HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – Taxpayers in Lower Paxton Township confronted their elected leaders after abc27 aired an investigative report about tax-funded food expenses.
“I’ve been a resident with my wife and family of Lower Paxton Township for 12 years,” Patrick Henderson said during the public comment portion of Tuesday night’s board meeting. “We have paid $25,000 in our tax dollars to this municipality. Frankly, the ABC story motivated me to come to our first meeting.”
Henderson says abc27’s investigation was a wake-up call. The story, based on public records and information from township sources, showed that Lower Paxton’s supervisors spent more than $20,000 in tax money to feed themselves before public meetings. abc27 discovered that the supervisors raised their food expenses by 73 percent over a five-year span while raising taxes.
“I’m appreciative of the work that ABC has done to bring this to light,” Henderson said in an interview after the meeting, “and I think it’s important that residents follow up and pay attention to what their elected officials are doing.”
Henderson brought his 10-year-old son, Maxwell, to the meeting to show him what it’s like to be involved in local government.
Other township residents spoke during the meeting, too.
“There should be reimbursement of the funds that were used for those meals before the meetings,” Michael Rosenfeld said, “because this is not right.”
Speakers at the meeting called for reform following abc27’s discovery that the township’s procurement policy does not cap food spending or require itemized receipts.
“I would ask that you revisit the policies that have lended this,” Henderson said, “that you be good stewards of our tax dollars and transparent in their utilization.”
The residents and township manager went back and forth over a $178 charge abc27 found on the township credit card at LensCrafters that had no receipt or documentation.
“The LensCrafters charge was two police officers were sent for eye examinations because they had failed to qualify with their firearm,” township manager George Wolfe said in reply to a question about the purchase.
“And that couldn’t have been, like, communicated upfront?” resident Don Haschert asked. “We had to get to this point to get that information?”
Haschert was referring to abc27’s previous attempts to get answers from Lower Paxton supervisors about their food expenses. None of the elected leaders, nor the township manager, would comment.
“I believe that the reporter and the news and the citizens who rely upon them were entitled to those responses at that point in time,” Henderson said to the supervisors during the meeting.
After the first speaker expressed concerns about township spending, chair of the Board of Supervisors Bill Hornung responded.
“We appreciate you coming in and commenting,” Hornung said. “We are going to put a response to this in our newsletter, which will come out shortly.”
abc27 tried to get answers about what that response would entail. Below is an excerpt of reporter Amanda St. Hilaire’s back-and-forth with Hornung and supervisor Robin Lindsey.
At the end of the meeting, Hornung said the supervisors only bought food for meetings that started before 6 p.m. abc27 went back and checked public records, which show that almost all the food was purchased on days when public meetings started at or after 6 p.m., many times at 7:30 p.m.
Taxpayers at the meeting say if the supervisors were scheduling private meetings, which do not allow discussion of township business, during dinner time, they do not feel residents should pay for those.
Township manager George Wolfe says the newsletter with the supervisors’ response will be mailed out Nov. 14, meaning taxpayers will have had to wait nearly one month after abc27’s original story to get concrete responses from their elected leaders.