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Commissioner President Apologizes for Possible 'Misinterpretation'

Going forward, Ron Eichenberg will remain silent on matters regarding the Remington/Allen Organ property for which he is real estate broker of record.

Lower Macungie Township Commisioners listened to several residents during the public comment portion of the March 1 meeting as they accused Commissioner President Ron Eichenberg of unethical and illegal behavior at the Feb. 16 meeting.

Two weeks ago, the board of commissioners voted to refer a rezoning request for the property surrounding the Allen Organ headquarters to the township planning commission. 

Eichenberg, a broker for the Frederick Group, is the agent of record for the property. He was accused of making comments that contributed to the "formation and framing" of the motion. He denies this, saying he only called for the vote as he is supposed to do in his role as president of the board.

Eichenberg also "afforded no opportunity for public comment before the vote was taken," they said.

Patrick Slattery spoke on behalf of the Lower Macugie Joint Task Force which comprises the Friends for the Protection of Lower Macungie Township, Lower Macugie Township Citizens for Change and the Sitizens for a Strong Community.

Several other members of the groups spoke, as well.

One by one, residents asked the board to reconsider the motion without the president's comments and with a chance for the public to comment.

When they were finished, Township Solicitor Richard Somach said Eichenberg neither broke any laws nor breached any ethical standard by his behavior two weeks ago.

Eichenberg followed with an apology, saying that although he knows he was within the law, he was sorry if he gave even the appearance of impropriety.

He continued by saying the public comment portion of the process was merely  heard at the wrong time, but it was still there. It occurred earlier in the process and not right before the vote in its usual order.

And though he did not reopen or reintroduce the motion, Eichenberg called for any other public comment on it.

There was none.

After the meeting, Ron Beitler, a member of the Friends group said he was satisfied with Eichenberg's apology.

"I don't believe there was any nefarious intention on Eichenberg's part," Beitler said, "It was just a mistake."

But there is a heightened sensitivity regarding the ability to speak about an issue among the Friends and other groups, he said, due to the still-volatile Jaindl issue involving the proposed development of 700 acres of township farmland.

Sensitivity goes back even further than the commissioners, Beitler added, to the days of the township's embezzlement scandal involving the late Marge Szulborski.

The bigger issue is Eichenberg's recusal, Beitler said, because of Eichenberg's potential financial gain from the Remington deal.

Beitler would like to see Eichenberg actually step down from the dais and not participate in any part of any discussion regarding the land around Allen Organ.

Eichenberg said that he would remain on the dais and would call for votes as is his responsibility, but that he would not be commenting in any way about the property.

"To avoid any misinterpretation in the future, I will recuse myself and remain silent," Eichenberg said, "It's the right thing to do."

Ron Beitler March 02, 2012 at 03:21 PM
To clarify my request made last night, which came at the end of my public comment outlining "Friends" desire to give input with the township to create an exceptional mixed use ordinance grounded in smart growth principle.... My feelings were simply, since the creation of this mixed use ordinance is going to take awhile, (months?) and since the Remington proposal can not be considered until FIRST a mixed use ordinance is created, debated and voted on.. Then why not kick this motion back up and do it right? Simple as that. I appreciate Mr. Eichenberg admitting he made a mistake. I've ran meetings under parliamentary procedure. I've made mistakes. Everyone makes mistakes. My simple point was, lets get it right. There is no reason to rush this proposal. It can't be considered until first we create a mixed use ordinance. And as I was quoted above, commissioners might not agree but at least should understand why members of the community are so sensitive to matters of procedure and protocol in light of the Jaindl issue, and the townships history under supervisors. That is all. The recusal issue is still a big deal. We have to see that Mr. Eichenberg clearly separates himself from Remington procedures. As I said in my blog, with major financial gain at stake for everyones sake the line has to be clearly drawn between Realtor Ron and Commissioner Ron. No ambiguity. No conflict issues whether real or perceived.
JT March 02, 2012 at 09:53 PM
Beitler says: "I don't believe there was any nefarious intention on Eichenberg's part," Beitler said, "It was just a mistake." Yet Beitler comments here and writes a scathing letter to the editor about Eichenberg on the Patch. C'mon, you can't play both sides. You know Eichenberg made a very minor mistake and wasn't trying to influence decisions. Clearly you and your cronies are just trying to blow it up for your own personal political gain. I guess that's you're idea of fun, but what you and your groups are really doing is tearing down a community that a lot of people really love. It makes me laugh to read that Pat Slattery and Rob Hamill turned out for this meeting. Can you serioulsy sit there with a straight face and tell me this whole attack on Eichenberg thing isn't an orchestrated political move? Slatter and Hamill are two candidates running for office, and you're looking to run for Commissioner. It's actually kind of pathetic how political you guys are.
Ron Beitler March 02, 2012 at 10:21 PM
The motion referenced above and the recusal that my patch blog was about are two separate issues. I'm political in that I understand that difference I suppose. I'm very clear about my views to the point I put them out there in a blog on a weekly basis. I wrote about historic preservation in Macungie the other week, (where my business is located and another area I care about) I write about the Greenway all the time... (Township project I think is great and completely support). I'll be writing about rehabilitated storm-water basins next week. ect ect. Clear as can be and as out there as can be. Also my public comment last night was very positive. I support the creation of a exceptional mixed use ordinance. I think it's a great thing.
Mark Spengler March 03, 2012 at 12:26 AM
You do realize that Slattery and Hamill are running for the same office on opposite sides of the ticket? I don't think they would have coordinated on this. Also, both candidates have spoken to the B.O.C. about this previously. Both seem to have an interest in this issue. Also, they are only 2 of the many voices that have spoken up, signed petitions, written letters to the editor etc. It can't all be political. I think these people have the best interest if the twsp. in mind as well.
Scott Bieber March 03, 2012 at 04:33 AM
Hey JT, let's get something straight. We are not tearing down a community . We love Lower Macungie, probably more than you do, and want to protect it from bad land-use decison-making. It's that simple. I accept Eichenberger's apology. We all mistakes. Emotions run high on these issues, But your words would have more power if we knew who you were. You call us pathetic, At least we don't hide behind two initials. - J T.
Garrett Rhoads March 03, 2012 at 12:07 PM
I believe that Mr. Hamill's presence at the meeting was a responsible act for someone seeking office in a district that encompasses this area. He has a track record of defending land use in the past. He has worked with the Wildlands Conservancy, the DEP, and the County to prevent development around vulnerable areas such as the Little Lehigh Creek area. I think his experience in these matters lends credence to the discussion.
Bill Thomas March 03, 2012 at 01:49 PM
I'm in JTs corner on this. The candidates for the 134th seat were indeed grandstanding.

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