The Borough of Conshohocken published its attorney-authored report on the investigation into the how the Borough of Conshohocken secured insurance brokerage services. You can read the entire report here.
The investigation was driven by articles published by MoreThanTheCurve.com that outlined how the Borough’s broker-of-record for insurance was a company, Cohen Partners, that employs Jason Salus.
Salus formally sat on Conshohocken’s Borough Council, is currently the elected treasurer of Montgomery County, the executive vice president of the Montgomery County Democratic Party, and is the area leader for the Democratic Party for Conshohocken, Plymouth and Whitemarsh.
The strange thing about this report is that its conclusion, that nothing illegal happened, was not something MoreThanTheCurve.com implied. The original article actually states that there was nothing illegal in awarding the Cohen Partners the contract.
What we did point out is that you had a local party leader’s employer benefiting from a vote taken by elected officials the party leader had a role in selecting and helping get elected. The contract was worth a $30,000 commission to Cohen Partners.
In the report, you will find that all members of Conshohocken’s Borough Council claim to have not known Salus was employed by Cohen Partners. From the report:
What else wasn’t given appropriate vetting?
We spoke today with a former member of Borough Council, Eddie Phipps (Ward 7, D), who shared that Salus approached him about Cohen Partners providing him with business insurance while he served on Borough Council. Phipps owns a roofing company. Phipps left office at the end of 2015. This was the same time period Cohen Partners was approaching the Borough (see emails below).
We also pointed out in a previous article that we knew that Salus worked for Cohen Partners because he joined the local chamber (Love Conshy) as a representative of that company. The only reason we recognized the name when it was mentioned in a public meeting was due to this.
Salus’ relationship to Cohen Partners was not something he was keeping secret.
MoreThanTheCurve.com also pointed out that Borough Council member Anita Barton (Ward 4, D) was previously familiar with Cohen Partners. In her role on the Conshohocken Sewer Authority, she made a motion in 2014 to award Cohen Partners a contract to be its insurance broker. She was also the person who made the motion when it came time to award the contract for the Borough of Conshohocken. These two motions were three years apart. Cohen Partners has six employees according to its website. She didn’t know Salus worked there?
The investigators completing the report also did not interview the two main players, Jason Salus and former Borough Manager Richard Manfredi. Salus declined to be interviewed and Manfredi offered a statement via email, but didn’t answer any questions.
Why didn’t Salus and Manfredi want to answer questions?
The list of people interviewed or who declined to be interviewed, also omits a person key to the whole issue. Barry Cohen, the president of Cohen Partners, was not listed.
We have obtained several emails that originate from and/or include Barry Cohen, Jason Salus, Richard Manfredi, and other. The emails revolve around the Borough’s insurance brokerage business and Cohen Partner’s seeking a meeting to discuss it. Here are three samples:
The emails do not relay anything questionable, but you can see Barry Cohen was active in pursuing the insurance brokerage business from the Borough of Conshohocken.
How Cohen was not approached for an interview is very curious and makes the entire report questionable in its thoroughness.
Note that Kevin Tierney, publisher of MoreThanTheCurve.com was asked to be interviewed. We chose not to participate because we did not feel its our role. We also had no information that wasn’t included in the various articles that we published.
So now what. The report makes some suggestions on what the Borough should do to maintain a high level of transparency. Great. But that really wasn’t the issue.
The question is whether its appropriate for those in public office and in party positions to seek business from those they have had a hand in getting elected?
We have emailed party leaders such as Montgomery County Commissioner Val Arkoosh and Joe Foster, chair of the party in the county, without any response. We also inquired with Arkoosh when a local business owner claimed that Salus threatened him over his advertising on MoreThanTheCurve.com. She didn’t answer us about that either.
Salus was recently re-elected as the executive vice-chair of the party in the county and as the area leader for Conshohocken, Plymouth and Whitemarsh.
Arkoosh recently gave Salus a glowing endorsement at a fundraiser Salus held:
In the article we link to above (here is it again) we wrote that we didn’t believe that the alleged incident involving Salus threatening a local business owner would be ignored. Apparently it has.
It is business as usual.
More to come.