Aw Shucks . . .
The folks here at DelcoTomPaine are blushing bright red, what with all the attention that Peter Porcupine is getting . . .
Editorial: What’s bugging Clouse? Who knows?
People love to gossip - especially about the famous and beautiful and those in positions of power. People like business tycoons. And movie stars. And mayors and governors. And judges.
That’s why some eyebrows were raised in the county seat when it was revealed last week that Delaware County President Judge Kenneth Clouse hired two former FBI agents to sweep the courthouse for bugs. Clouse spent something less than $2,000 to have the sleuths determine whether courthouse phones were tapped. His reason? "There was sensitive personnel information and all kinds of things that were leaked out," he said. "They were either leaked or the phones were tapped."
He also cited "confidential" information about the ongoing contempt-of-court case of jailed lawyer H. Beatty Chadwick. Clouse would not disclose what the agents found, saying only, "We’ve remedied some suspicious areas."
Clouse’s move came as a surprise to high-ranking county government officials. "This is a joke, right?" said Delaware County Council Chairman Andrew Reilly.
Reilly wasn’t laughing when he was assured it was not. After all, he’s in charge of funding the court system, and county council and Clouse have butted heads bitterly over budgets in recent years - to the point where the judge was threatening to sue for more money. While Clouse did nothing wrong in spending the money to hunt for bugs, Reilly didn’t seem happy to find out about it - from a reporter.
But why would Clouse be concerned about security in the first place?
Well, his professional and private lives have been in the spotlight for some time. He drew considerable attention as a Republican rebel and then political insider in the contentious world of Haverford Township politics.
Controversy followed him to the bench. Clouse was even the target of courthouse pickets in 2004 by those who claimed he misrepresented his marital status to avoid paying about $3,000 in real estate transfer taxes in 2002. Clouse later paid the money and an investigation by the state Attorney General’s office cleared him of any criminal wrongdoing.
Most recently, a local political blogger dubbed "Peter Porcupine" has written extensively about Clouse and the county courts system on his Web site, CommonSense. [Look, Ma! That's us!] It’s a fascinating blend of fact, rumor and speculation that’s as impossible to resist as slowing down to gawk at a car accident. That would be a fair description of the blogger’s opinion of Clouse’s tenure as president judge, by the way. [Actually, the term "train wreck" is what comes to mind.]
But everyone has opinions, right? And dealing with that is part of being a public official. Ken Clouse has certainly been one of the most interesting president judges in recent county history.
As long as he holds that post, he must know that people are going to be watching what he does and listening to what he says. And then talking about it. However distasteful that may be, it’s certainly no crime. Case dismissed.