Elsewhere, we raised concerns that Eden Ratliff, Kennett Township Manager, may have misled the public about exactly when and how he claimed to have notified public officials about his potential conflicts of interest and intent to recuse himself from decisions about Fire/EMS services. The most significant of these conflicts arose when Eden’s wife Gabrielle took what may be a plum position with Longwood Fire, within days of Ratliff’s efforts to direct a massive increase in funding to Longwood Fire in the 2022 budget. When interviewed by a reporter, Ratliff claimed to have been "prudent and proactive" in seeking guidance from the Pennsylvania Ethics Commission about these conflicts of interest. He has refused to provide a copy of the guidance requested - and the Ethics Commission’s response - to us.
New facts now cast still more doubt on Ratliff’s claims, and raise new concerns that he may embark on a campaign to circumvent protections against undue influence in Township decisions. Despite Ratliff’s stonewalling, we were able to obtain a heavily redacted copy of the Ethics Commission’s response to Ratliff’s request, which we have partially reconstructed (you can see a copy here). We believe this to be the response submitted to Ratliff's request, because it is the only opinion issued on the date cited by Ratliff, and the entities match up with those we believe to be the subject of the complaint.
In this request, Ratliff explores several options to allow him to continue to influence decisions to benefit his wife’s employer, Longwood Fire. For example, Ratliff proposes to be hired by the Kennett Fire and Emergency Services Regional Commission (Fire Commission) or to continue to advise the Fire Commission as a volunteer, or to ask the Fire Commission’s permission… all while presumably continuing as Kennett Township Manager. Ratliff appears to suggest that, just by changing hats and pretending that he is not speaking officially as a Township Manager, he can avoid a conflict of interest. In their response, the Ethics Commission makes it clear that Ratliff would still have a conflict of interest in advising the Fire Commission as long as he is acting as a public official or using public resources. Moreover, the response of the Ethics Commission also makes it clear that Ratliff had a clear conflict of interest, notwithstanding the attempts by supporters Richard Leff (Kennett Township Supervisor) and Cuyler Walker (Chair of the Fire Commission) to exonerate him.
It also appears, despite the best efforts of the Ethics Commission to advise him, Ratliff may still have a conflict of interest. Ratliff only asked the Ethics Commission about conflicts arising from his work advising the Fire Commission. He does not seek guidance about the much more significant conflict - his work advising Kennett Township, despite claims that Ratliff makes elsewhere. It also raises new questions about whether Ratliff has actually recused himself from advising Kennett Township. Of course, Ratliff can put any of these concerns to bed simply by responding to our new Right to Know requests for a copy of his letter to the Ethics Commission, as well as any communications from Ratliff indicating his intent to recuse himself from Township discussions involving Longwood Fire.
This seems unlikely, however, to happen soon. Just as Ratliff appears to avoid seeking the ethical guidance needed from the State Ethics Commission, he appears to also obstruct attempts by the Township supervisors to properly supervise him. Based on a response to our questions at the Township Board of Supervisors meeting on February 2, it appears that Ratliff has not even provided a copy of his request to the Ethics Commission and their response to Township Supervisors. Instead, Ratliff and his supporters claim that he has “made a copy available to Counsel” and that the question cannot be publicly discussed because it is a “personnel matter”. At this point, it is unclear who at Kennett Township will uphold what we believe are reasonable standards for transparency and accountability when it comes to conflicts of interest and self-dealing.