Camden Courier-Post – January 3, 1928
Not Fitted for Job and 20 of You Admitted it’ Declares Van Meter
COLLINGSWOOD MAN’S INSURGENCY PUNISHED
Vocational School Incident is Recalled as Democrats Join in Battle
Joseph H. Van Meter, insurgent Republican freeholder from Collingswood, today declared that David Baird Jr., Republican leader, had admitted that Theodore Kausel was “not the man for the job” to which he was appointed by the Board of Freeholders yesterday.
Baird told him, however, said Van Meter, that a promise had been made “to take care of” Kausel because of the latter’s aid to the Republican Organization at the last municipal election.
Van Meter quotes Baird as follows:
“I’ll admit that Kausel is not the man for the job. But you have to help me out because we promised to take care of Kausel when he came over to us in the city election. And it was through Kausel that we got Hitchner and a lot of his crowd.”
“We’ve got ourselves tied up with him. We’ve got to take him, and I want you to go along, and help me out”.
“I know his business record and I know his political record. I know the freeholders don’t want him and our conference don’t want him, but we’ve got to eat crow, and I want you to help me out”
Under the watchful eyes of organization leaders, Republican members of the Camden County Board of Freeholders yesterday took care of Theodore “Teddy” Kausel.
With David Baird Jr. and other chieftains of the party occupying front row seats, the board created the post of "general manager of county institutions" and promptly named Kausel for the job at an annual salary of $4,000.
Like ghosts at a feast, Baird and the other party leaders sat silently at the freeholders reorganization meeting. Like actors in a carefully pre-arranged play, a little uncertain of their cues, 20 Republican freeholders cast furtive eyes at the group of spectators.
They said no word, these freeholders. They made no reply when Joseph H. Van Meter, of Collingswood, breaking from their ranks, declared that 20 of them had told him that Kausel was unfit for the position to which he was being appointed. They listened in uncomfortable silence while Van Meter gave voice to a scathing denunciation of their “lack of backbone” and while a running fire of sarcasm from Democratic members fell upon their ears.
Scene Was Drama
The scene was drama. It might have been a revised performance of “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” with 28 furtive-eyed Uncle Toms and an impregnable line of Simon Legrees, cracking invisible whips in threatening gestures.
And the scene was also comedy. For of that score of men who, according to Van Meter, had agreed that Kausel was unfit for the job but “had to be taken care of,” none arose to protest against the action. Within their Hearts the chorus of Uncle Toms may have been saying.
The county may own out bodies, but our souls belong to the Republican Organization.”
But if they thought this, they said no word.
Today it was pointed out that it will not be long before freeholders come up for renomination at the primaries. Today, it was also predicted that Van Meter has signed his political death warrant so far as the Republican organization was concerned. But at least he received the ungrudging tribute of the Democratic minority on the board, who joyfully proclaimed that they had found “at last a Republican with guts.”
Van Meter Fights Hard
Van Meter spared no words, took no half-measures. He accused his fellow Republican members of coercion, double- dealing and weakness. He fought the appointment bitterly. He raked up the vocational school matter, in which $85,000 had been paid for the school site on Kausel’s recommendation, a price later declared to be exorbitant.
Democratic members joined the Collingswood insurgent. They charges that the $4,000 appointment was the price of Kausel ‘s allegiance to the Republican party. They declared that he wasn’t worth it. They recalled, later, that Kausel had shifted from the Republican Organization to the Non-Partisan movement and then back again after being one of the loudest to criticize the Organization. They asserted that after his removal as chairman of the vocational school board, he had sought the appointment as city purchasing agent. They avowed that the Republican City Commissioners had “refused to handle Kausel” and had “wished him off on the county.”
The 26 other Republican freeholders- all of those present, excepting only Van Meter- continued to listen in silence. And when the vote came, every one of the 26 voted for the creation of the position of “general manager of county institutions” and for the appointment of Kausel.
A little later the reprisals upon Van Meter began. He was removed from the central plant and county farm committees of the board, shifted to the elections committee and allowed to remain on the printing and agricultural committees, regarded as unimportant groups.
Reprisal Were Threatened.
“It doesn’t surprise me,” he said. “I was threatened with it. They told me they’d ruin me. But I couldn’t go back to Collingswood and ask the people to vote for me again if I hadn’t fought against this appointment.”
The defection of Van Meter came apparently as a surprise. The meeting had opened with the passage of the county budget on the first reading, the selection of Leslie H. Ewing, of Berlin, as director of the board, the calling of Frank P. Moles, of the Third Ward to be sworn in and his failure to respond or to appear for the gathering.
Minor matters had been attended to and then Fred W. George, clerk of the board, rose to his feet and began the task of reading a long list of proposed amendments to the rules. Buried far down in the list of revisions was that which, “for purposes of economy,” sought to place all county institutions under a central head to be known as general manager.
George lost his breath before he had more than half completed the lost of amendments, and George Rothermel, pinch-hitting for Walter Keown as counsel for the board, took his place. Then Director Ewing called for a vote.
Frederick W. Schorpp, Eighth Ward Democrat, was the first to speak
“I want to congratulate you gentlemen,” he said, “on the wonderful way you have camouflaged these changes.
“We have heard a long list of amendments to the rules read. But what the whole thing is can easily be seen. You gentlemen of the majority have a lame duck to take care of, and so you create this job. But I can’t see, really I can’t see why it is necessary to create a $4,000 plum for your lame duck and saddle it on the taxpayers.”
There was silence in the room. In the seat of the absent Freeholder William A. Robinson sat Baird. At the press table were Sheriff Walter Gross and City Commissioner William D. Sayrs, Jr. Ranged along the front row of the spectators’ section were Mayor Winfield Price and Commissioner Clay W. Reesman. They said nothing.
Louis C. Parker, Gloucester City Democrat, was next to speak.
“All these changes in the rules accomplish is to create a new job,” he declared, agreeing with Schorpp.
S. Raymond Dobbs, Fourteenth Ward Democrat, objected and moved that the resolution changing the rules be laid over until the regular January meeting. He was overruled by Director Ewing. Schorpp sought to have the rules voted upon separately, but James Davis, chairman of the committee, refused to accept the suggestion.
The roll call began. In alphabetical order the names were called and the freeholders voted. Republicans voted in favor of adoption of the changes. The three Democrats voted against the resolution. Van Meter’s name was the last to be called.
“No”, he said calmly, and there was a gasp pf surprise in the room. The clerk recorded the vote on the resolution as 26 to 4 and then began reading again. This was a new resolution. It named Theodore T. Kausel to the position just created and explained that he was to report to the “Lakeland Central Committee.”
Van Meter Protests
Van Meter rose slowly. He obtained recognition from the director and began, quietly but decisively.
“Gentlemen,” he said calmly. “I have studied this proposition. I have known about it for three days and three nights. I have talked to 20 Republicans member of this board and I have done all I could to get then to agree with me.
And they did agree with me. They agreed, every one, that Kausel was not the man for this job. After what happened on the vocational school project, when Kausel was president of the school board, he is not the man. On his recommendation, the vocational school site was purchased for $85,000. And now you want to send him where he will handle about a million dollars of the taxpayers’ money.”
Van Meter’s tone was serious as he turned to his fellow members. Most of the latter sat silently in the seats. They did not glance at the Collingswood insurgent. Baird, Gross, Price, Sayrs and Reesman listened intently. A few of the freeholders craned their necks towards the windows as the Camden mummers, returning from the New Years Day parade in Philadelphia, marched past the courthouse. But Van Meter went on.
“There is not one of you that has backbone enough to come here and fight this thing.” Van Meter continued.
I can’t see it go through. I couldn’t ask the people of Collingswood to vote for me again if I let it go through without a fight.
“You agreed with me that Kausel was not the man for the job. Haven’t you any backbone with which to fight his appointment now?”
Slowly, in complete silence that followed, he turned till he faced Horace G. Githens, the majority floor leader.
“Mr. Githens, ” he said quietly and in a measured tone, ” if you will throw away your messenger’s cap and wear a leader’s hat, I will follow you.”
He sat down and the silence continued.
Schorpp Lauds Van Meter
Schorpp rose again.
“I’m glad to see one Republican who has backbone,” he said. “I told you there was a lame duck in this and here is the lame duck.
“Woods (Samuel Woods, Republican freeholder from Haddonfield) and you others criticized Kausel and other members of the vocational school board for their purchasing of the land for the school, claiming that it was an exorbitant price to pay for the land.
“And now these same men who criticized Kausel are putting him in a position where he will handle millions of the taxpayers money.
Dobbs followed on the floor.
“I don’t want to stand here and talk until 10 o’clock tonight just to give you reasons why Kausel shouldn’t get the job,” he said.
“In the first place, I couldn’t give all the reasons in that time, and in the second place, they wouldn’t register with this bunch.
“This is entirely unfair. It’s too high a price to pay Kausel to come back into the Republican ranks. The Republican leaders should pay it, however, and not saddle the price on the taxpayers.
“Personally, I don’t think he’s worth much politically. We had him for awhile and have had some experience as to the value of his services. I thought he could be bought for less than $4000 anyway.”
The resolution came to a vote. The Republicans, with the exception of Van Meter, again voted solidly. Twenty-six votes were cast for the appointment of Kausel. Van Meter and the three Democrats did not vote.
Van Meter issued a statement after the meeting, explaining his stand. He said:
“The reason I opposed Kausel’s appointment is because the man is extravagant. Director Ewing was one of the 20 Republicans I talked to who were opposed to hum, but were afraid on the floor. I didn’t talk to the Democrats.
“Ewing and the other Republicans said, “What can we do. We must take care of him. We promised to.’
Charges Unfair Tactics
“I knew when I went ahead with this that I’d be an outcast, but I was determined to do the right thing. This appointment is not the right thing.
“They told me I’d be ruined if I opposed them. Even up to the last minute before the meeting they came to my desk in the freeholder’s room and tried to throw a scare into me.
“I knew I’d be thrown out of committees and barred from the caucuses. They’ve let me remain on the printing committee. I’ve been on it a year, and it hasn’t met yet. Nevertheless, there is a $50,000 appropriation for printing.
“I’ve always tried to be on the level on this job. Why they had the workhouse slated for $120,000 but I fought and fought, and finally- well look at the budget- it’s cut down to $50,000.
“It’s not the first time I’ve saved them money. I don’t know Kausel personally, but I do know his record. It was because of his extravagance that he was fired from the Castle Kid Company.
And when I say he is extravagant, I can prove every word of it.”
The new Lakeland central committee, authorized in the resolution appointing Kausel, was announced by Director Ewing at the close of the meeting. Ewing is to be a member, ex-officio, and Horace G. Githens becomes a member by virtue of being chairman of the finance committee.
The chairman of the asylum committee, of the County Hospital committee, of the Almshouse committee, of the Detention Home committee, and the Tuberculosis Hospital committee all will become members.”
Name ‘Official’ Papers
An earlier vote had been taken in which the Democrats moved to designate The Evening Courier as the newspaper in which the budget was to be officially printed. The Republican majority had designated two weekly papers, the Camden Argus and the Berlin Breeze.
“It’s obvious,” said Dobbs, “why these designations have been made.”
Parker, Gloucester City Republican, agreed with this view and declared that the newspaper with the largest circulation in the county should be given the official county notices for publication as advertising.
Schorpp ironically suggested that the Christian Science Monitor be substituted for one of the two weeklies designated and the roll was called. The Argus and the Breeze were officially designated.
The appointment of Kausel bought the meeting to a conclusion. Of all the Republican freeholders, Davis was the only one to speak. He merely declared that he was one not one of the 20 men who Van Meter had said agreed that Kausel was not the man for the job.