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."