description for the ACDD really does sound a lot more like the responsibilities of a secretary than an assistant director. I'm not knocking secretary's and the work that they do but I think it's important to know that part of our ACDD's job description is to "organize and maintain records", "monitor department vacation time", and to "coordinate the recording of plans". We're paying $70,000 a year for this?
I know Mrs. Rader's supporters will slam this column as being negative, but I think the voters of Upper Macungie Township deserve to know what's going on behind closed doors. I've tried to take the high road as much as possible but I'm extremely frustrated and dismayed by what I've learned during the past several years. Two township residents told me they used to attend the monthly supervisors meeting but were so frustrated by the experience that they stopped attending. They joked that it was better for their health to remain 'blissfuly unaware'. That's unfortunate and it's sad that they feel that way. I'd like to see the township building filled with people on meeting nights. I'd like for people to see their township government be responsive to their concerns and needs. I'd like for our residents to know their voices have been heard. We must demand a board of supervisors that works for all of the residents of our township and not just for the Friends of Rader. I hope you'll join me in demanding more from our Board of Supervisors. I hope you'll make your voice heard and join me at the polls on Tuesday!