Schuylkill Board Censures Supervisor, Calls for Resignation

Following an executive session at its August meeting, the township board of supervisors passed two resolutions.

After an executive session of lasting approximately half an hour, four members of the Schuylkill Township Board of Supervisors took action to censure the fifth member, Supervisor Laurie Williams.

The action occurred at the board's Aug. 3 meeting. In addition to the censure resolution, the board voted 4-0, with Williams absent, to formally request that Williams resign her position. Williams was present at the meeting, but left prior to the executive session, which began at approximately 8:25 p.m.

Citing “misbehaviors in public office,” the two-page censure resolution gave four reasons for the censure. These included sending “offensive” e-mails that were “embarrassing, false and libelous,” according to the censure, removing a candidate’s campaign signs, improperly campaigning inside the township building and “exhibiting rude and offensive behavior” and making false statements at six public meetings in July, according to the resolution, which is signed by four supervisors.

During the public meeting Aug. 3, Chairwoman Barbara Cohen began to list the issues she had, including that Williams “libeled a supervisor for an alleged sexual assault,” with Cohen saying the allegations of assault were baseless.

Resident Tara Handforth asked why Cohen was bringing up “personal issues.”

“This feels like personal stuff,” Handforth said.

Supervisor Jim Morrisson said while only four areas were focused on in the censure resolution, “we could probably go on to double that.

“This is not the first time we’ve asked her to refrain from her inappropriate behavior and her unprofessional behavior,” Morrisson said.

Morrisson said Williams was not behaving as a public official should. Cohen cited a code of conduct, adopted in February 2010, for Schuylkill Township supervisors.

Williams was orally censured at the Dec. 1 meeting, which she did not attend. In the oral censure, according to meeting minutes, Williams’ behavior was called “improper, unprofessional and mean-spirited,” and the censure said Williams violated the code of conduct, took actions “detrimental” to township taxpayers, sent “embarrassing and sometimes incoherent e-mails,” and trespassed on private properties. A motion for the oral censure passed, though the vote’s turn out was not written in the minutes.

Supervisor Fred Parry said last Wednesday that his biggest issue is Williams’ lack of attendance at executive sessions.

“She’s not fulfilling her duties as a township supervisors that the taxpayers asked her to do,” Parry said. “She has not made one executive session in the last seven months and stayed there.”

Minutes from the board’s July meeting show that Williams voted on a motion following executive session, although it’s not noted if she was present for the entire session.

Handforth asked whether the executive sessions could be moved so they wouldn’t be as late at night. She also said Williams’ behavior at meetings was necessary.

“I sit here and see [Williams] picked on repeatedly and repeatedly, so the only way [Williams] gets to say what [Williams] needs to say is for her to, frankly, raise hell—and I don’t blame her,” Handforth said.

While she told the board that, as a resident, she would like if meetings could be less chaotic, she hoped the board could work out its issues without the censure.

“Some nights it’s crazy, it’s totally crazy,” Handforth said. “But I think that you have to find a way to work together, and censuring her is sort of politicizing the whole issue—and I don’t think that solves the problem.”

Handforth told the board members to “act like grown-ups and move on.”

Vice Chairman Norman Vutz said the issue went beyond her behavior at meetings. He explained that he tried to work with Williams when she first became a board member. However, he said she took a role where she was in charge of the roads in the township and “ran rough shot” over employees, according to Vutz, who said he had to do “an awful lot of apologizing.”

“We have to draw a line in the sand where she aggravates the employees, disrupts the office, embarrasses us to the open public, and the only way I know how to do it is expressing it in this censure motion,” Vutz said. “That’s why I’m in favor of it.”

The resolution to censure Williams passed 4-0. A second resolution to request that Williams resign was then passed. That resolution cited the same issues as in the censure resolution. A certified letter from Williams to the board was requested within 48 hours of the resolution’s passing stating Williams’ desire to resign.

“[The resolution] authorizes, if Mrs. Williams’ resignation is not received within the specified time frame, investigation of legal action to compel her removal,” the resolution states.

Supervisor Jim Morrisson said the board requested Williams’ resignation late last year.

“She basically ignored that request,” Morrisson said.

He explained that at the reorganization meeting of the township, Williams voted against nearly all of the appointments.

“That means she basically wanted to dismantle the operation of this township,” Morrisson said. “That’s not rational. That’s not logical.”

Cohen said when the board requested Williams’ “quiet resignation” last winter, the focus was on Williams’ family. When Handforth objected to Cohen’s assessment that Williams was “not fulfilling her duties as a parent,” Morrisson said that it goes back to her “non-performance of duties as a supervisor.”

“Time and time again she’s used the excuse of having to get home to her children precisely at the time that an executive session opens up,” Morrisson said.

Parry said that while he has “empathy” for Williams and believes her to be very smart, he explained that “she goes about it the wrong way.”

“I think she’s embarrassed us in front of the taxpayers,” Parry said.

Both resolutions passed 4-0.  The next meeting of the Schuylkill Township Board of Supervisors is Sept. 7.

BW August 12, 2011 at 02:43 PM
Welcome to Dysfunction-ville. Despite obvious style and civility issues, Laurie is the only one who actually doesn't just rubber stamp everything. They should really look in the mirror if they think she embarrassed them. Watch how they treat the public too - they listen with ears closed and ignore. The faults of this board can't be pinned on Laurie. A perfect parallel found in the 1948 Presidential Campaign. When a supporter of President Truman yelled out "Give 'em Hell, Harry".... Truman responded with a classic - "I don't give them Hell. I just tell the truth about them and they think it's Hell." The other four appear so in cahoots in an attempt to keep Schuylkill Twp as it was 40 years ago. Enough spending our taxpayer money on all of Barbara's historic pet projects - the board is nothing more than a glorified historical Commission. Morrison is one of the biggest problems on that board. He has an over-inflated sense of superiority on everything. How about addressing real township governance. Our police costs are rising - how many of them are out on disability? Who knew it was such a hazardous township for police. Our tax rate higher than similar townships - why are our legal costs so much higher? If they actually managed, they could find savings and actually reduce our taxes. No, we get all excited to be a "Bird Town" Hopefully a new elected supervisor after the fall election will help.
Peter C. Brown August 12, 2011 at 07:00 PM
In an effort to be fair - I think everyone really wants to like Laurie Williams. She has so many good qualities. She is passionate, caring, very talented, and she dedicates an immense amount of her time to volunteer activities in our community. That being said, her actions speak loudly for her. Laurie has also publicly blamed - in writing - the Schuylkill Township Supervisors for the failure of her marriage. Who does that? We all know that already-stable marriages aren't ruined by Township Supervisors. The truth of the matter is that stepping down as Township Supervisor would be the healthiest and the wisest step for Laurie Williams to take at this time. Doing so would enable her to focus on her family issues and put her in a position to move on with her life. And who would be the winner? Clearly, Laurie Williams and her family would be the undisputed and unchallenged winners. No contest! To BW - please elaborate on the issues and areas where Schuylkill Township can actually reduce our taxes. Perhaps you have some good suggestions to make that haven't already been made in budget planning meetings? And - who wouldn't get excited about being an Audubon Bird Town partner??? It appears to be a "nearly no-cost" educational project aimed at improving our environment and the world that we live in - a very positive thing amid all the turmoil that surrounds us today.
Richard A Breuer August 12, 2011 at 08:36 PM
The removal of elected public officials is governed by Art VI, Sec. 7 of the Pennsylvania Constitution: "All civil officers shall hold their offices on the condition that they behave themselves well while in office, and shall be removed on conviction of misbehavior in office or of any infamous crime. Appointed civil officers, other than judges of the courts of record, may be removed at the pleasure of the power by which they shall have been appointed. All civil officers elected by the people, except the Governor, the Lieutenant Governor, members of the General Assembly and judges of the courts of record, shall be removed by the Governor for reasonable cause, after due notice and full hearing, on the address of two-thirds of the Senate." So the Supervisors should try not to get their knickers in a twist, unless the plan to ask the Pennsylvania Senate to essentially impeach Ms. Williams.
JohnnyJohnny August 13, 2011 at 11:49 AM
Laurie's heart is in the right place. Her delivery is sometimes over the top, but it makes for interesting meetings. A few questions. Why is half the police force on disability? Why do we NEVER see police reports from Schuylkill township? Are the rumors true about the a harrassment lawsuit by the cops against their supervisor? Did the township solicitor ignore the fact that the township got caught without errors & ommision insurance and now they're exposed? Or would the solicitor represent the cops so he wins either way? Why does the township solicitor earn $17k/month when a much busier township like Upper Merion's solicitor earns half that? It's all about Babs handing out other peoples money to her inside circle. They do not like the fact that Laurie (and many others) don't like what Babs does. So many have their hand out to Babs that it's tough to fight them. Babs needs to go this November.
Jay Valley August 14, 2011 at 02:48 AM
Laurie needs to go. She is an embarrassment inside the township building and out. She harasses people and obviously isn't working with a full deck.
MC August 14, 2011 at 03:44 PM
She needs help. Very inappropriate out in the public. Comments made by her are not normal. She is embarrassing her children. Seriously,get some professional help.
lester chester August 30, 2011 at 01:20 PM
Let he who is without sin cast the first stone! MC and Jay you may want to read up on that. Are you 100% confident that you have never embarrassed or harrassed anyone? Obvious to WHOM? What is "NORMAL" MC, making masked mean comments about another person? and Peter, any of us blame people for what we are going through, rationalization is the best coping skill humans were given--does she mean it? Likely no, but her world is collapsing and she's sad. She will be fine! Laurie is indeed excentric and not "normal" but she is moral, ethical, well intentioned and a child of God no less than any of the stone throwers. Have you ever met her husband, he's a pitbull of an attorney and so ruthless he doesn't speak to any of his blood family, siblings etc, including his father at the end of his live! I wouldn't want to be up against him for a traffic ticket much less my life, millions in marital assest, custody of two children... Time to see this for what it is folks; Babs and her cronies are the most evil of "servants", they are attacking their enemy at her emotionally weakest point in life and hoping to crush her very soul, and likely they've had some encouragement from one who could offer favors. SICK is this entire forum and the board, far more sick than an middle-aged woman with heartache on top of eccentric passion.
Paul September 12, 2011 at 11:56 AM
We're with you Laurie. For far too long many of us have stood back and shook our heads at the backwards pace of the Supervisors in this township. Money being thrown at pooly conceived "restoration" projects that only a select few cared about. It is time that those of us who have watched from a distance step forward and be heard. Being a lone soldier is never an easy task, it requires alot of strength and the willingness to not be affraid to shake things up. I know that your intentions are for the best. Please know that you have many more supporters. Hopefully we will be there in November. Thank you Laurie for all of your efforts, they do not go unappreciated. Paul


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