Newberry Twp. board banishes tax collector to sewer complex

Lindsey O'Laughlin
York Dispatch
Newberry Township supervisor Dave Kirkpatrick shows a storage room at the township's administrative building Monday, Dec. 28, 2020. Bill Kalina photo

The Newberry Township Board of Supervisors voted unanimously Monday to oust tax collector Debra Popp from her office in the township's administrative building and move her into the sewer building, effective Feb. 1.

Popp told the supervisors that the township would be breaking her lease and moving her office in the middle of her term, which, she said, would violate the guidelines set forth by the state Department of Community and Economic Development.

"They took no consideration whatsoever about the residents of this township," Popp said after Monday's special meeting. "This was just against me."

The board voted 4-0 in favor of the move. Supervisor Brandt Cook was absent. The board's solicitor did not attend the meeting.

The township will pay for Popp's moving costs, Supervisor Clair Wintermyer said. It was unclear Monday how much those costs would be.

The sewer building, 400 Cly Road, is about 3.5 miles away from the township building at 1915 Old Trail Road.

Popp pays $200 a month in rent for her office space now, but the board voted Dec. 8 to increase the rent to $800 a month at the start of the next term in 2022.

The board did not increase the tax collector's compensation.

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Newberry Township supervisor Dave Kirkpatrick speaks outside the tax collector's office at the township's administrative building Monday, Dec. 28, 2020. Bill Kalina photo

Board Chair Dave Kirkpatrick said the township will keep a drop box at 1915 Old Trail Road so residents can bring their tax payments and documents there if they prefer not to go to the sewer building.

But Popp said Kirkpatrick doesn't understand her responsibilities and that she will not allow a tax collection drop box to be placed somewhere other than her office. The tax collector is responsible for those payments and documents, she said, not the township.

No one from the township contacted Popp to discuss the move before making the proposal and voting on it, Popp said.

The supervisors have said they need Popp's office at the township building for storage space because they don't have enough room for their filing cabinets.

But Popp said they're targeting her because she asks too many questions about their policies and that this is a personal issue the supervisors have with her.

A handful of emails the supervisors sent to one another in November appear to corroborate Popp's claim.

In the emails, sent Nov. 4, Wintermyer said Popp "bad mouths" the supervisors to township employees and stirs up trouble. Cook replied in agreement and said Popp needed to leave the township building.

"Deb Popp needs an exit alright," Supervisor Maxine Kauffman wrote in her reply.

Some supervisors alsohave accused Popp in meetings of being involved in Newberry Township Breaking News, a Facebook page that's critical of township officials.

Popp denied this and said she has nothing to do with the Facebook page.

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The Newberry Township wastewater treatment plant Monday, Dec. 28, 2020. Bill Kalina photo

Because of the move, Popp said she will have to add new labels to the 5,000 envelopes that list 1915 Old Trail Road as her office address. All of her paperwork and documentation lists that address as well, she said.

The DCED manual for tax collectors states that any changes to a tax collector's compensation or fringe benefits, such as office space, telephone services or insurance, must be made before Feb. 15 in the year of a municipal election.

In this case, that would be Feb. 15, 2021.

But the DCED states the purpose of that rule is "to prevent a change in the arrangement a taxing body has with its tax collector during the term of office," and Popp still has one year left in her term.

The York Dispatch contacted the DCED for clarification about this and is waiting for more information.

Popp declined to comment on whether she would pursue legal action against the township or about whether she intends to run in 2021 for another term.

She has served as the township's tax collector for 26 years.

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