Mount Holly Springs council members Monday publicly declared their belief that Borough Manager and Police Chief Tom Day “is not now nor has he ever been a racist.”
Right before the meeting was adjourned, Council President James Collins II read aloud a statement signed by himself and five other members of the seven-member borough council.
In that statement, Collins referenced a March 28 comment made by council member Katie Daniels as being “inflammatory and ill-conceived” that portrayed “Chief Day as being a racist.” Daniels was the only council member not to sign the statement.
Speaking as individuals and borough officials, the six council members not only “want to go on record in disagreement” of the comment Daniels made but to give Day their full support. “We … believe he will continue to represent his positions in the borough in a moral and ethical manner,” Collins read from the statement.
In response to the statement, Daniels said: “I did not intend to call him a racist. I did not call him a racist.” Daniels left open the possibility that she may issue her own statement “at the appropriate time.”
Comment to chief
Daniels attended the March 28 council committee meeting during which Collins had opened construction bids for a proposed borough garage to house police vehicles and to provide additional storage space for records. According to the minutes, Collins said the bids should be rejected because the specifications did not include a prevailing wage requirement.
A council majority then approved a motion to reject the bids. At that point, Day proposed an alternative where he and other borough employees could build the garage at a cost of about $80,000 compared to an estimate of over $200,000 under prevailing wage. The council then discussed Day’s proposal and whether to rebid and include prevailing wage.
The Sentinel did not attend the March 28 council meeting. The following language is from meeting minutes approved on April 8 and posted on the borough website in mid-May:
“Ms. Daniels responded that in her opinion, prevailing wage is in place to protect workers but she knew how chief felt about people coming in and doing work for cheap and not being able to speak English. Chief interjected that he never said that and to please not put words in his mouth. Ms. Daniels continued that chief was very strong about workers coming through.”
Word of this comment by Daniels first came to the attention of the newspaper on May 30 after two residents came forward to voice support for Day as borough manager. At the time, Day was on vacation until June 2. Calls made to Day in early June were not returned but the chief was available for comment prior to Monday’s meeting.
“It was a racist remark directed towards me,” Day said. “It was an uncalled for comment by that particular council person. There is no merit behind it.”
On May 18, borough resident Pamela Russell posted a petition on change.org demanding Daniels’ immediate resignation. The petition states that Daniels made insinuations that Day is a racist and that since then the lack of a public apology has led to Day’s resignation as manager.
“I did not resign,” Day said Monday. “I stepped aside until this was resolved. Hopefully tonight, it would be resolved.” Day said he had nothing to do with the petition. “That was from a citizen of the town.” He said borough residents have the right to start a petition.
“I do not intend to resign,” Daniels said in an early June phone interview. “There is no reason for me to resign.” Daniels added the comment she made on March 28 was not productive and was said during the heat of the moment. “It was not intended to call Tom any kind of name,” Daniels said. “It was not meant to offend. I’m sorry I said it because it’s a distraction.”
In her petition, Russell said that Day has done much for the town as manager and police chief. She called it “reckless and irresponsible” for an elected official to make such a comment in a public forum.
“We would like to see Thomas Day resume his duties as borough manager to push the town forward and to fix the wrongs that have occurred over the past decade,” the petition reads. “We would also like to see Ms. Daniels resign her position on council since there has been no accountability of this incident that she is not a representative when making such accusations. It seems her sole job is to drive a wedge and push people out of the community who have invested countless hours and go above and beyond their position that they may hold in government.”
As of Monday, the petition was signed by Russell and 29 others. The Sentinel asked Daniels whether she had any comment regarding the language in the petition.
“I really don’t have anything to say about that,” Daniels said. “I had no opportunity to provide my side of the story. I think it was taken out of context. If we publicize this any further, it’s not helpful to the community.”
The Sentinel asked Daniels what she meant by her reference to workers not being able to speak English. She mentioned a conversation Day had with the council regarding complaints by local residents involving truck drivers using Mountain Street as a shortcut to access the Vitro glass plant in nearby South Middleton Township.
Residents wanted the borough to post signs advising truck drivers not to use Mountain Street because of a low bridge overpass. Even with signs, borough police have been responding to complaints about drivers causing damage to private property in their attempts to back and turn around their rigs.
Day told The Sentinel Monday that part of the reason for the conversation was to brief the council on why there has been a sudden uptick in the number of drivers using Mountain Street. He said the vast majority of the recent cases involve truck drivers who lack English language skills.
Police investigated and learned that Vitro has contracts with trucking firms in Mexico, Day said. He said the language barrier is such that officers responding to calls often have to use an English-Spanish translation app on the cellphones of the drivers just to carry on a conversation.
“I have no problem with Hispanic people,” Day said Monday. “I was just explaining to council why there are trucks back there. They are causing all kinds of property damage. They are not paying attention to our signs. The language barrier causes some frustration. Somehow that was spun that I was a racist and that is far from the truth.”
Day believes truck drivers are being directed to use Mountain Street as a shortcut by GPS systems more suited for passenger vehicles than tractor-trailers. The council Monday adopted an ordinance imposing a 3-ton weight limit on Mountain Street that calls for stiffer fines.