A Special Prosecutor To Probe Abington Audit Findings Urged

Posted: March 10, 1986

An Abington commissioner urged his fellow commissioners and the public last week to demand that a special prosecutor be appointed to investigate the findings of the recent special state audit of township finances.

"I'm convinced . . . that we need to have a full investigation. I'm sure the public will demand that," said first-term Commissioner Richard C. Gamble.

State Auditor General Don Bailey already has called on the Montgomery County district attorney and the state attorney general to investigate his findings that township money was, in some cases, missing or spent without documentation or authorization.

A spokesman for Attorney General LeRoy S. Zimmerman said Friday that his office had not made a decision.

County District Attorney Thomas E. Waters Jr. said last week that he would not begin a criminal investigation unless asked by Abington's solicitor. If asked, Waters said, he would not excuse himself from the probe.

Waters was Abington's solicitor from 1980 to 1984, which coincides with the

bulk of the period examined by the auditor general. He said his participation in an investigation would not be a conflict of interest because he was not involved in township finances and did not advise commissioners on anything mentioned in the state audit.

Gamble said Friday that Waters' participation in any investigation "would have the appearance of a conflict of interest because he was solicitor during those troubled times" so he should appoint a special prosecutor. Further, Gamble said, "I'm convinced he does not need permission to pursue this."

Waters has referred the matter to Abington solicitor Stephen G. Yusem, who was out of town last week. Waters said that referring the audit to Yusem was the auditor general's intent.

Bailey said, however, that Waters' interpretation of his wishes was incorrect and that, in any event, a probe by the county would not exclude a probe by the township.

Township manager Albert L. Herrmann and his supporters among the 15 commissioners have insisted that most, if not all, of the 34 problems listed in the audit have been corrected. The audit contained little new information, they said.

But Gamble argued that, in many instances, corrections were not made until the Board of Commissioners had asked for them.

On Friday, Commissioner Nicholas M. Turco called the controversy over Bailey's audit "ridiculous" and predicted that the board majority, which has consistently backed Herrmann, would continue to back him.

Members of a minority faction have called for Herrmann's resignation or firing and have vowed to force a vote at the board's meeting Thursday.

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