Exeter Township municipal building

EXETER TWP., Pa. — What started as an unusually mild meeting among the Exeter Township supervisors eventually turned combative with the discussion of the hiring and firing authority given to the township's interim manager, Betsy McBride.

McBride told the supervisors Monday night that she intended to hire a temporary employee in the planning department to process permits and minutes. She explained that the department was down from three employees to two, and that the paperwork had backed up to unacceptable levels.

Vice Chair Ted Gardella asked if it was necessary to put McBride's hiring decision up to a vote.

"In my opinion, it is," McBride replied, "but with the cruelty and recklessness I've seen today and over the past couple weeks, I've decided to put it on the agenda."

Township Solicitor Chad Schnee then explained that, as interim manager under current ordinances, McBride has the power to hire and fire employees as she sees fit.

Supervisor David Hughes said a township contract with Keystone Municipal Solutions — the agency that supplied McBride — states the interim township manager can, "with the approval of the board of supervisors, hire and, when necessary for the good of the township, suspend or discharge employees under the interim manager's jurisdiction." He went on to say that the contract overrides the ordinance.

Hughes continued to say that he would like the supervisors to take a look at the temporary employee who is under consideration. He went on to allege that a friend of Gardella from the school district had been hired "in the right-to-know area," and he said he never saw a resume to assess the qualifications.

Hughes noted that he was not opposed to McBride interviewing candidates for township positions, but he said, "We need to know who they are so we approve her decisions."

Schnee said he saw no conflict with the ordinance and the contract.

"Under the code, Betsy can hire and fire as long as she tells the board later," he commented. "As an appointed official, her actions can always be overridden by the board."

Supervisor David Vollmer made a motion to let the ordinance supersede McBride's contract, allowing her to hire and fire as she sees fit as interim township manager.

Hughes then replied that the township has made no progress toward finding a full-time township manager.

"We're not training anyone," Hughes said. "All we've got is this crazy Gardella idea that we're going to train a township employee [Larry Piersol] to be our township manager. Is that going to be a two-month thing, six months, a year, two years?"

McBride interrupted and defended Piersol saying, "You took a stab at Larry being the heir apparent."

Gardella jumped in to answer what he called "ad hominem attacks by Dave on the crazy Gardella plan and all these other accusations." Gardella said the plan to groom Piersol, the township's current assistant public works director, for the position was developed by himself, McBride and other staff.

At the end of the lengthy discussion, Vollmer's motion to let McBride have hiring and firing power passed 4-1 with Hughes opposed.

Other approvals

The supervisors approved a motion to adopt an ordinance to hold two regular meetings per month.

They also authorized to advertise amendments to the open burning ordinance, recommended by the planning commission, to ease restrictions connected to agricultural activity.

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