Ex-Montco GOP head Kerns joins party leaders at dinner

Posted: April 13, 2014

MONTGOMERY COUNTY When a group of Montgomery County Republican leaders and their biggest donor gathered Monday night for a closed-door dinner at a King of Prussia steak house, one of the invited guests was Robert Kerns, the former party chair who resigned last year amid allegations that he raped a woman who worked at his law firm.

Two of those in the room, along with Kerns' successor as county party chair, said the gathering at the Capital Grille was nothing more than a private social event.

"A few of us got together. That's all it was," said W. Douglas Hager, a member of the Lower Providence GOP.

Another attendee, who spoke on the condition that he not to be named, said: "The discussion was mostly about sports and family."

Kerns entered the restaurant just past 6 p.m. Shortly afterward, Vahan H. Gureghian - the Gladwyne resident, lawyer, and charter school operator who is one of the biggest GOP donors in the county and state - gathered several of the invitees and led them to a private dining room.

Neither Gureghian nor Kerns returned messages seeking comment about the dinner gathering.

Kerns was arrested in November and charged with 19 counts, including drugging and raping an employee of the law firm where he was a partner at the time. He resigned as head of the Montgomery County Republican Committee just before the arrest and was succeeded by State Rep. Mike Vereb.

Last month, the county District Attorney's Office dropped all charges, admitting that its staff had erred in reading a crucial lab report and that the accuser had no trace of the sleep drug Ambien in her system.

District Attorney Risa Vetri Ferman asked the Pennsylvania Attorney General's Office to review the case and determine if new charges should be filed. A spokesperson for the Attorney General's Office said on Friday that the review was ongoing.

Vereb said he had been invited to the dinner but was in Harrisburg that evening. He said the gathering was not sponsored by the county party.

"If we had Bob at our next convention and were honoring him," he said, "yeah, that would be a big problem." Vereb said he did not want to comment on the criminal allegations against Kerns. "But if people want to go to dinner with Kerns or anyone else, who am I to say they shouldn't?" he said.

Delilah Rumburg, chief executive officer of the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape, had concerns when told about the gathering.

"It gives the appearance that they believe him, they don't believe the [alleged] victim," she said. "When you see this, why does it feel like they're giving him a pass because he hasn't been proven guilty yet?"


cdavis@phillynews.com

610-313-8109

@carolyntweets

www.inquirer.com/montcomemo

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