Yesterday was the 225th anniversary of the United States Constitution. Truly, the bible of our freedoms was signed on September 17, 1787. Yesterday a friend of mine had to defend her honor as a free woman of the United States of America.
Why is it Tredyffrin feels it is above the very principles upon which this country was founded? How ironic is that considering as a municipality they hold within their borders part of one of the most sacred sites of the American Revolution and of our history? You know, Valley Forge?
What truths do we really hold to be self-evident? In Tredyffrin, quite frankly, I shudder to think.
I am astounded at the Tredyffrin Board of Supervisors President Michelle Kichline. She danced around the subject of Vice President of the Board of Supervisors John P. DiBuonaventuro turning Tredyffrin’s taxpayer-funded website into TMZ.com. And I am still somewhat astounded that exiting Tredyffrin Township Manager Mimi Gleason went along with this whole enchilada, including a personal attack by an elected official on Pattye Benson who gives so much to her community. And as a blogger, I have been in Pattye’s position. I have been threatened, as have other bloggers I know. And time and again I ask for what? Having an opinion that runs contrary to the party line of some petty local government or selective government officials? Was People’s Republic of Tredyffrin Supervisor DiBuonaventuro channelling his inner Corbett? (Remember when Corbett went after bloggers before becoming governor? I wrote about that topic in *shock and horrors* Main Line Media News and it is reprinted below.)
I was thinking today about my balloon ride on 9/11, and how I was moved to tears by not only what the day represents (and it has extra meaning to me as someone who by happenstance walked out of the shopping concourse in the World Trade Center in 1993 just as the garage blew up), but moved by the beautiful green field dotted with a couple hundred first responders from all over Chester County who came together on 9/11. Then I thought about what my friend Pattye had to bravely do last night. She stood up and disclosed to all (see YouTube) that because of Lettergate she received a very odd phone call last week – from the departing Township Manager and Chief of Police. What was the point of that? Intimidation? I can’t help but wonder if I will also become a target because I have blogged about this? (This is not my first rodeo, and when horrible things like this happen it seems again that ordinary citizens have hit upon subjects government doesn’t want aired in public, right?)
When you think of what our founding fathers fought and died for, and what all those people (including first responders) died for on 9/11, I am so truly and deeply saddened and angered that Tredyffrin Township seems to think this is all o.k. and don’t you feel the same?
It’s not. Today, we as bloggers in the South Eastern PA blogosphere applaud Pattye Benson for rising above and speaking her piece in a dignified and forthright manner. She behaved far better than any in government (either elected official or township employee) deserve. Tredyffrin owes her, Main Line Media News, and anyone who exercises their First Amendment Rights an apology.
And as a municipality which is Republican dominated,
they are not exactly forwarding the cause of their party or their party’s political belief system. (As a Republican I am ashamed and embarrassed for them) I am so over bullying by government. (IMHO it doesn’t just happen in Tredyffrin either) I mean think about it people! Pattye Benson was in fact cyber-bullied by government officials and township officials. Cyber-bullied, the thing they worry about in schools and here it is adults in power not exactly practicing what they preach, right?
Here is what Pattye said on her own blog a little while ago:
….The regular Board of Supervisor’s meeting ended with supervisor and citizen new matters. Chairman Michelle Kichline read a statement from the Board of Supervisors concerning the use of the township website for John DiBuonaventuro’s letter to the citizens. Although a personal attack on a private citizen, Kichline stood by the decision to post his letter on township letterhead on the website. She did say that the board will look into developing a policy for the use of the website going forward. As the private citizen who was the target of DiBuonaventuro’s venomous attack, Kichline and the Board of Supervisors response was far from satisfactory.
Following Kichline’s statement on the Suzy Pratowski matter and the use of the township website for a supervisor’s personal letter, Andrea Felkins, a former School Board director and longtime resident , presented a lengthy statement in opposition. Felkins was absolute in her conviction against DiBuonaventuro’s use of the township website for his personal attack on me and of Community Matters…Below is the transcript of my statement from last night’s September 17 Board of Supervisors meeting:
Pattye Benson Personal Statement September 17, 2012
Members of the Board of Supervisors and citizens of Tredyffrin Township – I had not intended to speak tonight, preferring to listen to other’s voices. But something happened this past Friday, that has shaken me to my very core. At approximately 9:40 AM on Friday, September 14, I received a joint phone call from township manager Mimi Gleason and Police Superintendent Tony Giaimo that has forever changed who I am. In life’s journey, this is my watershed moment and a feeling that I will never forget.
Unable to shake how I was feeling, after 24 hours, I wrote the following email to Mimi Gleason and copied Michelle Kichline, chair of the Board of Supervisors.
Let me share that September 15 email with you.
Dear Ms. Gleason,
There are two reasons that I am writing this email (1) to state that as a citizen of Tredyffrin Township, I now feel threatened and harassed by our government and (2) to request that you never contact me again, unless it is with a written apology for your actions.
I have thought of little else since receiving your phone call yesterday, Friday, September 14. As a township resident, to be blindsided with a conference call from the township manager and the police superintendent was more than a little intimidating; I have to wonder how often you have taken a similar approach with other citizens in this community. The telephone conversation left me wondering exactly what was the purpose of the call and why did you involve Tony Giaimo except as a witness or possibly to record the phone conversation. Although there was no mention made of the call being recorded, Tony did state he was in his police vehicle, so am I to assume that the telephone conversation was recorded without my knowledge.
Between the historic house tour, the Paoli Blues Fest and personal health issues, I do not have the time or energy for your directives, missives or whatever else was the intention of your phone call or of your email dated September 7. On September 7, I emailed you the following simple question:
“Who is responsible for Mr. DiBuonaventuro’s letter on the township website? Was placing the letter on the website sanctioned by you, the township manager?”
The only response that my question required was a simple, yes or no, with the possible addition that the chair of the Board of Supervisors and the township solicitor had OK’d the letter for the township website. However, no, you decided on a different response, one that was not required, not needed and not necessary. Frankly, as a citizen and taxpayer in this township, your response was one that I believe you should never have sent. When I received your email, I made no response.
Your call yesterday revisited the opinion you stated in your September 7 email to me; again complaining that Community Matters contained misinformation and incorrect facts, specifically the assisted living project. However, never once in the conversation did you cite specifics as to what was incorrect. As a response to your complaints about the Suzy Pratowski matter, I stated that the Main Line Media News, TE Patch, Daily Local and the Philadelphia Inquirer had all written articles on the subject. I further stated that there was at least a week after the news articles appeared for the police department, the township or the Board of Supervisors to make a statement before I wrote anything on Community Matters. Residents were asking questions and no one seemed to be providing answers.
As a result of the situation, I did my own mini-investigation, speaking with District Attorney Tom Hogan, District Judge Tom Tartaglio, BOS Chair Michelle Kichline and Police Supt. Giaimo. After a thorough analysis, I presented my own summary statement on Community Matters. I clarified that John DiBuonaventuro was not the unidentified driver with Ms. Pratowski in the May 28 incident, as a photo in the newspapers may have implied. In my summary, I stated that DiBuonaventuro was interviewed by the police and that the police were satisfied that he was not in any way involved with the two police officers not appearing for the August 21 court date. I wrapped the summary up and tied a ribbon on it, stating that the two police officers missing the hearing was a human error, a mistake. I also thanked those involved (Hogan, Tartaglio, Kichline and Giaimo) for their help and used the words that I was ‘closing the chapter’. Little did I know, what was to happen … DiBuonaventuro’s letter, your involvement with the letter on the website, your September 7 email and most recently, your telephone call of September 14.
Feeling threatened by your phone call, I remarked at one point during the conversation that I should have an attorney on the call. I stated to you and Giaimo that as a resident of this township, I have rights, and as a citizen of the United States, I have rights, including 1st Amendment rights. I believe that our government does not have the right to harass and intimidate those citizens it serves to protect. I am not an attorney but I cannot imagine that your actions of yesterday (or your email) would be viewed favorably by the courts. Further, I cannot imagine that you would have considered making a similar phone call to Main Line Media News, TE Patch or the Philadelphia Inquirer nor would you have dare taken this approach with an attorney who might understand the legal implications of your actions far better than me.
Supt. Giaimo asked what I would like to see happen going forward – my response was a denouncement from the Board of Supervisors for the letter going on the website and an apology from the township manager. It should be noted that I quickly also stated that I did not expect either of those two things to happen.
It saddens me greatly that you were compelled to bring Tony into this matter. He and I have enjoyed a good working relationship over the last several years, including the blues festival and the house tour. Was your motive to damage my relationship with him, or was it to record the conversation? It is entirely unclear why you involved the police superintendent, except to further intimidate me.
In case you are not aware, your phone call was so upsetting, that I immediately called Michelle Kichline, chair of the Board of Supervisors to report the conversation. You suggested that I was ‘mistaken’ when I suggested that Ms. Kichline had not seen Mr. DiBuonaventuro’s letter before it was posted on the website. For the record, Ms. Kichline again confirmed that she had not seen the actual letter before it went on the website; I guess you are the one who is mistaken.
In closing, your intimidating actions have contributed to my feeling harassed and threatened by some in our local government. I ask that you not contact me again, unless it is with a written apology. For the record, I believe that John Petersen is also owed an apology from you, for the words, “so-called legal expert has no expertise …” contained in your Sept 7 email to me.
Sincerely, Pattye Benson
This is the end of my email to Ms. Gleason but I have a few closing remarks.
The great irony is that today is this country’s Constitution Day. Two hundred and twenty five years ago, on September 17, 1787, forty-two of the 55 delegates to the Constitutional Convention held their final meeting. Only one item of business occupied the agenda that day, to sign the Constitution of the United States of America. Our founding fathers fought and died for our freedom, and I am left wondering if what is going on in this township is what they would have intended.
In closing, I am but one person, but I believe that I represent a far greater community.
Can we question our government?
Do we dare to have an opinion?
I believe that ALL our voices matter.
There is nothing subjective about the First Amendment and any of our other inalienable rights.
I will prompt you all to think about an old thought someone had once upon a time:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness
By Richard Ilgenfritz
Published: Tuesday, September 18, 2012
“Lettergate” Zoning Board Member Resigns
Her criminal case ended and then a First Amendment firestorm erupted in Tredyffrin Township.
By Bob Byrne 2:17 pm
Here is the editorial I wrote when Corbettgate or Tom Corbett v. bloggers erupted in 2010. Who knew it would remain so timely? Eerie, huh?
Published: Tuesday, May 25, 2010
Will Pennsylvanians soon be looking forward to a new slogan for the Commonwealth? How will “Welcome to the People’s Republic of Pennsylvania” roll off the tongue? I don’t think it will dance as nicely as “You’ve Got a Friend in Pennsylvania” somehow. Nor should it.
What has my wanton blogging soul all a-twitter (pardon the pun)? News which went viral across Pennsylvania as well as the country: Pennsylvania gubernatorial candidate Tom Corbett, upholder of truth, justice and the American way in Pennsylvania as attorney general, issued a grand-jury subpoena to Twitter to unmask a couple of anonymous bloggers who weren’t part of his fan club.
Yes, that’s what I said, “Huh?” Apparently these two bloggers are known on Twitter by the handles of @bfbarbie and @CasaBlancaPA and they have been criticizing Mr. Corbett. OK, well, it’s 140 characters or less, right? He’s a tough-guy politician, right? So why the thin skin? Surely Mr. Corbett has faced tougher criticism from opposing candidate Dan Onorato? In today’s world, who hasn’t criticized a politician? Over dinner, in the editorial page, at the grocery store, in a public meeting, on a blog, on some other form of social media? It’s an American tradition as old as this great nation for goodness’ sake!
This is so confoundingly perplexing on so many levels that this issue has even prompted a comment from Paul Alan Levy, a litigator with the Public Citizen Litigation Group. Mr. Levy commented in part on Mr. Corbett’s decision to sue the federal government to try to block the new health-care bill as being too invasive in citizens’ lives. Like Mr. Levy, I have to wonder: what is so different about this?
The First Amendment to the United States Constitution was written to protect things like free speech, freedom of religion, freedom of the press. It says literally:
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
So how does this work with politicians again? Are we as human beings supposed to blindly follow where all lead? Are we only supposed to agree with politicians, never disagree? I’m sorry; did I fall asleep and wake up down the rabbit hole with Alice in Wonderland or something?
Is Tom Corbett the new Henry VIII of Pennsylvania? “Off with their heads” and all that? Instead of priest holes, will we all soon have blogger holes in our houses and an underground railroad to move bloggers from safe house to safe house to avoid the AG’s guards?
Are bloggers all now criminals and outlaws for expressing our opinions about elected officials and those seeking not only local but higher state and even federal-level office? If some of the most famous founding fathers were alive today would they be in jeopardy as well for scribbling broadsheets under pseudonyms? You know, like Benjamin Franklin or John Adams or Thomas Paine?
Seriously, what century are we living in? What’s next? Resurrection of the Scarlet Letter? Only this time it is a “B” for Blogger? Stocks? Pillories? Being paraded through the proverbial town square in chains?
This is a man who wants us to consider him for governor, right? So how many people across the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania blog or use some form of social media to express themselves? And should elected officials use their office as a bully pulpit to squash all critics like bugs? What is it about politicians? You can write about them as long as it’s good news or they can control the content? That is what their publicists are for, I thought.
If the First Amendment rights of these bloggers were or are in peril, can it be considered that so could be the First Amendment rights of every American from coast to coast?
Given the now undeniable symbiotic relationship between the media and bloggers, one would hope the media would pay close attention to this story as it unfolds and at its conclusion. After all, the media get a lot of information from blogs and bloggers (“citizen journalists”), they can’t deny it, and so in theory if the First Amendment rights of bloggers are challenged thusly, the press is next.
Media reports indicate that by Friday, May 21, 2010, Mr. Corbett was just having a bad day and is pulling his subpoena. It is a good thing that Mr. Corbett has done the right thing, but it still gives all of us pause for thought, doesn’t it?
Pennsylvanians of all political persuasions indeed have a lot to think of come November 2010.
I guess in November 2012 and every election going forward until Tredyffrin residents have more fairly representative government people will have something to think about, huh? They can try to quell our voices, but like our votes, they are our own, are they not?