– At a contentious hearing in the state Capitol Thursday, Rep. John Lawrence (R-Chester/Lancaster) questioned state officials about internal discussions concerning the proposed sale of Chester Water Authority (CWA).
The authority, which provides drinking water to communities throughout Chester and Delaware counties, has been caught up in litigation after the CWA board unanimously rejected an unsolicited purchase offer several years ago. The near-bankrupt City of Chester has eyed proceeds from an authority sale, which could reach into the hundreds of millions of dollars, to fund ongoing city operations. Despite speculation to the contrary, the Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) has repeatedly denied orchestrating a sale of Chester Water Authority or discussing the possibility with Gov. Tom Wolf.
“At last year’s budget hearing, I specifically asked if DCED had communications with Gov. Wolf concerning the proposed sale of Chester Water Authority,” said Lawrence. “Secretary Dennis Davin told me, ‘I don’t believe I did, not with the governor.’”
Citing newly released emails obtained through a Right-To-Know request, Lawrence produced an April 1, 2020, letter
authored by Davin, to the governor, outlining Chester’s ongoing financial issues. The letter directly references efforts to pursue a Chester Water Authority sale.
Questioning the apparent contradiction, Lawrence asked, “After telling me that he never talked about it with the governor, it turns out Secretary Davin penned a letter, which you confirmed was presented to the governor, where the proposed sale of Chester Water Authority was presented in the context of funding Chester's financial problems. I want to give you an opportunity to clear the air on this. What conversations have you or senior DCED staff had with the governor regarding Chester Water Authority?”
“The email you are referring to was taken out of context,” said Acting DCED Secretary Neil Weaver, sidestepping the question.
“I have not gotten an answer to my question,” said a clearly agitated Lawrence. “I want to know what conversations DCED had with the governor on the sale of Chester Water Authority? I want to know the answer to that question.”
Lawrence’s question was met with deafening silence.
A copy of the letter
and email are attached.
Video of the exchange can be viewed here