Emails Reveal Chambersburg Borough Leadership More Concerned With “PUNISHING” Citizens & Businesses For Discrimination Violations With NDO (And… Was It Really About LGBTQ+?)

Guest Opinion With Michele Jansen.

Update: Despite a weather advisory from their own police department, despite a weather warning from the National Weather Service, despite a weather Declaration from the Governor, despite power flickering on and off at the Capitol Theatre the day of the special council meeting, despite schools and businesses closing… it would not be until approximately 4:40pm, September 1, that Chambersburg Borough Council President (D) Alice Elia would finally decide postpone the meeting. If the public’s opinion was so important why wasn’t the public’s safety referenced at all in the press release cancelling the meeting?

Below are portions of emails Newstalk1037FM obtained through a Right to Know that reveal the present push for a Chambersburg non-discrimination ordinance (NDO) to expand the definition of protected groups to go beyond the state and federal definitions for LGBTQ+ groups and others and expands the definitions of what constitutes a violation of those rights, began not in March 2021 as we were lead to believe by concerned citizens petitioning the borough, but in August of 2020 by borough personnel. Though another constituent was said to have inquired about the subject, the emails imply it is the borough council leadership itself and borough management who instigated this push to expand internal non-discrimination policies to include anyone doing business with the borough, and to then pursue an NDO and HRC. They also were focused in on racism which is odd as we are being told we need this for groups not yet protected by state and federal law, which is not true for race. So are there other ways to use this local ordinance about which the council and activist groups pushing it are being less than transparent and candid?

Below are the germane parts of the emails and some editorial comments and questions in italics which community members and locals who do any kind of business with the borough may want to ask the borough council to answer before they take a vote on whether to pass the NDO potentially this Wednesday at a Special Meeting of Council, September 1st at the Capitol Theater. Some lines are in bold simply to highlight certain comments and not in the original emails.

The portion of the emails shown are not edited to manipulate meaning and here is a link to the full text of the emails to show the full context click here.

August 6th 2020 12:24PM

Alice Elia

Jeffrey, Please don’t worry about this until you are back …since I’m going to be away next week, I wanted to get this to you now so we can move on this when I return….

The issue of a non-discrimination ordinance was tabled almost three years ago when it came to council. At that time, we opted to send a resolution to the state in support of SB613. (the state law). The state still has not acted and this issue has been brought to my attention again. (By who?)

Since it was first brought to us in 2018, at least 13 additional municipalities have approved non-discrimination ordinances: even places as rural as Huntingdon, PA. More recently Shippensburg and Gettysburg have discussed the issue with what appears to be possible forward momentum toward approval of the ordinance.

I’m hoping that when I return Mike and I can meet with you and someone from the solicitor’s office to discuss this. I’ll be back on the 14th. My schedule is fairly flexible the week of the 17th but we would need to meet in morning so Mike will be there.

Thanks so much,

Alice

On Mon Aug 17,2020 12:17pm

Alice Elia

Following up. Is there a time we can discuss this either this week or next?

On Monday Aug 17th, 2020, 12:26 PM

Jeffrey Stonehill wrote:

I Asked Sam Wiser to jump into the discussion after your email. If I recall, there were some concerns about superseding State law. In the past my only concerns were setting up an unrealistic construct that required administration and personnel to be adequate. When I discussed the matter with Tom Fontaine Borough Manager in State College –  ….HRC for a decade now … – and hoping to amend local law to move the enforcement back to the state level.

I think that the lesson from State College is that it’s not about adopting an ordinance that says don’t do this and don’t do that, but rather about a mechanism to investigate and punish citizens and businesses for violating discrimination on the local level.

As you can imagine, such enforcement is complicated. I anticipate that other communities have adopted resolutions with guidelines, but other than idealism, likely no investigation or enforcement mechanisms.

I know Sam Wiser looked into the Carlisle ordinance at some point.

Willing to meet and discuss his input.

Willing to meet and discuss his input.

Thanks

Jeffrey Stonehill

“a mechanism to investigate and punish citizens and businesses for violating discrimination on the local level.”

The use of the word “punish” very disturbing.

What is meant by “violating discrimination” – the broad, vague definitions in the internal policies are concerning as well.

On Monday Aug 17th, 2020, 3:41 PM

To: Jeffrey Stonehill

Cc: Mike Herbert…Samuel E. Wiser, Jr., Esq

Alice Elia

Sounds great.

Thank you.

Alice

September 29, 2020, 1:06pm

Phil Wolgemuth

Subject: With the unanimous passage of resolution. Spartanburg apologizes to Black residents

To: [email protected], [email protected], REDACTED ADDRESS

FYI .

https://www.goupstate.com/story/news/2020/09/28/unanimous-passage-resolution-spartanburg-apoogizes-black-residents/3533603001/

The story is on Spartanburg SC. “The city council unanimously approved a resolution that acknowledges systematic racism and includes an apology to Black residents like Pryce “for racial injustices and long-lasting inequities” that have resulted from past city policies.”

It also notes how “Councilwoman Meghan Smith is working on a resolution to address racial equity in the city and also declare racism a public health threat. On top of that, she told us that apology resolution would include a board to address these very issues.”

On Tue, Sep 29th, 2020, 1:07pm

Jeffery Stonehill wrote:

If you haven’t read the enclosed, please click on the link below
Thanks

Jeffrey Stonehill

September 29. 3:51PM

Alice Elia

I like that. Maybe we could do something similar in conjunction with the Southgate Deal. Or if it falls through, do it anyway. Resolution to acknowledge systemic racism and apologize for Southgate deal? The time would be right. I wonder if we could get council to unanimously agree there is systemic racism.

Systemic Racism – is part of an ideological theory called Critical Race Theory – a popular but unproven theory the council has no right trying to enshrine in law.

September 29 3:56pm

Jeffery stonehill

I do not believe you could get unanimous support for a declaration of systematic racism. I do not believe it would be easy to pass such a resolution. Further it would not actually help our citizens who suffer from racism each day. I think instead the previously discussed Zero Tolerance for Discrimination of Any Type Policy for Employees, Volunteers and Vendors is a much more practical solution. I also believe that could be unanimous.

“Practical solution for our citizens who suffer from racism each day” What specifically is Stonehill talking about? The NDO was said to be for LGBTQ+. We were given no concrete examples of discrimination for LGBTQ+ or racial issues rising to the level of law violations. So what is the borough manager referring to and how would their new policies or a new NDO be a “practical solution” unless he thinks it somehow can be used to stop “systemic racism” going on “each day” in Chambersburg? Laws should not be passed for undefined reasons or problems you can’t clearly demonstrate.

Finally, I think apologizing for SouthGate is not as important as fixing SouthGate.

Sep 29th 4:09 pm

Alice Elia

I agree , however it is a nice gesture. I know you don’t tend to go in much for these sorts of gestures. I plan to make the referral to the solicitors to bring back the conversation on non-discrimination , as we discussed, at our next meeting.

Kristine Baker Assistant HR Supervisor

November 23

Borough Council President at close of Regular Meeting Town Council The Council President Alice Elia requested that the Solicitors office re-examine The Borough’s non-discrimination policy to make sure it it covers all currently accepted forms of discrimination. What was meant by that? Then come back if requires revision in January 2021

Who decided what the current accepted forms of discrimination are? What definition did the solicitors use? I (Michele Jansen) was denied any of the solicitors emails (to report to you the taxpayer) which I also requested, and any emails with outside groups or advisors. I was given no information on who was responsible for the final changes to the borough policy put into effect in March 2021.

Nov 24, 2020 at 10:54 AM

Jeffrey Stonehill Wrote

At the regular council meeting last night, the Council President asked the Solicitor’s office to review and propose updates/changes to the Borough’s existing non-discrimination policy.

The thought is to:

1. Expand def of discrimination to be inclusive of other types of discrimination

What the expansion precisely – what types of discrimination?

2. Ensure the policy is enforceable against employees, agents, contractors, vendors, subcontractors, suppliers and volunteers

By what legal authority does the council have to enforce this? Especially on individuals and businesses outside of the borough organization as a PUBLIC entity?

3. Specify an enforcement mechanism in each case where an individual who has violated the policy may become ineligible for employment or participation in municipal service; and/or entity ineligible to be a vendor, supplier, contractor or subcontractor

It looks like it is just the subjective decision of the council who would investigate, adjudicate and enforce any violation accusation made.

4. Ensure adjudication and due process rights are enshrined How did they do this when they allow one group, the council, to investigate, adjudicate and enforce these policies? Mr. Carl Summerson of the PA HRC said due process is interfered with when you don’t separate these duties.

5. Policy adopted with a “Statement of Values” which will memorialize Council’s position on anti-discrimination as a priority for the Borough.

Priority?? Because the evidence of the problem is….???

Both the policy and the statement to be presented to Council in January.

End emails.

There were several more emails leading up to the presentation of the new policies to the council in January by Salzmann Hughes. It does not seem like all of the council fully appreciated just what a drastic change this was to the policy, how it would substantially demand outside businesses and individuals to conform to these new standards in order to interact with the borough on any level, and how this policy is vague and could be potentially manipulated to force a social justice culture into these outside businesses and/or force individuals to conform their behavior to also match a critical social justice approach to many controversial issues unsettled in state and federal law.

Here is the expanded definition of protected groups beyond the state and federal law definition from the newly expanded Chambersburg Anti-Discrimination Prohibition on Harassment Policy Handbook For Elected Officials, Members of Boards, Commissions, & Committees, and a link to the full policy can be found HERE  (http://www.borough.chambersburg.pa.us/pdf/ANTI-DISCRIMINATION%20POLICY%20(Elected,%20Appointed,%20etc)%20FINAL%20HANDBOOK%20March%202021.pdf)

“All employees, elected officials, volunteers, vendors, contractors, grant recipients, and utility providers of the Borough of Chambersburg in all locations are prohibited from this behavior while in the conduct of their service.

The Borough is opposed to discrimination based on race, gender, religion, color, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, national origin, age, disability, marital status, citizenship, genetic information, or any other characteristic protected by law.”

Or as Jeffrey Stonehill described in meeting 4, June 29th: (Listen to the audio HERE)

“Chambersburg did something that no other municipality in PA did has done, is adopt a far reaching internal control policy by which we said as a municipality we would not have a business relationship with any individual or corporation that does not protect both its customers and its employees on a sweeping, very expansive list of protections, that are far in excess of those protections already under state and federal law.

What we did through that policy is we basically made a business determination that if there is a corporation or individual or arises through an employee or customer that is determined by council to have discriminated on one of those protected classes they would become ineligible to do business with the borough of Chambersburg.

And that would be the effect of that policy but as you know the borough of Chambersburg has the largest operating budget of any borough in the Common wealth of PA and we do have far reaching business relationships with all manner of different vendors, consultants, and contractors and developers and therefore obviously if one were to be found by council to have been engaging in discriminatory behavior that would be a significant blow to them to no longer be able to be eligible to do business with the borough of Chambersburg.

We do have a system to hear those complaints from either their employees or their customers. If that determination is made – they could lose their ability to do business with the borough of Chambersburg.

Not dissimilar to policies in other government entities and institutions but I think we are the first borough to have that and because of our size and the complexity of our operation, it’s a very wide ranging prohibition.”

End Stonehill’s remarks.

These emails are being shared to give further transparency to the conversations and actions taken by Chambersburg borough council members and management in the lead up to changes made to policies and laws and potential ordinances and law, that will effect the lives of anyone who lives, works, does business in, attends church or school in and/or shops and dines in Chambersburg. Please note we have been told by surrounding townships and boroughs that they too are getting pressure from activist groups to adopt this NDO and that the Chambersburg decision may effect how they rule on this issue as well.

Members of the LGBTQ+ community, a loosely connected, diverse group of people who share ideology and political positions, enjoy all the same protections for their civil rights as similar groups connected by ideology and political positions. Making laws that go beyond where science and legal experts remain divided on definitions, especially when determined by a part time borough council, seems to be beyond the level of what they are elected to do, and is straying into forcing a particular ideology onto everyone and risking violating the first amendment rights as well as genetic females’ privacy and in some cases safety rights. The revelation that Critical Race Theory and Critical Social Justice issues were also considerations, which borough leadership clearly referred to in their discussions of this whole topic, also is of grave concern that they are attempting to force ideology onto others through law. All this should be take very seriously by all members of council before they take a vote to pass the proposed NDO at a public meeting, the date to be set soon.

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