While the supervisors and some residents might appreciate the details in BlankRome’s 38 page report exonerating Kennett Township Manager Eden Ratliff of violations of Pennsylvania's Ethics Act, they might not appreciate how much all this cost the Township: based on new information received at the April 6th meeting of the Kennett Township Board of Supervisors (KT-BoS), we project that the total bill for legal and public relations consultants has already exceeded $140K. This includes costs incurred since the first week of December (when the Supervisors received the complete ethics complaint filed by Township resident Peter Doehring). This also includes Supervisor Richard Leff’s illegally crafted Dec. 20 press release seeking to exonerate Ratliff and discredit Doehring, which will likely set taxpayers back at least $10-15K. $127K in legal bills from the firm undertaking the review have been received through the end of February.
The total costs are even more concerning given that the value of the report was limited by its exceedingly narrow focus and outcomes. The report uncovers little new information of significance not already revealed by OpenKennett months ago, or sought by OpenKennett through open records requests consistently denied by Ratliff. The report's value is limited from the outset by the decision of the previous KT-BoS to focus solely on the question of whether Ratliff violated any laws. One consequence is that the review relies on the extremely high evidentiary standards established by the PA Ethics Commission, and so the report's exoneration of Ratliff was a foregone conclusion given the unlikelihood of uncovering new evidence that would have changed the Commission’s response from 3 months ago. We argue elsewhere that the only new evidence likely uncovered through the Kennett review that could have changed the Commission's response could have been gathered in one day. Perhsp most significant was the decision by the KT-BoS to seek no guidance about how Kennett might prevent or respond to ethical concerns in the future, leaving us open to spending another $140K or more to resolve the next set of ethical concerns that arise.