Even in little Jenkintown, it costs big money to carry out a political vendetta by weaponizing your zoning code, especially if your victim has the nerve to fight back.
Jenkintown’s ongoing political drama turned circus turned fiasco has hopefully come to a close. On July 12, the Zoning Hearing Board unanimously dismissed the notice of violation the Borough served against the Downses. I think I assumed like most in this town that the matter had finally ended, but upon review of the invoices submitted by Rudolph Clarke LLC, the firm representing the ZHB, the Borough spent the rest of July (at least) investigating the possibility of an appeal. This exploration cost taxpayers another $1162.
So far, the final bill to Jenkintown taxpayers for this affair looks like this:
December 1, 2017 to March 31, 2018
The Borough cited the Downses in December for running an unspecified, non-compliant business which on March 28 Judge Elizabeth McHugh dismissed for failing to cite the business.
Offices of Sean Kilkenny: $5273.00
The Borough decided to reissue the citation inserting the word “Landscaping” to describe the type of business they believed the Downses ran. Rather than pay the fine and end the matter, the Downses instead brought the matter before the Zoning Hearing Board, and in doing so, paid the filing fee of $1,000. The hearing was set for May 30.
After the initial three-hour hearing, the ZHB needed to continue proceedings and set for June 7.
Kilkenny’s invoice this month had one curious line item: A $46.50 charge for a half-hour phone call FROM Frank Reilley, the owner of 303 Runnymede Avenue. Our inquiry to the Borough as to why we should be charged for this have so far gone unanswered.
Police overtime: $1,248.00
This information was supplied at our request by Chief DiValentino via email.
These totals, especially the numbers from Kilkenny’s office, reflect only those line items that plainly refer to 301 or 303 Runnymede or mentions the names of the occupants.
It’s possible the total amount is higher for the following reasons:
- The invoices document conversations with Noah Marlier, the attorney working for Rudolph Clarke LLC, to discuss matters relating to the zoning code. It’s possible and even likely that Mr. Marlier was consulted before the Borough issued the original citation. We don’t yet have invoices from Rudolph Clarke for those months.
- Kilkenny’s July invoices have several redacted items of email exchanges with Patrick Hitchens. On July 12, the day of the third hearing, one such email exchange charged the Borough $46.50.
- The July invoice from Rudolph Clarke contain several post-hearing line items regarding appellate rights (of the Borough). Two of those items mention telephone calls to or from Patrick Hitchens, the prosecuting attorney working for Sean Kilkenny. Neither of those items are reflected in the Kilkenny invoices.
- These totals only reflect the invoices we thought to ask for. Not having worked in government nor participated in a political vendetta, we don’t know all the tools the Borough had at its disposal or what it used.
- The Borough does not expect employees to track their time and so does not require time sheets. The amount of non-billable resources the borough has expensed will never be known.
- Employee overtime: At least two of the borough’s non-salaried employees attended the hearings in an official capacity. We did not ask for the overtime paid to them.
As we’ve mentioned before the initial copies of Kilkenny’s invoices were heavily redacted, initially without explanation. The law requires the Borough to redact personal information or references to Borough personnel or confidential legal matters. We asked Rick Ware if those massive black blocks hid only that information. Mr. Ware interpreted our Right-to-Know request as a request for information exclusively related to the Downs citation and nothing else.
We suggested to Mr. Ware that we wouldn’t mind seeing the rest of the invoices either, since that would save everyone the time and expense of refiling for the same invoices without any specific stipulation. Kilkenny’s July invoice appears more appropriately redacted.