Tonight’s meeting of the Policy Committee of the Colonial School Board was interesting. The three members of the committee are Jennifer Dow (D, chair), Adam Schupack (D) and Cathy Peduzzi (D) (who attended via video conference). All the other members of the school board were in attendance as well.
The big issue that filled the room (it was standing room only) was the committee considering whether to move a proposed policy to the full board for consideration. The policy in question, known as a “Responsible Contractors” policy, basically creates a set of standards and requirements that contractors have to meet to bid on the school district’s construction work. The argument for this type of policy is that it creates a safer work environment and the workers are more skilled. The argument against it is that it creates a situation where less bids are received and projects end up costing more. Basically, through a requirement having to do with an apprentice program, it creates an advantage for the unions.
Three things we want to point out. First, School Board President Felix Raimondo (D) admitted that he hadn’t consulted with other members of the board before instructing the board’s solicitor to draft the policy. So you have one member of a nine member elected board spending money without the knowledge of the others. Sounds like the board needs a policy on that.
Second. People in favor of the policy kept saying that the policy isn’t meant to be a benefit for the unions. The unions made sure that tonight’s meeting was packed with union members. You even had union boss Johnny “Doc” Dougherty’s man in the suburbs, Bernard Griggs (pictured at top of article), in the room. The unions sure were interested.
Third. Back to Raimondo. He mentioned that he had spoken with David Gannon (D), a council member in Plymouth Township about the policy (lets remember that he didn’t speak to anyone on his board about it). Plymouth Township is considering a “Responsible Contractors” ordinance.
Now lets share a common thread. In January, Raimondo voted to name Michael Clarke the solicitor of the School Board. Clarke and his firm have represented the Conshohocken Sewer Authority, where Raimondo serves as the head of the board, for approximately a decade, Gannon voted to name Clarke the solicitor of Plymouth Township in January. Timothy Ferris, who spoke during public comment is a member of a union and just happens to be the chair of the Whitemarsh Township Sewer Authority where Clarke serves as the solicitor. All have adopted or are considering this type of union-friendly policy.
Why is that top image relevant? Attending tonight’s meeting was Jason Salus. Salus is the Area Leader for the Democratic Party in the communities that comprise the Colonial School District. He is also the elected Treasurer of the county (if you need a dog license hit him up). He raises a lot of money from unions. The photo at the top of the article shows Salus having a private conversation with union leader Griggs in the hallway at the conclusion of tonight’s meeting. The local party leader and Montco union boss sure are interested in this policy.
— Jason Salus (@JasonSalus) June 12, 2018
Remember how we said that Plymouth Township was considering a “Responsible Contractors” ordinance? Salus tweeted (see above) a photo of Griggs speaking at a June meeting of Plymouth Township when the ordinance was on the agenda. What a coincidence they both attended that meeting as well.
Griggs and local Democrats are tight. In 2015, the Montgomery County Democratic Party even gave him an award. From the website of the county party:
In accepting the Bob Cooper award, Griggs commented on how far Montgomery County Democrats have come in recent years, winning a majority on the Board of Commissioners in 2011 and in position to sweep county offices this year. He promised strong support for Montco Democrats, whom he called “great friends and partners.”
The Policy Committee voted two to one to advance the review of the policy to the full board. Looks like the partnership is paying off.