Lower Pottsgrove Commissioner Shawn Watson (above at right) studies his computer tablet during the Board of Commissioners’ Thursday night meeting
SANATOGA PA – When questions arose Thursday night (July 23, 2015) about published allegations that Lower Pottsgrove Commissioner Shawn Watson had failed to pay outstanding municipal and school property taxes, and about legal actions regarding his business interests, neither Watson or his fellow elected colleagues said anything.
Instead, members of the township Board of Commissioners let their attorney do the talking.
And while Solicitor Robert Brant acknowledged “there was nothing to stop the public from asking” about Watson and the charges, he also added the topic was not an item for discussion on the night’s printed board meeting agenda, and he did not know if it would be in the future.
“I just find that odd,” replied Donna Lane resident Kelly Breslin. “It’s a pretty big subject right now.”
Watson since July 12 (Sunday) has been the subject of extensive and exclusive coverage by reporter Evan Brandt and The (Pottstown) Mercury newspaper over Montgomery County prothonotary records and court documents that reportedly show “Watson owes more than $55,000 in back taxes and fees to various municipalities,” including the township itself and the Pottsgrove School District.
The four articles also report on court actions and other legal proceedings involving businesses Watson owns or has owned in whole or part.
Reaction to the publicity has spawned a social media cottage industry. Unknown and unnamed individuals have so far launched a website, ShawnWatsonExposed.com; a similarly named Twitter account; and two Facebook pages: “Lower Pottsgrove Commissioner Shawn Watson Must Go,” and “Citizens For The Removal of Commissioner Watson.”
The website is collecting petition signatures demanding Watson’s resignation from public office.
Both it and the other online venues speculated this week that area residents would publicly call during the board’s second monthly meeting in the Buchert Road municipal building for Watson to step down. By The Post’s count, six people in attendance were there specifically to hear about or from the commissioner, but only Breslin spoke and the issue of Watson’s prospective departure was never raised.
Breslin wondered aloud when the board would open a discussion of the newspaper’s reporting. She even looked at and politely apologized to Watson himself, in advance, for talking about circumstances she said she knew were “embarrassing.” Shortly thereafter, board President Bruce Foltz turned to Brant to respond.
After the meeting, standing outside with others in the building parking lot, Breslin made clear her disappointment with commissioners. “They’re throwing it under the carpet right now,” she said. “I have to pay my taxes. Why shouldn’t he?,” she asked, referring to Watson. “And how come he’s not responsive?”
Except for casting votes on township business raised during the meeting, Watson made no comments before, during or after the session.
According to reporter Brandt, Watson has written to The Mercury explaining that “hardships” affected his ability to satisfy financial responsibilities, including the unpaid taxes and business obligations. Arrangements are being made to pay those debts, Watson told the newspaper.
“Please keep in mind that none of the issues that have been brought to light have any impact on my ability to serve in the township,” Watson reportedly also communicated to The Mercury. “There are zero accusations of any issues related to my official capacity as commissioner. I look forward to continue my service to the township and residents of Lower Pottsgrove.”
Related (to the Lower Pottsgrove Board of Commissioners’ July 23 meeting):