State College

Ferguson Township supervisor-elect declines seat

A township supervisor-elect declined her seat Monday on the Board of Supervisors citing time constraints and lawsuits filed against her.

The organizational meeting opened with the swearing in of two of the township’s newly elected supervisors, Peter Buckland and Laura Dininni, by District Judge Ronald Horner. When supervisor-elect Colleen Unroe stepped to the podium, she announced she would be declining the seat formerly filled by Vice Chairman Drew Clemson.

“Unfortunately I must respectfully decline this position,” Unroe said. “I’m grateful for the opportunity to explain my logic.”

Unroe was the focus of a suit announced Saturday by Ferguson Township. The suit, filed in Centre County Court by the township on Thursday, claimed that Unroe contended that she was a duly-elected person entitled to become a member of the Board of Supervisors for the township’s 3rd Ward.

The suit cited the township charter, which says that a candidate must be a resident and a registered elector in the township for at least one year prior to the election. It contended that Unroe was not a registered elector in the township for the one year, and as such was not qualified to hold the office of 3rd Ward supervisor.

A similar suit was filed by Clemson, saying Unroe submitted her application to vote on May 16 and was processed by the office of elections on June 18.

Unroe said she became involved with the township over the concern of impending sprawl and the potential effect on the water supply by the then-proposed Toll Brothers housing project, adding that was why she, Buckland and Dininni ran as write-in candidates during the primary.

When she realized she didn’t have the time to effectively serve in office and found she didn’t meet the charter requirement, she said she attempted to have her name removed from the ballot. Due to a lack of information, she didn’t have the proper paperwork filed on time.

“After I was elected anyway, it was clear the people of Ferguson want change,” she said. “The recent lawsuits further demonstrate a lack of prioritization by the previous board of the will of the people.”

Her goal, she said, continues to be ensuring leadership that is accountable and invested in the long-term sustainability of the community and natural resources.

“I contend that the new board should fill the vacancy with the will of the people in mind,” Unroe said. “I sincerely hope that you as new board members take this with the election in mind as you make your selection.”

After the organizational meeting, the board unanimously voted to withdraw the township’s suit against Unroe during a regular board meeting. Clemson could not be reached for comment regarding his suit.

Supervisor Steve Miller was voted as board chairman, while Peter Buckland secured the position of vice chairman. Several authority, board and commission positions remained vacant following the appointing portion of the meeting, as current board members Miller and Janet Whitaker found themselves at odds with the recently sworn-in members.

The positions will remain vacant until a fifth supervisor is appointed and can provide a tie-breaking vote, the board said.

According to township Manager Mark Kunkle, the township charter provides for a 45-day time period for the supervisors to select a qualified resident from the 3rd Ward to take the vacancy. The individual will hold the appointment for two years, then will have to run for a two-year period during the next election.

Jeremy Hartley: 814-231-4616, @JJHartleyNews