Sixth Ward Councilor Jody Rhoads’ Comments From Wednesday’s Committee Of The Whole Meeting

You will note that the local print newspaper did a report on Jody’s comments at the end of Wednesday’s COTW meeting.  Councilor Rhoads has given me a copy of his comments which I am printing in their entirety.

Jody’s comments:

It’s been ten years since I retired.  It wasn’t long after that I started attending council and committee meetings.

Since then, I have pretty much gotten to know “who’s who” and “what’s what”.  I now have some observations and opinions, and am appalled at some of the “grown up” behavior in this town.

  1. I have heard of those who say they are the most powerful person in town.
  2. I have seen first hand and heard of those who name call frequently using the term “idiot”
  3. I have come across those who try to discredit others for their efforts and accomplishments.
  4. A few, just plain think and act like they run the town.
  5. I have seen personal agenda’s that are not for the good of the community.
  6. And I have witnessed some, who when they don’t get their way, pack up and leave.
  7. And those who send hateful, anonymous letters.

For all the above behavior I list as:

  1. irresponsible
  2. childish
  3. insulting
  4. unprofessional
  5. inappropriate
  6. disrespectful
  7. embarrassing
  8. disgusting
  9. unproductive

Until this type of behavior disappears, our community will continue to stagnate.  I’m seeing a big problem concerning the paid advertisements in our local newspaper by The Citizens for Responsible Government.  These articles have been attacking, at one time or another, the school district, the administration, the school board, school board members, the Task Force, Pottstown Borough, past Economic Development Directors, Borough Council and individual Councilors.

These ads are nothing more than someone’s desperate attempt to use the print media as part of a strategy to promote a political campaign and to buy someone’s victory in the election process.

What is really strange and upsetting is our local newspaper has been known to refuse any type of political comments until just before an election.  It appears to me that advertisements are being use for political reasons all year-long.  The individual behind this group always asks for transparency and complete factual information, but refuses to practice what is preached.

There is a common denominator between Citizens for Responsible Government and Trees Inc., that being Thomas Hylton – Secretary/Treasurer.  The Trees Inc. website is www.pottstowntrees.org.  There is conflicting information on this website.

The home page clearly states “Today, thanks to Trees Inc., Pottstown has among the best maintained street trees in Pennsylvaniaat no cost to the taxpayer.  Let me repeat, at no cost to the taxpayer.  We’ve heard this many times.  Then searching the financial page we see the following:

Councilor Rhoads had a handout of the budget information from the Trees Inc. website which he distributed…it was relating to the years Pottstown Borough gave money to Trees Inc.

Next comes requests for information.

I submitted the following emails to Thomas Hylton regarding Trees Inc. Councilor Rhoads had a handout with this information.  Councilor Rhoads sent eight emails to Thomas Hylton, requesting various information, regarding Trees Inc.  Councilor Rhoads never received a response.  The emails were sent between February 24, 2010 and April 9, 2010.

I have also received a request for information to Thomas Hylton from another individual who was also refused.  A Right To Know request was sent to Mr. Hylton on 3/10/2010 regarding the May 2009 audit done on Trees Inc. by Rabowski & Company.  A follow-up request was sent on March 23, 2010.  No response was received.

Here again, where is his (Mr. Hylton’s) transparency?

There’s some things out of control and we better start coming to grips. 

END

24 comments on “Sixth Ward Councilor Jody Rhoads’ Comments From Wednesday’s Committee Of The Whole Meeting

  1. Thank you Roy for posting this very important information from Mr. Rhoads.

    It’s always good to be able to read someone’s comments (unfiltered and absent of opinion).

    Unless the comments are printed in a local news outlet in their entirety, I don’t trust it to be without bias.

  2. You are very welcome Ed. It seemed the only way to ensure that exactly what Jody said was relayed to the general public. Summarizing leaves room for interpretation and omissions.

  3. It is now up to us, the taxpayers and citizens, to stand up with Jody.

    If we don’t, all of this will certainly go in one ear and out the other. It will be far too possible, and likely, that these points will be swept under the rug and the name calling hateful bullies will make every effort at character assassination. This is the favorite defense of many, no matter that it is a worn out, sorry old trick plied repeatedly by Tom Hylton and his faction of fruit cakes.

    STAND UP WITH JODY AND LET YOUR REPRESENTATIVE KNOW YOU WANT AN AUDIT…IT IS YOUR MONEY.

  4. Roy,
    Help me out here.
    There already is an audit.
    In fact there’s several year’s worth of independent audits.
    What he says he wants exists in Pottstown’s files, all he has to do is ask Jason for it.
    He can read them and report out to the community on what he found.
    I don’t see the problem.
    — Evan

  5. Evan,

    Jody saw your comment and he replied to me via email:

    Even he (Evan) is missing the points here.

    1. Hylton doesn’t practice what he preaches (That’s why I included my numerous emails, which he responded to NONE of them).

    2. The misinformation on his website (Tree maintenance was paid for by tax money, not like Hylton stated on his website home page).

    Why do they keep avoiding these 2 issues?

    Roy’s comments:

    Jody has two good points here.

    Mr. Hylton has a seperate standard for himself. Surely you have noticed?

    The borough did contribute taxpayer money to Trees Inc., for several years. That money was used for something? Mr. Hylton will NOT provide an itemized list of exactly what Mr. Hylton used that taxpayer money for; which is what Councilor Rhoads is asking for. What specifically did Mr. Hylton use the money from Pottstown Borough for? The money was dumped into “the pot” and there is no record of how taxpayer money was spent. How can Mr. Hylton state “at not cost to the taxpayers” if he can’t account for what he used public funds for? That’s the point AND another reason why Pottstown wants the money back! Mr. Hylton is sitting on a pile of money he has no further use for and cannot or will not account for. For all we know the money that is left is what the borough gave him. He should have used standard accounting practices, instead of making fiscal Velveeta cheese.

  6. I recall reading a post on another Pottstown blog about a homeowner in Pottstown who paid to have a tree removed from their property only to find that Tom Hylton also itemized it in his records.

    If the homeowner fully paid for the removal of the tree (with no financial help from the Shade Tree Commission), why did Tom Hylton also claim it in his records?

    I think the borough should audit all of the invoices Hylton submitted to himself for payment. Were they authentic invoices? Was the invoiced work actually performed? Or was there some extra padding added to the invoices? Maybe to help pay for some political newspaper advertising?

    When a retired person like Tom Hylton spends money like a drunken sailor on a Saturday night, it’s time to examine the source and get questions answered. That sounds like a good investigative piece for a legitimate news outlet. Maybe I’ll call The Philadelphia Inquirer and see what they think of the story.

  7. I believe Mr. Hylton said at a Shade Tree Commission meeting regarding “donations” that he can spend that money any way he sees fit.
    It has been said before, when the boro was lobbied to contribute to Trees Inc. Mr. Jack Wolf was council president. He also is on Hylton’s Save our Land Save our Town board of directors.

  8. Yes, he did say that, Mike. I heard it too!

    Basically Mr. Hylton said we can all mind our own business because it’s a private, non-profit organization and he can distribute money as he sees fit, without having to ask anyone’s permission or worry about any red tape. At HIS discretion the money is doled it. IMHO when you take taxpayer money, donation or not, that money needs to be accounted for as it is PUBLIC FUNDS and as such is under PUBLIC SCRUTINY.

    Mr. Hylton has brought unwanted attention to himself and his business practices by not being transparent and by failing to acknowledge “right to know” requests for information about his “fiscal practices”.

    The light of day needs to shine upon Trees Inc. and Citizens for Responsible Government!

  9. Ed, you are entirely correct about the “flow” of money coming out of Mt. Olympus aka 222 Chestnut St. Lord Zeus seems to have a money tree in his backyard.

    Good luck with the Inquirer. Let us know if you have any success! We would like to know!

  10. I absolutely believe that the citizens of Pottstown need investigative intervention. The NPR station in Allentown area is another source. Sometimes it is like we are trapped on this little island, starving for sustenance while being beat about the head and shoulders with Hylton’s coconut and papaya shells. Nobody ever takes notice. I think our days of “taking it on the chin” are over and we have a story to tell and there is no shortage of intelligent thoughtful people here to tell it.

    The same can be said about the County’s treatment of Pottstown too.

  11. Roy (and Jody)

    I understand your points about “at no cost to the taxpayers,” on the web site and Mr. Hylton “not practicing what he preaches” in terms of responding to your requests. I haven’t missed that point, I’m just not arguing it.

    That’s rhetoric and you guys can go at each other all day long.

    But it seems to me that if you want to know how the money was spent, why not start with the audits already on file?

    I don’t understand demanding to have new audits done (which will cost taxpayer money) when you already have a pile of them that every one seems to be refusing to look at.

    Doesn’t it make sense to look at the records the borough already has first?

    Maybe the answers being sought are right there.

    I’m not really clear on why the Finance Committee never bother to look at them if they are concerned.

  12. Evan,

    Where in the context of Jody’s remarks does he call for an audit? I just read it again and don’t see that. I was not at the COTW meeting because I have work obligations on Wednesday evenings so I don’t know if he mentioned it then or not. But I don’t see that in his remarks above.

    I am not sure how illustrating someone’s questionable character is “rhetoric”. It establishes Mr. Hylton has some issues with his recordkeeping and that he, being the king of “right to know requests”, refuses to answer “right to know” requests about his organizations. Since your newspaper doesn’t feel those points are important, I published the entire transcript so people can determine, for themselves, what is important/rhetoric etc…

    So you are saying the Borough of Pottstown has records in their posession that specifically list what every dollar “donated” to Trees Inc., by the Borough of Pottstown, was spent on? If so, did they get that information from Mr. Hylton? If so, why would Mr. Hylton not make that information available on his website or to the general public, aka being transparent and complying with “right to know” requests. That’s odd!

  13. I think the root of the problem is that over the years no one really took the time to raise the issues when they first came up. Looking over old Mercury articles online, I see many times where, for example when Mr. Hylton needed to prove a point he had used Mary DeNadai, a consultant, who is on his board of directors. And as I said in an earlier post about the influence Mr. Wolf had to get the boro to make the yearly donations, and somehow had the tree ordinance receive any money’s in lew of planting trees. And don’t forget that $20,000 “traffic calming study” done with money from the hospital that was paid in lew of planting trees.
    My whole point is that for too long we as a community did not speak up and voice our opinion about these issues. This blog and others really took off after the 2008 school board elections. What other councilperson besides Mr. Rhoads, and at times Mr. Weand, have spoken up about these problems?
    Whether one agrees or disagrees with the process, I hope to seee a lot more community involvement in the elections, and after at the meetings.

  14. Roy,

    Although the majority of Mr. Rhoads’ comments were included in The Mercury article, you’re right, the entire text was not.

    My thanks for putting it out there for discussion.

    But as you pointed out, you were not at the meeting and there is more to the issue than simply what Mr. Rhoads said Wednesday night.

    First, you’re right, Jody did not ask for a full audit. However, his comments indicate, through his Right to Know requests, that he does want to know how the money was spent.

    Further, as the story noted but is not included in Jody’s comments, council’s finance committee has asked council to make a request of Mr. Hylton for “a full accounting” of that money.

    As to this question: “So you are saying the Borough of Pottstown has records in their posession that specifically list what every dollar “donated” to Trees Inc., by the Borough of Pottstown, was spent on.”

    The answer is, the borough has received at least four years worth, if not more, of independently conducted audits for the years the borough contributed to Trees Inc. I don’t know how you get much more specific than that.

    Everyone is asking all these pointed questions, but not bothering to seek the answers themselves which are right there for the asking in their own possession.

    Although I think the record keeping problem here may be the borough’s as Jason Bobst said he cannot yet put his hands on all of these audits.

    As for Mr. Hylton refusing the right to know requests, as the article also noted, non-profits are not bound by the Right to Know law, as Terry Mutchler, the executive director of the Pennsylvania’s open records office told (and which is also included in the article.)

    The point is, the law does not require Mr. Hylton to respond to Mr. Roads’ requests.

    Now, Mr. Rhoads may make what points he chooses about what Mr. Hylton’s refusal to respond says about his character, that is irrelevant to me and between them to discuss publicly or privately as they see fit.

    As always, it’s interesting communicating with you.

    Have a good Sunday, it’s back to video processing.

    — Evan

  15. Roy, Thank you so much for publishing Jody’s speech from last week’s Council meeting verbatum and without comment or “spin”. You and Save Pottstown and the posters to both are great supporters of his and I appreciate it very much. Those of you and your readers who know Jody understand his passion and committment to the revitalization of Pottstown. Naturally, those who imagine themselves to be the power brokers in Pottstown feel threatened by his comments and inquiries and do whatever they can to discredit, condem or demean him, which is all very painful to me. I urge all of your readers, and those of Save Pottstown, to continue to support and assist Jody in his efforts. I’m glad he’s not alone.

    Christine Rhoads

  16. Well let’s hope Jason finds those audits! I doubt they will contain an accounting of each dollar spent, but maybe there will be some indication that the money was at least spent on trees! I suppose we will have to agree to disagree on a few things Evan but if we all agreed on everything, the world would be a boring place. Have fun with your video editing.

    I hope to see some of you tomorrow night at Council! Let’s show Jody some support!

  17. Roy:
    This is off topic, but wanted to seek your advice on the potential county funds that we may lose due to arguements between council and the mayor. This is an article about what I am mentioning: http://www.pottstownmercury.com/articles/2011/06/12/news/doc4df43445a97b8829853022.txt
    Do you think if citizens took a petition with several signatures to county officials on behalf of The Gallery on High it would make a difference? I am just sick that our community may lose out on potential improvement funds, because of egotistical behaviors of certain “leaders”.

  18. Hi Teri,

    I am sure Cathy and Erika really appreciate your support! My gut reaction would be to contact them and see if they feel something like that would be in their best interest. I know the county is supposedly coming up with other funding for them. I am not sure if anything grassroots we do here might jeopardize that. Since Bonnie has already stuck her fingers in the batter, I would be afraid of doing anything else that might hurt their chances of getting this new funding.

    I say email or call them to see how they feel about the idea.

    Thanks and have a great week!

  19. Roy I respect you bunches but I would include Jason in the above discussion. The Mayor has done enough damage..we do not need her representing Pottstown at any level. People should come out to the Council meeting not only to support Jody but to show an interest in what is going on in our borough. We have sat silent way too long. I would add an correction to the story on Jody in the Mercury, he did not file a RTK, he sent his requests directly to Mr. Hylton, obviously to no avail. I support Jody wholeheartly and I know he absolutely has not only Pottstown citizens best interest across the borough at heart but the revitalization of borough as well. Kudos to Jody for speaking his mind and fighting for what he believes to be right at any cost. Keep doing what you are doing Jody, there are many out here who truly appreciate all the effort you put forward no matter what the topic maybe.

  20. Hi Marcy,

    If you are talking about the Gallery School conversation, I suggested that Teri contact the owners of the Gallery. I didn’t say anything about involving Bonnie. I think she has done enough to mess up Pottstown. They are already in contact with Jason about the county funding.

  21. Attend council tomorrow night and support Jody and don’t just sit on your tuffet – Use your voice and your 3 minutes to speak up for Pottstown!!

  22. I apologize Roy for not being clear on my thoughts! I certainly did not mean to indicate that I thought Bonnie should be included in anything by any means. I simply meant Jason should be included in any discussion regarding actions with the county as the relationship between our borough and the county have been strained to say the least and Bonnie certainly has not help those relationships with her inappropriate behavior and back door politicking. Bonnie needs to review Mayor duties 101 as she has far overstepped the boundaries of that position in too many instances to speak of at this time right along with Mr. Mayor who has also done his misdeeds where Council and Jason are concerned. Should she be foolish enough to run for Mayor again I certainly hope the good people of Pottstown have wised up with all they learned since she became Mayor and will just say no! Actually, the public should call for her resignation now as she has done enough damage to date.

  23. I agree, more aggressive action should be taken against the Mayor – if this is possible. IF there is no recourse doe the Council have the authority to limit her duties? It would seem that, if Council is willing, other people could assume some of the ceremonial duties AND job desciptions (and making changes to them) are at the discretion of the Council. I suggest they exercise their authority and remind Ms. Heath what the ‘Office of the Mayor’ can & should do. No matter how anyone, personally, sees the priorities Council set regarding those funds it is FOOLISH, at best, to act like a ‘big shot’ and try to redirect county decision makers. That’s not Mayor-ing 101, it’s just plain common sense (to me).

    Jody has done and will continue to do an excellent job – THANKS, Jody!!

    He had voter support in the primary and I know many people are fond of his common sense approach. He can’t do his job alone. He needs people to not just talk to him on the street but to show to meetings, as they are able, and support by presence and speak when they feel moved (whether it be 3 minutes or 30 seconds). Help him help Pottstown!!

    Now, after reading the comments between Roy, Jody via Roy and Evan I have this to say.

    Evan, you are right – whatever reports are in the Boro need to be looked at (I suggest they be made VERY public). IF the Boro, for whatever reason, can’t find them sooner rather than later it seems Mr. Hylton could provide his copy (we’d all agree he has one, right?). I’m not certain the information many people seek would be contained in those audits. I find this lack of specificity (with public money – donation or not) with the money Trees Inc. had province over disturbing, given Mr. Hylton’s great attention to detail (we can all agree on that, too – yes?). Whether or not there is a legal obligation to answer requests from taxpayers isn’t an issue, either.

    This is where Roy gets the prize. As a self-proclaimed ‘champion’ for Pottstown and what it can be AND transparency it appears (forgive the pun) shady to not have taken care to document, in detail, what that money was used for (on a yearly basis & noting any rollover funds). By not taking the care to prove, beyond a shadow of doubt, that the money was used according to the agreement with Council for tree maintenance it (IMHO) is an error of omission. By co-mingling the money and not having the account zeroed out with the end of the partnership with Boro Council it allows for the perception that this non-profit exists for personal reasons, only, and makes people wonder if all the money was used in the spirit it was given.

    This isn’t a legal issue it’s a matter of principle and the best stewardship of public money. This is about making a claim and not backing it up. This is about misrepresenting an entity partnering with the Boro and not holding it to the highest standards, like a person holds almost every other entity in Pottstown. This is about the ability to make others have to defend actions and not demonstrate the same, in return. This is about a choice to establish a reputation through the town’s paper and defend yourself, at will, where others can’t. There IS transparency in that action, alone. There is no shortage of issues without your name associated to them, Mr. Hylton – you have gone beyond advocate and arrived at being the issue. This is no longer healthy for the town and it becomes increasingly difficult to hear what you have to say because you are saying it. Doesn’t this give you reason to change your approach and begin to honor the ‘code’ you hold others to (whether it be a legality or a morality)?

    Thanks for doing this piece, Roy. To anyone reading, thank you for taking the time to share my thoughts!

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