For long-time residents of Methacton School District, it may seem like a trip down memory lane. For many involved, it is a trip that most would likely not prefer to take. Former school board president James VanHorn, a resident of Lower Providence Township, ended up finishing a term that lasted into 2009 amid a wash of controversy. At its messy center, a court case involving the school board president who allegedly attacked a man in the audience after a meeting who was caught filming him, a completely legal action.
VanHorn was video taped by James L. Mollick, a Worcester Township resident and citizen that frequents both the school board and municipal meetings to stay abreast of happenings in the district. Mollick, a former OBGYN with Mercy Suburban Hospital, claimed that injuries sustained during the alleged attack caused him to stop his medical practice.
The civil court case was slated for Montgomery County Courts at 9 a.m. on Monday, May 5. Law offices for Mollick have confirmed that the case, instead, has been resolved out of court.
The case was initially filed on Oct. 28, 2008. The two have since battled between lawyers until a date was slated for a hearing.
The 16-second attack shows VanHorn behind the board desks. He views the videographer who never appears on camera but is said by witnesses to be Mollick himself.
VanHorn points at the camera and asks “Are you taping me?” and then proceeds toward the taper. “Turn it off,” he says during his approach.
The person behind the camera then says “Easy boy, easy, easy” as VanHorn repeats “turn it off.” As VanHorn reaches the videographer, a scuffle can be heard and the camera goes out of focus, zooming toward the ground. The sound of a breaking glass can be heard.
“You cannot tape me after meetings,” yells VanHorn to a cameraman now appearing to be on the floor. The tape ends with a view of the underside of chairs in the meeting space.
In a Times Herald article dated Nov. 25, 2007, then Worcester resident and now school board member Jim Phillips said he saw the whole thing. He told the Times Herald that “Mollick was disoriented” for several minutes after the incident.
Mollick, who is no stranger to the courtroom, had previously sued Worcester Township to gain access to private emails said to contain township information. Mollick won a January 2012 lawsuit against the municipality forcing Worcester supervisors to disclose the content of emails. This case seems to have ended with an out-of-court resolution, though neither sides’ law offices could be reached for comment. Calls from LP TAP went unreturned from Mollick’s lawyer David Hollar, as well as VanHorn’s three unique law firms.
VanHorn’s law firms are currently being paid for via Methacton School District funds.
A letter received from Methacton School District to LP TAP regarding a Right To Know Request stated that, as of April 16, the district had already shelled out $31,497.11 toward representing VanHorn in the matter.
In a June 2013 article in the Lansdale Reporter, the discussion of paying for his legal fees was a matter of debate during the budgeting for the 2013-14 school year. At that time, the district tabled a vote to allow a third law firm to represent VanHorn as “special insurance counsel” according to the article.
School board members, according to the report, hand concerns over the work that “would be done by this firm and the cost of three attorneys that would work on the matter.”
“According to Miller [then acting-superintendent Jeffrey Miller], the firm would be tasked with ensuring that the best interests of the district are protected as petitions that were filed by the two insurance companies that are now covering the costs of litigation,” said the Reporter’s article.
Miller told the board at that time that the range of cost was $195 to $625 per hour for the lawyers’ work, depending on which was doing the work. The firm was later added to VanHorn’s defense.
The Methacton School District's Coordinator of School and Community Information Angela Linch said that the appropriate individuals to speak to the matter were tied up in meetings Friday. A comment will be released when those persons can be reached.
At this time it is unclear if the district will be paying for any court costs, including the undisclosed settlement amount.