The Democrat was elected as the new Lansdale Borough Council president in a 5-4 vote. Independent Jason Van Dame was initially nominated for the presidency, but lost with the same number of votes. Dissenting voters for Hansen were Mary Fuller, Denton Burnell, new councilman Tom Work and Van Dame.
So why do people love to hate Jack Hansen?
"My opinion: I get out there, and talk to people all the time at all levels of government and all levels of donating to campaigns. And for some reason, people don't like me doing that," he said after a hearty laugh at the question. "I have been attacked baselessly for a long time. Everyone has right to their own opinions."
Van Dame spent about 10 minutes explaining why he was the better leader for council and why Hansen would be a detriment to council, citing Hansen's alleged pay-for-play politics and not having Lansdale's best intentions in mind.
Newly sworn in council members Liz Troy and Leon Angelichio, and incumbent Democrat Rich DiGregorio Jr., made their intentions known early of who they wanted to lead Lansdale Borough.
Steve Malagari was the wild card. While he vaguely told the packed meeting room what the definition of a leader should be, he didn't give his answer until the roll call vote, pausing for a couple seconds amid just audible whispers from the audience of pro-Van Dame supporters of "Come on, Steve" before voting for Hansen.
Malagari was then nominated to be the new council vice president, along with fellow nominee Fuller. Fuller was vice president heading into Monday's meeting.
Another roll call vote, another identical voting pattern: 5-4 for Malagari, 5-4 against Fuller.
Reorganizations TabledAs his first task as president, Hansen proceeded with reorganizing every appointment possible on council. Hansen had chosen the appointments ahead of time, and the motions of said appointments were not made public on the agenda.
"This is a reorganization meeting and every government, by law, is required to organize tonight. Someone had to do something. I didn't know I was going to be council president when I walked in, but I knew an agenda had to be set for this evening."
Hansen said the reason the agenda wasn't public was because when he came up with it, it was Friday and borough offices were closed for a snowstorm. He could see borough Manager Timi Kirchner Monday morning and asked to distribute it Monday morning.
"The one that's distributed does not have any of these motions on it," said resident Matt West to Hansen. "You voted and you have not opened it up for public comment."
After attempting to call for a vote for everything from a new solicitor, new bond counsel, new sewer engineer, et cetera, nearly each one was met with a motion to table by Fuller. The main argument: Councilmembers either had no background information and qualifications on the nominees or wanted an explanation for the need to replace an individual or firm in order to make an informed vote.
Hansen on Monday was criticized and accused of cronyism and pay-for-play politics by council members and the public alike for his attempted appointments. In the end, all appointments for reorganization were tabled for vote until the Jan. 15 council session.
For instance, his suggested appointment for solicitor was Sean Kilkenny, of Friedman, Schuman, Applebaum, Nemeroff & McCaffery, P.C. Kilkenny was solicitor during Hansen’s previous term as council president in 2009, and was also a major funder for the Democratic Friends of Lansdale Political Action Committee.
Fuller wanted to know: Where was the Request for Proposal for solicitorship?
"I've heard, if nothing else, for the last four years, things being done with an RFP process. And there's no way in hell I'll vote for somebody I don't have information on," Fuller said.
Van Dame said Hansen needed a history lesson.
"Four years ago, this is the exact same thing that happened. Your words at that time were advice against the issue, when they told you this is what you did in your first incarnation as council president, you argued strongly that you learned your lesson the first time, and here we are today. That lesson has been reversed," he said. "I'm shocked."
Burnell said council should review RFPs for qualifications for solicitor, and if Kilkenny is the most qualified, so be it. Thus, council voted unanimously to do an RFP process for solicitor.
Malagari said every person should know what the firm was about and the person was about before voting on solicitor.
"To be fair, why don't we allow for us to have more time?" Malagari said.
Then there was the attempted nomination of ousted Democratic tax collector Jim Hanratty for borough treasurer, which was tabled by a unanimous vote.
That was followed by a nomination of the law firm of Fox Rothschild LLP for labor counsel—a law firm where Montgomery County Democratic Committee Chairman Marcel Groen is a partner. This, too, was tabled for future voting.
Then there was a motion to appoint Russ Benner of T&M Associates for the sewer engineer. It was also unanimously tabled.
"Move to motion. Hmm. T&M Associates. There's a shock," said Fuller.
Hansen admitted, after asked by resident and planning commission member Kevin Dunigan, that T&M Associates was a major contributor to Hansen's political campaigns.
Residents React"You were sent here to monitor my tax dollars, not spend them as Jack sees fit. That's what's happening," said Dunigan. "Changing solicitors is the equivalent of setting sail and throwing the crew overboard. We have many projects going on at this point. To change solicitors today, who will pay Mr. Kilkenny's firm to get caught up to date? ... I, and this group, gets to pay for your political gain. The idea that any firm ... you choose to drag in here and throw into the middle of Equus, Andale Green, WB Homes ... we are recognized in the state and it's not because we are fools with our money. You have no regard for my tax dollars."
Lansdale Parking Authority member John Seigler wanted to know more about making a change of major borough positions, especially solicitor, which is involved in major current developments in Lansdale.
"The notion of making a change or any kind of transfer of any of those responsibilities in the middle of negotiations that won't be concluded until the Madison Lot Project is completed in alignment with what the contract states," Seigler said. "It seems to me an undue risk to the wellbeing and proper conclusion of that project and other projects to make a change at this time."
Resident Robert Willi said most of the names were pay-to-play politics.
"Most of them supported or ran in your PAC," Willi said to Hansen. "Is this supposed to be payback for their services to your PAC? That's what it sounds like. If we're supposed to take this council serious, and to keep Lansdale moving, maybe we should step back and take some of these names out of the equation. You're showing yourself to be pay-to-play politics."
Resident Doug DiPasquale, president of Lansdale Business Association and member of the Economic Development Committee, told Hansen he got his presidency and asked to table everything so everyone could go home after nearly two hours.
"You got what you wanted—for now. Stop. You make yourself look like a fool," DiPasquale said.
Resident Chris Flyzik told council that to the victor goes the spoils. She said it's not a bad idea to switch out solicitorships every four years.
"We're not going to get anything done in this town. The ones that lost the vote, you can't be obstructionists all the time. You're going to have to get along," she said. "Let go of your anger and rage, and chill."
Fuller told Flyzik she would never deviate from issuing a vote that she doesn't believe isn't in the best interest of the town.
"I will always do what's right on behalf of Lansdale," she said. "If that means I have to debate and table every single motion, I'll do that."
Hansen's wife, Jackie, told dissenters they should be ashamed of their accusations against her husband.
"When anyone takes over, there's always reorganization. People come, people go. They feel maybe things could be done better," she said. "You all came in the middle of projects too and brought your own people in. So don't criticize the jobs that these people are doing sitting up here. That is way that government runs."
Hansen's HopesHansen said after the meeting that the people who were nominated have made contributions.
"I'm not privy to every contribution that comes in," he said. "A donation from a principal at T&M came in 2010 when I was running for the State House. I appreciate any contributions that come in. It costs money to get elected to office."
Hansen said every government, no matter what level, brings in people they know and can work with.
"The motions I brought up of these people are people I have met, people that do a good job all the way around," he said. "I want people here I know personally can reach out and help me at other levels of government also to get funding and clearances to get things done in the borough, like Main Street revitalization. PennDOT owns it. If there's a problem, I want to reach out to these people. The people I wanted to bring in can help me reach out to other levels to get things done."
Hansen hoped that when the entire council sees that he listens to every opinion and he lobbies people for support for decisions.
"I hope this council starts working as a unified force. I don't want to see 5-4 votes on every vote," he said. "I don't expect Liz to work with me on every vote. I don't expect Jason to work with me on every vote. I expect council to work with an open mind and work with the entire council. I'm one vote out of nine."