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Former Chester County Commissioner Chair Michelle Kichline Joins Lamb McErlane

(From a press release)

After serving nine years as Chester County commissioner, Michelle H. Kichline joined Lamb McErlane PC as an of counsel attorney.

Kichline will focus her practice on municipal and government law, as well as litigation. During her time as commissioner, Kichline served as the Chair of the board and the chair of the county Election Board.

She developed regional planning expertise while serving on the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission (DVRPC) and garnered experience in transportation related issues as a board member on the Greater Valley Forge Transportation Management Association (GVF) and Transportation Management Association of Chester County (TMACC).

Her service as a board member on both the Delaware River Port Authority and on the Regional Advisory Committee III for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) give her valuable insight into multi-state governmental operations.

Her work as a board member of the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania (CCAP) has broadened her knowledge of all aspects of county government. Her time as both chair of the Tredyffrin Township Board of Supervisors and the chair of its Zoning Hearing Board makes her one of the few attorneys in the region with local, county and state government experience as an elected official.

“I know Michelle had multiple suitors, and am thrilled she chose to join us,” said Joel L. Frank, Lamb McErlane’s chairman and managing partner. “There are not many attorneys who possess the diversification and sophistication of experience that Michelle does. Those attributes certainly will serve our clients well.”

Kichline’s leadership in the business and transportation communities has been recognized by multiple organizations. Kichline received the Leadership Award for Elected Service from the Greater Valley Forge Transportation Association; the Senator Robert J. Thompson Public Service Award from the Exton Regional Chamber of Commerce and the Helena Devereux Women in Leadership award from the Main Line Chamber of Commerce.

“I am eager to continue my career with Lamb McErlane, one of the most well-regarded law firms in the region. I am looking forward to bringing my unique perspective and knowledge to assist the firm and its clients, as well as continuing my community and regional involvement,” remarked Kichline. Kichline attended the University of Pennsylvania for undergraduate studies and earned her JD from Beasley School of Law at Temple University.

Lamb McErlane PC is a full service regional law firm based in West Chester, Pennsylvania, with additional offices in Philadelphia, Newtown Square, Oxford, Exton and Mount Laurel, N.J. The firm has 48 attorneys and it offers an environment focused on personal attention and results. Bringing the sophistication and experience equated with large, metropolitan firms, Lamb McErlane’s offers a highly efficient, goal oriented and focused approach.

Chester County Prison Escapee Cavalcante Faces New Charges

Danelo Cavalcante, whose two-week escape from Chester County Prison had county residents on high alert, faces more charges related to his time on the lam.

Attorney General Michelle Henry announced several new charges against Cavalcante, a Chester County Prison inmate who escaped from prison on August 31. The charges, filed by the Pennsylvania State Police, regard Cavalcante’s activities during the two weeks he was on the run from authorities. The Office of the Attorney General will prosecute the case.

Investigators allege that Cavalcante stole items to help him change his appearance, a getaway vehicle, and a rifle with ammunition. Members of the state and local police, county detectives, the U.S. Border Patrol, and other law enforcement officers sought Cavalcante day and night until he was captured on Sept. 12.  A Border Patrol K-9 named Yoda clamped down on the fugitive as law enforcement closed in.

Cavalcante, 34, was serving a life sentence in prison for the brutal murder of his ex-girlfriend and awaiting transfer to a state prison when he escaped from Chester County Prison. He had also faced murder charges in his native Brazil, officials said.

According to the new charges, he burglarized two homes in Pennsbury and South Coventry townships, stealing the firearm, clothing, and a shaving razor. He is charged with stealing a Ford transit van from a dairy in Pocopson Township.

Residents were outraged after learning that another prisoner used the same method of crab-walking up two walls to a roof to escape the prison in May.  Under the leadership of acting Warden Howard Holland, the prison is stepping up security measures and will be enclosing the exercise areas to prevent further escapes.

And, although some of the Chester County Republican candidates seized upon the escape to question their Democratic counterparts’ competence, that failed to secure election wins in November.

“The defendant used all means necessary to escape from prison and stay hidden from authorities. These offenses aided his efforts and elevated his threat to the public,” said Henry. “Thanks to the diligent efforts of law enforcement, Cavalcante is in custody and will be prosecuted for all of his crimes. My office is committed to keeping Pennsylvanians safe and holding those accountable who jeopardize the public’s well-being.”

On Monday, officials charged Cavalcante with 20 offenses, including felony counts of burglary, criminal trespassing, theft, and possession of a firearm. He is expected to be arraigned on the new charges on Friday.

“The new charges against Cavalcante speak to the lengths he went to in his unsuccessful efforts to elude law enforcement,” said Lieutenant Colonel George Bivens, Pennsylvania State Police Deputy Commissioner of Operations. “We appreciate the Office of Attorney General’s work in prosecuting the case and remain thankful to the residents of Chester County for their support during the search and to our local, state, and federal law enforcement partners for their assistance.”

District Attorney Deb Ryan ssaid, “The defendant caused a nightmare for the residents in this county, and he must be held accountable for his actions. Hundreds of law enforcement officers worked around the clock to ensure his capture and they were successful because of their hard work and dedication. The greatest outcome here was that no one was injured, and the police did an outstanding job keeping us safe. My office got justice for the Brandao family after Deborah’s murder and the Attorney General’s Office will get justice for the other residents he victimized.

All charges are accusations and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty, officials said. Senior Deputy Attorney General Christopher Phillips is prosecuting this case.

Cavalcante is being held at State Corrections Institute Phoenix in Skippack.

Chester County’s Operation Green Light Program Honors Veterans

(from a press release)

Chester County marked the start of Operation Green Light this week with a ceremony honoring the county’s 24,000-plus veterans, held in front of the County’s Historic Courthouse.

Operation Green Light recognizes the sacrifices of veterans nationwide, shining a green light to show that veterans and their families are seen and appreciated.  Chester County joins counties across the U.S., and from November 6-12 the Historic Courthouse will be illuminated in green.

The Chester County Department of Veterans Affairs and Coatesville VA Medical Center encouraged residents and businesses in the county to add their support for Operation Green Light by replacing a porch light or lamp with a green light bulb.  Through a donation by Walmart, thousands of free green light bulbs were available to help with the support.

Speakers at the County’s Operation Green Light event included Chester County Commissioners Marian Moskowitz and Josh Maxwell; Jim Oram, Chair of the Chester County Veterans Advisory Council; Devin Hill, Chester County Veterans’ Service Officer; Jennifer Harkins, Director of the Coatesville VA Medical Center; Andrew Lippert, Decorated Veteran and Congressional Aide for Rep. Chrissy Houlahan; and Dawn Young, Market Manager for Walmart.

For more information on the programs and services offered to veterans and their families by the Chester County Department of Veterans Affairs.

Dr. Albert Chu Appointed Delaware County’s Chief Medical Examiner

(From a press release.)

Delaware County Council recently appointed Dr. Albert Chu as the county’s Chief Medical Examiner.

The mission of the medical examiner is to conduct expert medicolegal investigations into deaths that occur under statutorily prescribed circumstances. The findings of these investigations are then independently shared with members of the public and relevant agencies to improve public safety and health. Chu will lead the Medical Examiner’s Office and its departments, including administration, autopsy, evidence, forensic investigation, and morgue operations.

Dr. Chu completed undergraduate and graduate studies at Johns Hopkins University and received his medical degree from the State University of New York at Buffalo. He then completed an Anatomic and Clinical Pathology residency at the University of Pennsylvania Hospital and a Forensic Pathology fellowship at the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner for the State of Maryland. Before becoming Chief Medical Examiner, he served as an Assistant Medical Examiner at the Harris County Institute of Forensic Sciences in Houston, Texas, and as deputy chief medical examiner for the City of Philadelphia.

“The ultimate goal is to create a Medical Examiner’s office that optimally serves our stakeholders – including family members, funeral homes, organ procurement organizations, law enforcement, attorneys, courts, hospitals, educational institutions, and public health agencies – using employing best practices and utilizing up-to-date technology, “said Chu.

Steps to fulfill this goal include addressing staffing issues, training new and current employees, and developing policies and procedures that will allow the Medical Examiner’s Office to standardize and optimize best work practices. Future plans include designing and constructing a new, state-of-the-art facility to replace the county’s aging building. Relocation into this facility will allow the office to apply for National Association of Medical Examiners (NAME) accreditation.

“Accreditation by NAME would be tangible recognition that we are successfully providing the highest quality of medicolegal death investigation for the county,” said Chu.

GERBER: Rongaus for Judge

On November 7, 2023, Chester County voters will elect five judges to serve on the Court of Common Pleas, the county’s trial court that hear criminal prosecutions and civil cases — that include contract disputes, personal injury claims, divorce, custody, and local government appeals.

Such a critical position demands, not only a keen knowledge of the law, but also judicial temperament — a trait that includes objectivity, fairness, open-mindedness and ability to render decisions without bias or prejudice.  Having had the privilege of practicing law alongside Andy Rongaus for the past four years, I can attest without equivocation that he possesses such knowledge and attributes that qualify him to serve as judge.

Andy has over twenty years’ experience as a state prosecutor and government attorney in the criminal and civil practice areas.  He served as Deputy Chief Counsel for the Pennsylvania State Police and Chief Deputy Attorney General for the Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General in Narcotics and Drug Law Enforcement.  Andy has also served our community as a volunteer firefighter for over thirty years.

Since joining our law firm as a partner, Andy has employed his skills as an outstanding trial attorney, representing police officers in federal civil rights lawsuits and labor disputes.  Outside the courtroom, he has also shown tremendous proficiency in advising public officials on governmental policies designed to protect the public’s health, safety and welfare.

Andy’s record of achievement as both a government and private attorney demonstrates his unquestionable commitment to law and order and the pursuit of justice.  For these reasons, I have no doubt that he will bring honor to the bench and implore all County voters to cast their ballot for him on November 7th.



Chester County Commissioners Ink Real Estate Tax Rebate for Volunteer Fire Company and EMS Members

The lack of volunteer firefighters and emergency medical volunteers statewide -including the Delaware Valley – is a crisis.

Since the 1970s, volunteer firefighters’ ranks in Pennsylvania have dropped from 360,000 to fewer than 37,000, state Sen. Frank Farry (R-Bucks) said previously.

“When you have higher call volume and fewer people responding, the demands get greater,” Farry said.

On Thursday, Chester County Commissioners Marian Moskowitz, Josh Maxwell, and Michelle Kichline took a step to address that crisis by approving an ordinance enacting a tax rebate for volunteer members of Chester County-based fire companies and not-for-profit emergency medical services agencies.

The Active Volunteer Real Estate Tax Rebate Ordinance provides a financial incentive, in the form of a rebate, on Chester County real estate tax for first responder volunteers.

Volunteers can be an emergency responders, an administrative member of a fire company or EMS agency, or both.

“Generations of families in Chester County have made it their mission to serve their family, friends, neighbors, and community as volunteer firefighters and EMTs. It is a responsibility that requires extensive training and time, with a dedication like no other,” said Moskowitz. “This rebate is one way we can show how valued these volunteers are and add value for future generations of volunteer first responders.”

Chester County’s Active Volunteer Real Estate Tax Rebate program is based on a point system earned through emergency response calls, training, meeting attendance, public education activities, leadership roles, and other activities such as fundraising events. Attaining the maximum =points available will result in a 100 percent rebate on the county property tax, with lower point levels resulting in a lesser percentage tax rebate.

Volunteers must be residents of Chester County who volunteer with an eligible agency.

Maxwell said, “This real estate tax rebate is one of the commonwealth’s most comprehensive tax incentive programs and is the only such program in southeastern Pennsylvania. Our first responder volunteers are there for us every hour of every day, saving lives, and are very deserving of this. They give back to our communities in such an important way, and the least we can do is give back to them in the form of a rebate.”

Kichline added, “Chester County is the fastest growing county in Pennsylvania, so our population growth increases the need for first responder services – at a time when volunteerism is waning. We must find ways to keep our volunteers and attract new ones. By signing this ordinance today, Chester County is taking an important step to retain the expertise of the volunteer first responders that we have now and to incentivize those who are seriously thinking of becoming volunteers.”

The number of volunteer firefighters across America is rapidly declining, officials said. The volunteer incentive passed by the Chester County commissioners should help address volunteer recruitment and retention.
“I commend the commissioners for enacting this tax credit for the Volunteer First Responders in Chester County,” said Gerald R. DiNunzio Jr., president of the Chester County Fire Chiefs Association.
Phoenixville Fire Chief Eamon Brazunas told DVJournal the state legislature passed a law permitting the tax rebates in 2020, and some towns and counties have enacted it.
“The volunteer situation is a severe crisis, to say the least,” said Brazunas. “Anything that can be done to provide a new tool in the toolbox is great.”
He said he hopes the tax rebate will encourage volunteers to sign up and help fire companies retain their existing volunteers.
“It’s not automatic,” said Brazunas. “You have to work for it. And that’s a good thing.”
He said the free service of volunteer firefighters and EMS members is “a major savings” for municipalities. Otherwise, they would have to pay workers salaries and benefits, driving up costs and taxes.
“It’s a win-win for the community,” said Brazunas.

The ordinance signed by the commissioners is effective immediately, with volunteers being eligible for a real estate tax rebate applicable to the 2024 tax year for service provided between January 1 through December 31, 2023. County staff will contact all eligible volunteer fire and EMS agencies to share the criteria and application process for the real estate tax rebate program.

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Chester County Readers React to Cavalcante’s Escape, Capture

Now that escaped murderer Danelo Cavalcante is back in custody, DVJournal asked readers for their thoughts.

Cavalcante was on the loose for two weeks after escaping from Chester County Prison in an identical way that another inmate used in May. Cavalcante, who is 5-foot tall, was able to crab-walk up a narrow passageway to access the roof, then jumped to another roof in a less secure section of the jail, pushed through razor wire, and was free.

While on the lam, Cavalcante stole a van and drove to northern Chester County. He contacted friends to get help and stole items, including a rifle.

More than 500 state, local, and federal officers, including air assets, high-tech equipment, horses, and K-9 officers, participated in the search. A Belgian Malinois finally apprehended Cavalcante as members of state and federal task forces closed in on him.

No civilians or law enforcement officers were injured.

“Thanks to all those who worked tirelessly to bring this search to an end. As for the escape, it’s time for a professional ‘debrief’ and analysis of systems to improve procedures, and that should be done in a nonpartisan fashion and not done to try to score cheap political points,” said Rich Heiland.

Eileen Potts Smith said, “My thoughts go to the officers who stood in the heat, climbed through the woods, dealt with bugs, went hungry, dealt with rain, and managed to catch him with not a shot fired. Hope they are given a well-deserved break. Great job, officers!”

Joyce Erbenich Starr said, “He should never have been here in the first place.”

And Kryssa Renninger Brasch said, “My thoughts go gratefully to the dog who subdued him! That K-9 unit deserves any reward money to spend on the care and training of those dogs!”

“The first day, I was worried if this would end up with another murder,” said Anita Edgarian. “Frankly, I am surprised how he didn’t hurt anyone to get inside a home to change appearance, steal a car, etc. He could have easily done so and got away the very first hour or two.

“I didn’t leave the kids at home by themselves and just checked the doors and basement windows,” she added.

“Mostly, people are mad at the leadership, and so am I,” Edgarian said. “Why is he here? Why wasn’t he deported? What is going on with the current DA’s Office and Sheriff’s Office?

“Apparently, both offices are a mess under Democrats, and people want accountability,” she said. “They are worried about their campaigns while dangerous escapee runs around. Were these offices just a stepping stone for a judge position?”

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Chester County to Hold Town Halls for Residents Over Prison Escape

From a press release 

Following the successful conclusion of the search for Chester County Prison escapee Danelo Calvacante, the Chester County Commissioners will hold Town Hall meetings for Chester County residents, to provide information on security enhancements at Chester County Prison, explain the emergency communication process for county residents, and to offer counseling services for those who have experienced emotional stress related to the escape incident.

The first two Town Hall meetings will take place on Monday evening, September 18 and Wednesday evening, September 20, 2023, at 7:00 p.m. at Pocopson Elementary School, 1105 Pocopson Road, West Chester, PA.

Attending the Town Hall meetings with the Chester County Commissioners will be Chester County Acting Warden Howard Holland, Chester County Director of Emergency Services Bill Messerschmidt, and a team from the Chester County Disaster Crisis Outreach Referral Team (DCORT) who will offer trauma-informed counseling support at the meetings and information on further counseling services.

“The nightmare of the past two weeks may have concluded with the capture of Cavalcante, but there are many questions that we know our residents have, especially those who live close to the prison.  These Town Hall events will serve to provide an update on prison security and emergency communication and will also give us the chance to listen to residents and answer their questions,” said County Commissioners Marian Moskowitz, Josh Maxwell and Michelle Kichline.  “We stand ready to bring the resources of Chester County to bear, to support residents as they process and recover from this incident.”

Additional Town Hall meetings will be scheduled as needed, following the September 18 and 20 events.



Chester County Volunteers Mark Pennsylvania Day and Celebrate Upcoming 250th Anniversary of U.S.

Some Chester County candidates and officials took part in a day of service on July 20, Pennsylvania Day, as part of the celebration leading up to America’s 250th birthday in 2026.

Pennsylvania Day marks the day the commonwealth joined the United States.

America250PA, Chesco America250PA Commission, and Chesco250 invited residents to participate in several volunteer opportunities throughout the county. Chester County received a National Pennsylvania Day mini-grant from America250PA for one of the projects, the Sandy Hollow/Thornbury Farm Brandywine Battlefield Site Clean-Up.

Commissioner Michelle Kichline is the county’s liaison to the America 250 Commission.

Chester County has celebrated Pennsylvania Day for three years with various activities. This year Kichline planted parsley and hacked down thorny bushes in a field where a local food bank is growing vegetables for people who don’t have access to healthy food.

It also partners with Keeping Pennsylvania Clean to pick up litter from parks.

“And we are preparing for the celebration of the 250th anniversary of the founding of our country,” said Kichline. “Chester County was the first county.” It was named under a land grant from William Penn and also included Delaware County, which later broke away. That is why the City of Chester is named Chester, she added.

“So, we really think Chester County should be one of the celebration’s highlights,” said Kichline.

David Sommers, a Republican candidate for Chester County Commissioner, said, “Today was a great opportunity to give back to our community through service. To be a part of the America250PA event at Chester County Sandy Hollow Heritage Park was both rewarding and educational. The site played an important role in 1777 at the Battle of Brandywine during the American Revolutionary War.”

Volunteers at Sandy Hollow Heritage Park

Chester County joined various counties, towns, cities, states, federal agencies, and other groups around the country to celebrate the 250th anniversary—the Semiquincentennial– of the founding of the United States on July 4, 2026. Other activities marking the anniversary will take place in the coming years leading up to the historic founding of the republic.

And Roy Kofroth, the Republican candidate for Chester County sheriff, said, “The America 250 PA was such a great volunteer event. It gets volunteers from all over the county involved in projects that are crucial to maintaining our county. The project I had the opportunity to do was clearing a trail from Thornbury Farms to Sandy Hollow Heritage Park. This allows better access for visitors. I enjoyed the time I had with all the volunteers and will continue to do this in the upcoming years.”

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Studies Show Chester County Healthiest, Wealthiest in PA

Looking for a healthy place to live?  Chester County may be it.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation deems Chester County the healthiest in the Commonwealth. And a survey conducted by U.S. News and World Report ranked Chester County’s life expectancy at 81 years, about four years above the national median.

The apparent promise of a healthy life may be a factor in Chester County’s continued population growth. Census data indicate that the county has continued to grow even as other Delaware Valley counties have lost residents.

Chester County Health Director Jeanne Franklin said the county is focused on “a multi-sector commitment to health and safety.”

“That’s at the county government level,” she said. “The number of topics we approach from a multi-sector perspective (varies) from human services to the (criminal justice system), drug and alcohol, health, and planning.

“We’re always working together to address a need, a gap, an opportunity, all angles, and it’s having an impact.”

The county promotes good health through its interactions with school districts, relationships with community leaders, and connections to the county’s nonprofit organizations. Franklin estimates there are some 3,500 nonprofits in the county.

The county has been successful in its efforts, she said, “because there’s such an integrated approach to many, many, many topics.”

Chester County is the wealthiest county in Pennsylvania. Americans in upper-income brackets theoretically have access to a better quality of health care.

But the county also includes a sizable population of migrant workers, a demographic that can skew poorer. Franklin emphasizes it’s important to meet their needs as well.

“In southern Chester County,” Franklin said, “we have a portion of the population that is migrant farm workers, or from other Spanish-speaking countries coming here to make a living, or to find the American dream, whatever that may be, or support their families.

“And they don’t know how to have a voice for themselves, being so new in the country. So even though we’d love for them to make those healthy decisions, they don’t know enough necessarily, and they don’t have a voice.

“So we rely on the non-government organizations that are already serving them and can speak on their behalf. They’re the boots on the ground that become the ears and the voice for pockets of the population that either can’t or won’t speak out.”

One such organization is the Kennett Library, which for decades has been serving immigrants with adult literacy programs. Since 1979 the program has assisted immigrants from 55 countries on five continents.

Amanda Murphy, the library’s marketing director, said the literacy program “means a lot” to the immigrant community.

“Not only are folks coming and getting an education or learning English, but they’re also getting their U.S. citizenship,” she said, “and they’re also finding a connection where they feel welcome, they feel accepted, and they are understood.

“We try our best to see that most of our important messaging is bilingual.”

Murphy notes that programs like the adult literacy effort enhance participants’ mental health and self-esteem.

“I don’t think that’s talked about enough and what that means,” she said. “I don’t think many people know what that’s like, to come to a place that is not your home. And you’re coming there with your good intentions. It’s a big life change, no matter what the transition or what someone’s story might be.”

Franklin said that since the start of the pandemic, county officials have become more attuned to mental health issues.

“People just outright lost their jobs,” she said. “After years of being productive, working individuals, they lost their jobs and realized they needed help obtaining food, shelter, etc. COVID-19 put mental health on our kitchen tables and forced us to talk about it.”

The county is paying attention to other health issues, including those affecting the school-age population.

Franklin said the goal is to encourage students to make informed and positive life choices.

“Instead of just talking about tobacco, we talk about healthy relationships, healthy decision making when you go off to college, or when you don’t get your first job that you apply for,” she said. “Encouraging them to be stronger growing adults. We have a very educated county, but it doesn’t come automatically.”

Franklin said the county’s effort is intended to promote both physical and mental health.

“It’s not all about the physical body,” she said. “It’s about educational attainment, the exposure to trauma, skill sets to maintain so you can keep a job.

“There are so many factors in health that are never about someone’s physical body. It’s about everything else around them.”


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