Wednesday, October 06, 2004


It certainly helps to have friends in high places, especially if you're a high ranking Montgomery County official.

According to the Norristown Times-Herald, Montgomery County Commissioner Thomas J. Ellis, who also serves as a SEPTA Board member from Montgomery County, was in the middle of a volatile domestic situation involving his former girlfriend:

Montgomery County Commissioner Thomas J. Ellis' ex-fiancée, and mother of the couple's 10-month-old son, has accused Ellis of repeatedly backing into her with his car last Saturday and, on another occasion in August, threatening her with a golf club.

These allegations were contained in a petition for protection from abuse that Lisa Ann Whalen, a resident of Wilmington, Del., filed Monday in Montgomery County Court against Ellis, a Cheltenham lawyer serving the first of a four-year term as commissioner.

Ellis, the divorced father of two girls, described Whalen as his "twice ex-fiancée" while Whalen, in her petition, described the 45-year-old Ellis as her "current or former sexual/intimate partner."
Apparently, Ms. Whalen's feelings towards the embattled commish isn't mutual...

Ellis, a partner in the Philadelphia law firm of Ballard Spahr Andrews & Ingersoll, Tuesday issued a joint statement by him and Whalen.

Whalen's attorney, Michael Fingerman, confirmed it was a joint statement.

The statement read: "The parties have agreed not to pursue the Protection from Abuse action at this time. The parties and counsel are to meet and hopefully resolve all outstanding issues, including but not limited to custodial arrangements of the minor child, etc. It is anticipated this will result in the withdrawal of the Petition for Protection from Abuse."
Translation: we'll probably see you in civil court...

In her petition, Whalen said that Ellis engaged in a pattern of abuse, "primarily verbal and emotional until recently," during the three years of their "on again off again" relationship.

For example, she said in the petition, when Ellis became angry with her, he would repeatedly call her on her home phone and cell phone, sometimes 10 or more times in a five-minute span, or show up unannounced at her home.

"His verbal abuse includes seemingly unprovoked outbursts of screaming and extreme profanity," stated Whalen in the petition. "I am often fearful."
Can't say that I blame her...

Unhappy that she would not move in with him, Ellis once in August began driving so recklessly and dangerously with her and the baby in the car that she felt compelled to call 911, Whalen said in the petition.

She said she abandoned the call when Ellis seemed to regain control, according to the petition.

That was the same month Ellis threatened her with a golf club at a miniature golf course, according to Whalen.

Ellis raised the golf club and was shaking it at her while saying, "Do you know what I want to do with this," Whalen said in her petition.

Ellis "reacted explosively" to Whalen's attempt to move her belongings from his home on Sept. 25, the petition said. He was "verbally abusive" and "locked me out of house, threw items around house," Whalen said in the petition.

While she was at his house last Saturday to pack her belongings where they had temporarily been stored, Ellis again became verbally abusive, according to the petition.

"This rapidly escalated to behavior that made me extremely fearful for my own safety and the safety of my baby including shouting and threatening with his fists," Whalen said in the petition.

Whalen said she called 911 but before police could arrive, Ellis took the couple's baby and attempted to leave with him, according to the petition.

"I tried to stop him by blocking his vehicle with my body," Whalen said in the petition. "He proceeded to back into me over and over again while I screamed loudly for help. He ultimately over-powered me with the vehicle and left with the baby."

Whalen, who has since regained physical custody of the child, said that last Saturday she waited at the Cheltenham police station some four to five hours in an attempt to secure an emergency order for protection from abuse.

Unable to get that order, Whalen said she was "terrified" to go home and went to another location where she thought she would be safe, according to the petition.

Cheltenham Police Chief John Norris could not be reached for comment.
Of course nobody in Cheltenham Township is talking. Do you think they want to be the ones responsible for bringing a powerful county official to jail without fear for losing their jobs? Also remember that Ellis was a member of the Board of Supervisors in Cheltenham Township before his election as county commissioner last year.

That said, I guarantee you that if this were a regular citizen with no political ties, that individual would probably be sitting in Montgomery County Prison by now. Based on the account in the Times-Herald, you have, at a bare minimum, a choice of charges, including terroristic threats, simple assault, reckless endangerment, custodial interference, and unlawful restraint.

The petition for protection from abuse Monday went to Montgomery County Judge Emanuel A. Bertin.

Bertin said he recused himself from the case because he has known Ellis "for years."
County President Judge S. Gerald Corso subsequently decided that it was inappropriate for any of the county's judges to hear the case.

Corso said Tuesday he had two options - assign the case to a visiting judge or send it to the Bucks County Court because Whalen currently is residing with her mother in Doylestown.

He opted to send the case to Bucks County because it would be heard "more expeditiously."

Whalen, who has an unlisted phone number, could not be reached for comment.

Ellis, who was absent from Tuesday's departmental budget reviews by the commissioners, met with two news reporters in his county office at the conclusion of the budget hearings.

At the time he was meeting with the media, Ellis initially had been scheduled to present a proclamation from the commissioners marking October as "Domestic Violence Awareness" month at a domestic violence awareness ceremony held at noon at the county courthouse in Norristown, according to Commissioner Ruth S. Damsker.
How ironic...

Also attending the session with the two reporters was county Solicitor Barry M. Miller and county Communications Director John A. Corcoran. Both Miller and Corcoran said they were not there in their official capacities but as "a friend" to Ellis.
Bulls**t. I believe the proper term for this is called "damage control."

Asked point blank whether he had engaged in any abusive behavior towards Whalen, Ellis responded that, based on the advice he had received from his lawyer, he was not allowed to say anything beyond what was contained in the joint statement authored by the lawyers representing both him and Whalen.

Noting that a child is involved, Ellis said both sides are close to working out their differences including custody and that he did not want to jeopardize that by a "battle in the press."

Asked whether the allegations against him stemmed from a dispute over the custody of the child, Ellis said, "You can come to your own conclusions."

Ellis said he expects the differences between the couple to be resolved next week at which time the petition for protection from abuse will be withdrawn.
Norristown Times-Herald
Of course he can expect that. He's a county commissioner. In the back of his mind, he knows that there's no chance of him being charged with any crime, unless that cop wants to work a desk job for the rest of his or her career...

And, of course, the Montco GOP isn't exactly in a hurry to push him out the door either, at least according to the Inquirer:

Ken Davis, chairman of the Montgomery County Republican Party, said he would not ask Ellis to step down.

"I think it would be a personal decision on his part," Davis said. "He has to think of his family."

Davis called Ellis "a great guy and a great Republican." Ellis has two years to decide whether he will run for reelection, he said.

"I think he's got some time to sort out his life," Davis said.
Nah. You think so?

Commissioners Chairman Jim Matthews, a Republican, said he and his wife, Karen, know both Ellis and Whalen well.

"We wish them both the best in these difficult times," Matthews said.

The father of two teenage daughters, Ellis is divorced. He said he had been engaged to Whalen twice, but they had never lived together.
Don't you just love it when a man can't make up his mind about a relationship? (Okay, I think most guys have been there before, but not to Ellis' extent.)

Caustic remarks aside, it shoud be noted that in the interest of fairness (and, yes, I'm holding my nose as I type this), the accusations haven't been proven in court, nor, to the best of my knowledge has there been any attempt to file charges by Ms. Whalen. For all we know, the accusations could be false, but I doubt that Ms. Whalen would've tried to file for a PFA if that were the case.

(Sorry, but there are certain crimes that I can't be impartial about - murder of a police officer, child molestation and domestic violence are at the top of that list.)

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