Keating Township Supervisor Richard Tanner tendered his resignation Friday, calling the governing body “one of the least transparent and taxpayer friendly boards to date” in the municipality.
In a letter emailed to The Era, Tanner said he decided to step down from the three-member board, citing “differences in the ideas, concepts, opinions and just plain lack of respect and transparency for the public we are elected to serve and my concerns how business in general is transacted.”
The departure isn’t official, however. Tanner’s resignation has to be accepted at a meeting of the supervisors, Supervisor Chairman Douglas Covert told The Era. He said he is hoping the board can meet as soon as possible.
“This is possibly the best thing Supervisor Tanner could do for Keating Township,” Covert said, indicating that way someone can rightfully fulfill the duties of supervisor for the township that is the largest in McKean County.
For his part, Supervisor David McClain, who was caught off guard when he learned about Tanner’s resignation, said, “(Tanner) left us with no indication he was interested in resigning.”
In his letter, Tanner accuses the supervisors of violating the Pennsylvania Sunshine Act and the state’s right-to-know requirements in making many municipal decisions.
Covert countered that claim, saying that it “is absolutely and totally incorrect.”
If Tanner had attended more meetings, Covert indicated that he would have understood township business. What’s more, McClain said the board has done everything to be in compliant under the Sunshine Law and went as far as adding more meetings for the public to attend.
Also in the letter, Tanner expressed concern over handling of township meetings.
“Almost always the agenda put out the Friday before our scheduled board meeting major items, not minor items, were put forth for decisions and votes without adequate time to research and discuss the overall full content of the issue,” Tanner wrote. “More often than not the formal action gets approved by a 2 to 1 vote.”
McClain disagreed. He said said the votes were many 2-0, with Tanner missing so many meetings.
“Keating Township –– or anything township –– if anything, is a very fluid concern these days,” Covert said.
He pointed to 20 years ago the concern tended to be about plowing roads and cleaning ditches, among other tasks. Now the dynamics have changed, he said, such as a multimillion-dollar sewer project.
In his letter, Tanner said he also objects to the risks made in making purchases without understanding the laws of Pennsylvania when it comes to public involvement and what he considers violation to the non-electoral debt limit.
“Keating Township has very good non-electoral debt,” Covert said.
Non-electoral debt is defined by the state as “all debt determined as provided in this subpart, incurred or authorized to be incurred, except electoral debt and lease rental debt, in each case whether authorized before or after July 12, 1972, and whether before or after the debt is incurred.”
Covert and McClain said purchases in contention involved road maintenance trucks, which have been paid off, as part of a two-year plan. Covert said that such a move was “made fully in the public view.”
Tanner also stated in his letter that he is entitled the same information the two other supervisors receive or possess.
“Their comments have been if you don't attend the meetings you don't get complete information all of the time. I read the minutes. I read my emails. I read the newspaper. And I talk to others who attend most all of the meetings and they have much less information than I do,” he said. “I also believe that part of being an elected official you have a responsibility to keep the voters and the public informed.”
But Covert said Tanner neglected to comprehend his duties.
“Township supervisors don’t have authority. They have responsibility,” he said.
But he did give a praise to Tanner. “He has helped us in regard to compliance,” Covert said.
All things considered, McClain said he found the letter to be confusing.
“I don’t understand where any of this is coming from,” he said.
Meanwhile, Covert said he will recommend posting an advertisement in the newspaper looking for a citizen to fill the position of supervisor. Whomever fills the role would serve for about four years, filling out the remainder of Tanner’s term.
The next regular meeting of the supervisors is May 1 at the township building at 7160 Route 46 in East Smethport.