Exeter Township leadership in limbo due to charges


    Exeter Township can’t stop three elected supervisors from participating in government business due to charges filed against them last week, township Solicitor Gene Molino said Monday.

    “Just like any other criminal defendants, they are presumed innocent until proven guilty,” Molino said.

    Pennsylvania’s Constitution bars those convicted of misdemeanors while in office from continuing to serve, according to the state, and all three were charged with misdemeanors.

    If the supervisors opt to resign, state law spells out how vacancies are filled. Molino said he hadn’t received resignations or any other communication from the three supervisors — John E. Coolbaugh, Richard E. Overman and James W. Dowse — as of Monday afternoon.

    Participation from at least one of the three charged supervisors is needed to keep operating because a quorum of three members is required to deliberate and vote, Molino said. The two remaining supervisors, Benjamin Gadomski and John Ruane, were not charged.

    The next township supervisor meeting is June 3.

    “That is a major concern of mine if the three choose not to participate because it will be a problem. At that point, I’d have to look at what could be done,” Molino said.

    The three men and former supervisor and current township secretary Mary F. Martin face charges of public record tampering and unsworn falsification to authorities over their alleged mishandling of grant funds for an emergency services structure that was never built.

    Coolbaugh and Dowse also were charged with failing to report information about their businesses on financial interest forms. Dowse and Overman also are accused of theft by deception for billing for township labor they did not perform. Coolbaugh also faces a charge of bid-rigging.

    Reached at his home Monday, Coolbaugh declined comment on his plans and the charges.

    Dowse said he is confident he will be proven innocent.

    “I have complete faith in the judicial system. You’ll find out the truth,” he said.

    Dowse said further details will come out as the case is adjudicated. He said he is unable to leave home at this time for any township business because he is bedridden with health issues.

    Overman, who is on Tuesday’s election ballot seeking the Republican nomination for another term, could not be reached for comment Monday.

    Martin’s office door in the municipal building was locked around noon Monday, and township maintenance workers said she was not at the building that morning. The township building is supposed to maintain office hours from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Martin could not be reached for comment at home.

    The Board of Supervisors has authority over Martin’s employment status, but a quorum is needed to deliberate the issue, Molino said.

    A maintenance worker on the job Monday said he and his three coworkers were in the dark about what’s happening with their leadership. He said they were concentrating on their work, including preparing the municipal building for Tuesday’s election.

    The three supervisors and Martin were released on $10,000 unsecured bail and have preliminary hearings scheduled on May 27.

    Molino said the four must obtain their own legal counsel because the township and its insurance will not cover criminal defense.

    According to the state Attorney General’s Office, the $16,853 in grant spending resulted in a stone pad for unneeded parking.

    The grant fund payments included $1,200 to John Filip for work that was “worthless” because he is not a registered architect and $4,370 for “significantly and fraudulently inflated” engineering services obtained from G & Albert Consultants, P.C., investigators said.

    The bid-rigging charge against Coolbaugh stemmed from his unsuccessful attempts to buy a leaf vacuum from Highway Equipment and Supply after two other companies had submitted lower quotes, investigators said.

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