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Main Line commissioner under investigation

A fellow commissioner said the probe is not related to township business and that Philip Ahr's home was searched.

Radnor Township Commissioners President Philip Ahr is under criminal investigation in connection with matters the Delaware County District Attorney's Office declined to disclose Saturday.

Radnor officials announced the investigation in a one-paragraph news release put out Friday:

"The Delaware County District Attorney's Office has confirmed there is an investigation regarding Township Commissioner Philip Ahr. This investigation is being conducted by the County's Criminal Investigations Division and does not involve the participation of the Radnor police or any other Radnor Township staff or officials."

Radnor's police superintendent, William Colarulo, confirmed a warrant was executed at Ahr's home by county detectives, but said he did not know the contents of the warrant.

Township Solicitor Peter Nelson, reached by phone Saturday morning, said he had "no information about the investigation." He stressed that he represents the township as its lawyer, not Ahr.

When asked if the investigation pertained to township business, Nelson said he had no comment. He referred questions to county authorities.

Emily Harris, spokeswoman for District Attorney John "Jack" Whelan, wrote in an email Saturday, "I am only able to confirm that this is part of an ongoing investigation."

Ahr, a Democrat, did not return a phone message left by a reporter at his Bryn Mawr home early Saturday.

Luke Clark, a Republican commissioner on the board, posted the press release about Ahr on his Facebook page Friday, commenting, "I hate seeing our great township reflected in such a negative light."

Clark said that the investigation is not related to any township business. After obtaining a warrant, county investigators searched Ahr's home Thursday, according to Clark.

"I don't know what they found," Clark said. "As to what they were looking for, we are looking to Delaware County [authorities] to answer that. I can say that they had a warrant, they searched his house, and after that, that's all I have."

Clark said he believes that the investigation into Ahr reflects "badly on the township" and could leave residents in Ward 7, which Ahr serves, without representation. "I hate seeing any of our wards go without representation, and in theory, if he resigns, that will be an issue. … There will be a lack of stability."

The board's next regular meeting is scheduled for Monday. "I don't know if he'll be there," Clark said, referring to Ahr. "I'm sure it's going to be lively."

Commissioner John Nagle, a Democrat, said he hasn't spoken with Ahr since the investigation came to light and knows few details.

"It's a county investigation and they haven't given us any information," Nagle said. "They went into his house and took some computers, I understand. As far as I know, he wasn't arrested, he wasn't charged."

Nagle said he spent Saturday fielding about "50 calls" from residents who sought answers he didn't have. As for Monday night's township meeting, Nagle said he hopes that Ahr stays home, adding, "Our meetings are contentious enough already."

Ahr, 66, who has lived in Radnor for 22 years, became a commissioner in January 2016. In a 4-3 vote, along party lines, the board tapped Ahr as president in April 2016. He replaced Commissioner James Higgins as president. Higgins, a Democrat, had stepped down from his post as president amid controversy over nearly $979,749 that he inserted into a stormwater-management budget in 2016. The board had already voted on that budget without the added line item. Higgins apologized for the "mistake."

Married with two grown sons, Ahr is a relative newcomer to township politics, although he's been active in Radnor's Garrett Hill community. He's served on the Garrett Hill Coalition, the Garrett Hill-Rosemont 4th of July Parade Committee, and the Garrett Hill Steering Committee. He advocated for improvements to Clem Macrone Park and pushed for 28 miles of new trails. Ahr holds a degree in management from Notre Dame University and served in the Navy as a hospital corpsman.

He works as a marketing director at Malvern-based Progressive Business Publications, and is an active member of Our Mother of Good Counsel Parish, where he is parish council president, according to his bio on the Radnor Township website. Efforts to reach people at both places Saturday were unsuccessful.

News of the criminal investigation into Ahr comes about three months after a Delaware County jury found former Radnor Township Commissioner Bill Spingler, a long-serving Democrat, guilty of indecent assault on a person with a mental disability for touching the breast of a 103-year-old woman during visits to her Wayne nursing home last year. Spingler said the woman was his mother-in-law. Spingler is slated to be sentenced Thursday.