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New Hanover Officials Release Report on Racism Allegations
Written by Candace Perry, Correspondent

            After a nearly yearlong investigation into alleged racism among employees of New Hanover Township, the results are in. There is not enough evidence to support the claims.

            Board of Supervisors Chairman Chuck Garner read a report on the events leading up to the investigation, and the investigator's findings, at the board's meeting on Monday, June 22.

            The initial incident that triggered the investigation occurred in July 2019 when former township police officer Dennis Psota found an egg roll on a box of former officer Keith Youse's personal belongings that were being removed from the municipal building. Youse's wife is Asian-American. The couple interpreted the incident as a deliberate slur on her heritage.

            Following the complaint, the Board of Supervisors retained the services of John P. Gonzales, a Philadelphia civil rights attorney, to conduct a thorough investigation. More allegations surfaced from Youse, however, in other news reports. Further accusations of alleged racism by members of the police department were raised.

            At that time the Pottstown chapter of the NAACP was alerted to the allegations, and township officials met with them. Attorney Gonzales was asked to include those accusations and information from the NAACP in his investigation.

            Gonzales was provided with documentation and CCTV footage by the township, and he conducted 30 interviews with 25 witnesses, with one key witness refusing to be interviewed.

            In the Youses' complaint, Gonzales was unable to determine who placed the egg roll in his property, when it was done or why it was done. "There was simply insufficient evidence to conclude it was placed there intentionally," the supervisors' report states.

            In the allegations of general racist behavior, the report concludes "no witnesses could corroborate Mr. Youse's allegations in this regard, and some of his allegations were specifically contradicted by certain witnesses."

            The township spent $30,000 on the investigation which entailed 135 hours of work by Attorney Gonzales.

            In light of the findings, the supervisors stated that they have zero tolerance for "any racially inappropriate language," and "strong and immediate steps" will be taken should such actions occur. A review of policies and procedures regarding harassment and discrimination will be completed, and employees will be given regular sensitivity training. Police department policy will also be reviewed, "including those involving the use of force."

            In parks and recreation news, the supervisors agreed that the Hickory Park pool should not be opened this year, due to the COVID-19 crisis and the resignation of the parks and recreation director. Playing fields, however, will be open in the green phase, with user groups assuming liability for their members.

            In public works news, the supervisors heard a presentation on the construction of a salt shed on municipal property.  The design favored by Public Works Director Jay Smith and approved by the board will be constructed of precast concrete walls and a wooden roof, and it is estimated to cost between $221,000 and $293,000.

            In roads news, UGI will be doing work on Swamp Pike starting in August or September, and the road will be reduced to one lane during the day for approximately two and a half months.

            Township solicitor Andrew Bellwoar announced that the supervisors had met in executive session on June 11, 15, and 18 to discuss personnel matters and would meet after the meeting to discuss potential litigation.





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