On December 31st, an article was posted in the Daily Local News on the inquiry submitted by the Borough of Kennett Square to the Ethics Commission and Ratliff’s response. As described in other posts on this article, some of these statements unintentionally confirmed the inappropriateness of his conduct, creating a major management problem for Township supervisors. This post focuses on a number of false statements made by or attributed to Ratliff himself that we believe together constitute unethical conduct. Consider the following statements….
“Ratliff said he was the first to approach the Pennsylvania Ethics Commission for an advisory opinion on his participation in Longwood Fire Co. and the Regional Fire and EMS Commission.”
This is false. We reached out to Ethics Commission staff the same day that a supervisor first spoke with Ratliff about the possible problems and recommended he seek guidance from the Ethics Commission. This conversation occurred more than three weeks before Ratliff submitted his inquiry.
“Ratliff said that when his wife accepted the position, he notified the commission and Kennett supervisors that he would be recuing (sic) himself from his informal role with the Regional Fire Commission.”
This is false. Ratliff’s wife was first listed as an employee at Longwood Fire in October.
Supervisors did not learn of her employment from Ratliff nor when her employment started, but through a tip from a resident, and only confirmed by Ratliff weeks later in November.
Ratliff did not inform the Fire Commission at the first opportunity (e.g., at the October 28th meeting) but sometime after the November 9th meeting, and perhaps as late as December.
It is unclear when Ratliff formally recused himself from all related discussions, but we know that he provided critical recommendations to the Township and the Fire Commission regarding the 2022 Fire/EMS budget before any recusal.
Ratliff was quoted as follows: “Thus my taking the initiative to request a thorough review by the Pennsylvania Ethics Commission was the prudent and proactive step to take before I took any further action on behalf of the Regional Fire Commission, the Kennett Fire Company, or Longwood Fire Company.”
This is false. We publicly raised concerns about the first conflict of interest in April 2021, with regards to a conflict of interest that likely began in late 2020. The second conflict of interest began when his wife interviewed for a position with Longwood Fire (perhaps in September 2021) and was certainly established when she began her work there in October. Ratliff was told that the conflict was problematic on November 5, 2021. Yet he only requested guidance on November 30, 2021 - i.e., 7 months after the first conflict was identified, and 3 weeks after he was told that at least the second conflict was likely problematic. A prudent and proactive response would have been to seek guidance within days of the identification of the first conflict, if not the second conflict.
As we describe elsewhere, conflicts are not necessarily unethical. In this case, however, we consider Ratliff’s multiple false statements to a reporter to constitute a deliberate, public campaign to conceal his obvious conflicts of interest, and to mislead others about the extent of behavior now confirmed to be inappropriate. In other words, Ratliff’s remarks can be described as lies, and his conduct can be described as unethical. Regardless of whether there was a crime, there certainly was a cover-up, and this creates a management nightmare for Kennett Supervisors.