Who’s running Upper Darby? The answer depends on who you ask

Following Upper Darby Mayor Barbarann Keffer’s DUI, Council President Brian Burke is declaring himself interim mayor. But other officials beg to differ.

A building is seen from the sidewalk on a cloudy day.

Upper Darby Township (Google maps)

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In the days after Upper Darby Mayor Barbarann Keffer’s arrest for driving under the influence in late January, she issued an apology that also served as an announcement regarding who would temporarily carry out her duties.

Keffer said the township’s acting co-chief administrative officers, Alison Dobbins and Rita LaRue, would oversee the township’s day-to-day operations while she seeks treatment for alcohol addiction.

However, Council President Brian Burke encouraged Keffer to “prioritize her health” — and declared himself interim mayor of Pennsylvania’s sixth largest municipality — in a written statement of his own.

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“There are specific duties, per the township charter, that must be carried out either by the Mayor or the Chief Administrative Officer – who must have been nominated by the mayor and confirmed by Township Council. In the absence of both the mayor and with no confirmed CAO in place, I feel that it is my duty and obligation to follow the continuity of government provisions as outlined by the charter and to step in and fill the position of mayor on an interim basis,” Burke said.

The township charter says Burke would be right — if the mayor is absent.

But the township solicitor said in a written statement issued by the executive branch that he has determined that she is not absent as defined by the home rule charter.

The executive branch says Keffer has not stepped down and is relaying guidance to the acting co-chief administrative officers.

WHYY News reached out to both Burke and Dobbins for comment and did not immediately receive a response.

For more than a year, Upper Darby Township government has been plagued with infighting between two factions of officials over American Rescue Plan Act funds and lawsuits.

Burke, a Democrat-turned-Republican, has aligned himself with two Democrats and three Republicans on the township council. Meanwhile, the remaining five Democrats on council have sided with Keffer’s administration.

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Former chief administrative officer Vincent Rongione stepped down from his position in January, saying he wanted to spend more time with family.

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