Radnor Township manager’s picture generates political heat | News

Radnor >> Two Democratic candidates for Radnor Township commissioner seats, Lisa Borowski and Mollie Plotkin, recently toured Clem Macrone Park, which is undergoing renovations, along with Commissioners Elaine Schaefer and John Nagle, and all were escorted by Township Manager Robert Zienkowski. Borowski subsequently posted pictures on her campaign Facebook page that included Zienkowski.

The park has been closed to the general public while the work is completed and is surrounded by a high fence. It is now slated to reopen Sept. 9.

After Zienkowski learned that Borowski had put up a picture that included him on her campaign Facebook page, he asked her to take it down, telling her, “Can you please remove the photos immediately because I cannot participate, or give the impression that I am participating, in any political activity such as campaigns, etc.”

Borowski then apologized to Zienkowski and removed that photo.

Asked what happened, Zienkowski said via email, “I was taking John Nagle and Elaine Schaefer on a tour of the park this past Sunday evening July 30, as I have been offering and taking other commissioners and Parks Board members on tours of the park to give/show them updates on how the progress is going on the construction and the various positives and challenges we are experiencing with the project over the past several months. The two residents you mentioned just showed up without my prior knowledge with John and Elaine and asked if they could go along which I had no objection [to] since I have had other residents and neighbors tour the site as well with me during this time frame.”

“As to the Facebook posting, I was quite upset when … Commissioner Rich Booker had called and told me about it … ,” Zienkowski said. “The worst part of it all is that I was unaware that any pictures were being taken. If I knew they were taking pictures, I would have asked her to refrain from doing so since the project is still under construction and there are possible legal ramifications pending (in case of disputes with contractors). When Rich told me that I was in them, I was very disturbed especially since I am not political, I am not involved in any type of political activity, I can’t be involved due to my position, nor do I ever want to be or care to be involved. I immediately got off the phone with Rich and went to Facebook to see the pictures and then quickly sent the email requesting my photo be removed as soon as possible, which she did take down immediately and she did apologize twice to me, once that she would take it down immediately and the second time when she said it was removed and apologized for any inconvenience or misrepresentation.”

The township’s Home Rule Charter states: “No elected or appointed township official and no employee of the township shall request any township employee to make a political contribution or engage in political activity.”

For her part, when asked to comment about putting a photo with Zienkowski on her campaign page, Borowski said, “Last Sunday, I spent about 20 minutes walking through the newly renovated Clem Macrone Park. It was exciting to see all the upgrades to a place where I have fond memories of watching my brother play baseball for Radnor-Wayne Little League. I appreciate the time spent with Commissioners Schaefer and Nagle, Bob Zienkowski and Mollie Plotkin, seeing the park and all the great upgrades. I thank the Board of Commissioners for approving this project and the township staff for all their hard work to make such a beautiful space for the community. I shared some photos of this visit on my campaign Facebook page as I thought the community might be interested to see how their tax dollars are being invested back into our community.”

BOC President Phil Ahr said, “…Bob Zienkowski has been very open and generous about providing multiple invitations to Commissioners, Board members and others to tour Clem Macrone Park with him to learn more, up close, about the progress, and perhaps some challenges, in fulfilling its promise for the neighborhoods and the Township. We’re now anticipating an early September Grand Re-Opening and everyone’s excited about seeing and enjoying the finished project. I think it will be great!” Zienkowski took commissioners and others on tours “multiple times” this summer, he said.

“The more that people know, the better off we are, I think most would agree,” said Ahr. “And, beyond Clem Macrone Park, we have in the offing projects scheduled for other parks and trails, and for many, this is a good opportunity to understand the scope and complexity of these undertakings.”

But Commissioner Don Curley sees things differently.

“The principle problem is that at least two of the Democrat commissioners unilaterally included the Democrat candidates into a forum that was not intended to be a campaign event,” Curley said. “Once these Democrat commissioners included these Democrat candidates (without knowledge of or presence of any Republican commissioners or Republican candidates) then the event was transformed from a non-partisan learning experience for commissioners into one-sided campaign event for the Democrats’ candidates. No one, neither Democrat nor Republican, wants this type of thing to occur.

Candidates should be provided the fullest amount of service and information that the township generally provides its citizens. However, they should not be allowed to participate in township events that are off limits to the general public. This condition is especially valid if the candidate participation is to be limited to only one party.

Commissioners should not solicit the participation of candidates into township events unless those township events are open to the general public. Furthermore, if commissioners find that candidates are being included into non-public township events then these commissioners have an obligation to stop the inclusion of those candidates into those non-public Township events. Unfortunately, some of the Democrat commissioners failed in both these matters.”

Curley said township officials should recognize that a mistake occurred and commit to not repeating it.

“If we take the two above-mentioned actions then no harm has occurred,” said Curley. “If, for some reason, some of the Democrat commissioners continue to believe that the unilateral and Democrat-only inclusion of candidates into non-public township events is appropriate then the township has an issue it must address.”

Nagle, meanwhile, is serving as Plotkin’s campaign treasurer and Schaefer, who is not running again for her seat, is a major contributor to Borowski’s campaign. Borowski is running to succeed Schaefer in Ward 4 and Plotkin is running for the Ward 6 seat against Republican Jake Abel since Curley has also chosen not to run again.