Several high-ranking officials in Falls Township, Bucks County along its southeastern border have been under federal investigation for the past half a decade – but like most ongoing investigations — those involved are not allowed to talk about them. To put things into perspective, we’ve created a timeline that breaks down most of the pertinent stories found online related to the probe. Though imperfect, it may help present a better picture of what’s been happening over the last few years in this part of the Delaware Valley, so that if — or when — indictments are handed down, you will have a better understanding of what may have led to them.
READ MORE — Sources allege Falls Township in Bucks Co. allowed union corruption to flourish, colluded with unions
Jan. 19, 2019: Bob Harvie, a Democrat and Falls Township supervisor since 2003, is reportedly running for a seat on the Bucks County Board of Commissioners. He wins a seat in November and later becomes board chair.
Sept. 10, 2019: Falls Township Supervisors are reportedly “surprised” by the sudden departure of longtime Township Manager Peter Gray. After twelve years as the chief administrator, multiple township employees told a suburban news outlet that Gray never told them why he was leaving. Gray was slated to earn a salary of $146,618 in 2019, according to the township budget.
Sept. 17, 2019: After tendering his resignation earlier in the month, Gray reverses his decision to leave, opting to stay on as township manager. Convinced by Harvie and Supervisors Vice Chair Jeffry Dence, Gray was awarded a two-year contract extension and a $5,000 annual salary increase. Dence told the Reporter: “It’s not every day that a community is lucky enough to have a township manager with such a deep knowledge of our town, our residents and our unique challenges.”
Jan. 7, 2020: Gray announces he will resign for the second time in less than four months — despite a salary increase and contract extension. A township spokesperson says Gray has “expressed an interest in seeking other opportunities,” but declined to elaborate.
Aug. 3, 2020: Falls Township Supervisors unanimously appoint assistant manager Matthew Takita to serve as township manager while continuing his dual role as director of building, planning and code enforcement earning an annual salary of $160,000. This comes seven months after Gray’s second and final resignation.
Sept. 14, 2020: Falls Township is subpoenaed and asked to produce a range of records dating back at least six years. Investigators were reportedly looking into matters related to “local government and politics, unions, contractors, political donations and recent problems in the Pennsbury School District.” The investigation may also have ties to neighboring Montgomery County …
… Around this same time, another subpoena was reportedly served at the office of the Trenton, N.J.-based International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 269, which does work in parts of Lower Bucks County. IBEW Local 269 Business Manager Stephen Aldrich said the subpoena’s request had “no merit,” and the union turned over all the documents as requested.
April 26, 2022: Falls Township Police Chief Nelson Whitney is suspended after police union members authorized a vote of no confidence. Complaints include an “absolutely toxic” work environment and “non-existent” morale in the department itself.
April 27, 2022: Whitney claims he was suspended out of retaliation for cooperating in a federal grand jury probe into Falls Township and hires a lawyer to help him get his job back.
Sept. 13, 2022: Harvie and several other former and current Falls Township elected officials are reported to have testified before a federal grand jury in Philadelphia. Harvie, Gray, Falls Township Supervisor Brian Galloway and former Supervisor Jeff Rocco were all reportedly subpoenaed.
Nov. 21, 2022: The third lawsuit in two years against Pennsbury School District and former Superintendent Dr. William Gretzula is reportedly settled for an undisclosed amount. The lawsuits accused the district of civil rights violations and included allegations of retaliation, offensive behavior and a fractured administration.
Jan. 17, 2023: William Tanner, a former Falls Township police officer, sues Falls Township and its Board of Supervisors for wrongful discharge in violation of Pennsylvania’s Whistleblower Law. Tanner claims he was unfairly fired when he cooperated with the FBI by reporting potential illegal conduct at the police department and by certain elected officials in local government.
Jenny DeHuff has been a multimedia journalist for the past 15 years in Philadelphia. Her bylines include the Philadelphia Inquirer, Daily News, Playboy Magazine, The Morning Call, and Philly Voice. She’s won multiple awards for investigative journalism. @RuffTuffDH