PHILADELPHIA — Montgomery County commissioners have reached a settlement agreement with 15 county residents who filed suit after the commissioners fired Dean Beer and Keisha Hudson from the public defender’s office without a public vote and public comment, in violation of the Sunshine Act.
The settlement aims to prevent such secret decision-making in the future and requires that, whenever the commissioners make hiring or firing decisions moving forward, they must vote on such proposals during public meetings, with the opportunity for public comment.
“A crucial function of any representative government in a democracy is public accountability,” said Reggie Shuford, executive director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania. “These changes to Montgomery County’s procedures will bring more transparency to hiring and firing practices in dozens of county government departments and will give residents a chance to weigh in. It should not have taken legal action to win these changes that are already required by the Sunshine Act, but we nevertheless applaud these reforms.”
Mr. Beer’s and Ms. Hudson’s dismissal from the defender’s office came just two weeks after the county forced them to retract an amicus brief to the state Supreme Court that was critical of the county’s use of cash bail. Both filed federal lawsuits against Montgomery County over their dismissals, which settled earlier this year.
Mr. Beer is now the executive director at the Homeless Advocacy Project.
Ms. Hudson is now a professor at Temple University’s Beasley School of Law.
Attorneys Eli Segal, Martha Guarnieri, and Sara Mohamed from Troutman Pepper Hamilton Sanders LLP co-counseled with the ACLU of Pennsylvania on this litigation.
You can find a copy of the settlement agreement here.