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Little House on the Prairie Saga Takes Another Turn

As police talk to Joe Dinella, who reportedly found Collingswood's Michael Landon plaque, Mayor James Maley said Dinella's alleged involvement "changes everything."

Collingswood's continues, and the cast of characters is expanding.

Officials have identified borough resident Joseph Dinella as the man who allegedly came into —commemorating Collingswood native and famed Little House on the Prairie actor Michael Landon—and brought it to The 's office.

Dinella, who has been known to publicly tussle with Mayor James Maley over borough issues, has been questioned by police over the incident.

At first, the plaque's removal just caused an mild uproar, with some residents criticizing the town's decision to remove the piece—which the borough deemed a safety hazard due to its stone marker sitting near playground equipement. 

Under borough direction, the plaque was reportedly removed from  during a townwide  on Nov. 5, and stored at  until its future plot could be chosen.

As the uproar grew—and the story garnered national attention—the law got involved.  this week to determine why the plaque ended up in the hands of a resident.

"The plaque was in a weird spot in the Knight Park. (The borough's) intention was to take it out, leave it (with public works) on Champion Ave. while we figured out where to permanently put it, and then return it to the Knight Park in the springtime,” said Collingswood Communications Director Cass Duffey.

Whoever took the plaque had to remove it from the stone base, Maley told Patch earlier. 

According to reports, Dinella allegedly discovered the plaque on his front porch, and later brought it to The Retrospect. 

Dinella declined to comment on how he came to possess the memorial.

"For today there is no comment," said Dinella. "I'd like to talk to my attorney first."

According to Dinella, a meeting with his lawyer was scheduled for later this afternoon—Thursday, Jan. 5. When asked for the name of his attorney, Dinella said, "I'm going to withhold that information until I actually meet with my lawyer."

Collingswood Mayor James Maley spoke about Dinella's choice not to comment on Thursday afternoon.

"My only comment is that it should be reported," said Maley of Dinella declining comment. "People need to understand what all this is about."

According to Maley, a radio station called his home early Thursday morning, and allegedly made derogatory comments about his family on-air.

"And this is all (happening) because Joe Dinella found a plaque on his front porch," said Maley. "The story makes no sense. And all the furor that's making Collingswood look bad is really intended—by him (Dinella)—to make me look bad. It's a shame."

Maley and Dinella have a long-standing history of entering heated debates during the public portion of monthly commission meetings.

"The didn't (initially) report that it was Dinella," said Maley of the newspaper's original story, which only identified a resident as having dropped off the plaque. "I think the fact that it was him (Dinella) changes everything.

"Joe says he found (the plaque) on his porch," said Maley. "My question is, 'Well, then why didn't you call the cops?'"

As for the plaque, it's back in the borough's possession. Duffey said she picked it up from The Retrospect offices, so that borough officials could use it to film various television spots.

Future Old Angry Italian Guy January 06, 2012 at 04:07 PM
According to reports, Dinella allegedly discovered the plaque on his front porch, and later brought it to The Retrospect. Explaining to people that you found a stolen item on your front porch is akin to that item "falling off the back of a truck." As a former Delco native, CWood is an incredible place to live and raise a family. If I was to move, I would certainly return to PA and locate a town like Ardmore or Media. Cwood is a gem among neighboring towns. Certain people need to be appreciated and thanked, and one of them is Mayor Maley. Cwood is not perfect, and there are things, in my mind, that should be changed; however, the progress that has been made to my town not only benefit me but will benefit my daughter as she grows and becomes more involved town and school activities. Haters of our local government need to either take a stand or run for office. Bashing officials is a sad, lonely, and negative way to live. I challenge anyone to find a town as good as Cwood so close to Phila, that is walkable, bike-friendly, has public transp, parks, restaurants, safety, a plethora of community events, and a promising future of well-educated, young professionals who want to raise families.
Porterincollingswood January 06, 2012 at 05:05 PM
What a great post. At the end of every year we're inundated with calls to remember what we're thankful for. Every year our decision to move here comes near the top of the list. We looked far and wide when we left Philly for the burbs, and this town is truly unique and special. You don't find the things you've described everywhere. You just don't. We have relatives that come from NY and PA and DC for May Fair, the Holiday Parade, Book Festival and the many other events the town hosts. I saw Chris Isaak 3 blocks from my house - at a venue that has amazing sound. The community chorus Christmas Concert is an instant tradition with us. The first day of the Farmer's Market never disappoints, and we enjoy buying great produce until Fall. Someone responded to the NYT.com story on the plaque that he'd love to move to CWood because this manufactured scandal - and not murders or crime - are what we have to focus on.
Abbe Effron January 06, 2012 at 05:07 PM
Up till now I have been semi-defending the Mayor to the press saying that I'm sure the intention was never to discard the plaque, but now I'm not so sure. When I saw the plaque at the Retrospect a few days ago, it clearly had some damage to its upper left corner, as if something like a front loader (which was used to remove it) had just dumped it along with the concrete base it was attached to. So if it was dumped carelessly onto a pile or the floor at the Public Works Dept., that very well might have loosened the long nail-like devices that held it in place. So I don't buy the story that someone pried it from its base. I think it was probably either mostly or totally off the concrete base when whoever saw it walked buy to rescue it (btw, I would have done the same thing and rescued the plaque). I spoke with Cindy Landon yesterday and she asked if I thought she should call the Mayor. I told her I wasn't sure because it seemed the global outrage about what has happened might be enough to finally push the Mayor and Collingswood to commit to putting the plaque back. But with this ridiculous police investigation, I think maybe a call from Cindy might be needed.
Abbe Effron January 06, 2012 at 05:07 PM
I see Mr. Dinella as a hero who rescued the plaque that I spent a year and a half raising the funds for, and working with the sculpting artists at Paul's Trophies in a neighboring town to create the likeness of Michael Landon on the plaque. However he got it in his possession, I don't care because the town carelessly discarded this dedication plaque of a much beloved man and actor. I had really hoped the Mayor by now would have just said he made a mistake, that when it was taken out for the cleanup of the park, HE should have taken the responsibility to insure its safety and it should have been placed indoors in a locked facility, not outdoors in a pile with dozens of Public Works officials and contractors passing by it all day (which is not a secure location). That is irresponsible and a slap in the face to Michael Landon and his legacy, his family, his fans worldwide and to myself who put hundreds of hours into this project. Commissioner Maley was standing right there at the dedication ceremony in June 1997 when Mike Brennan said that this tribute is not only to the man Michael Landon but also stands as a testament to one volunteer and what one person can accomplish. That was a very nice compliment. Didn't expect it and only did all of it to honor Michael in his hometown.
Porterincollingswood January 06, 2012 at 05:15 PM
Hero? This guy wanted to (a) embarrass the mayor by (b) making the town and it's residents (you and me) look bad on a national stage. The plaque was just a vehicle to accomplish these goals. Did he succeed in embarrassing the mayor? Maybe - to a handful of people who already have some seething and irrational hatred for him. Did he succeed in making the town and its residents look bad on a national stage? Yep. And that certainly isn't "heroic". And the mayor has a great point. Why didn't he call the cops? I suppose the answer has something to do with his decision to hire a lawyer. This guy trashed the town's reputation and the reputation of each and every one of its citizens in order to cause a mayor he hates about 3 days of headaches. That's not "heroic". Where I grew up, it's called something else (that would be censored).
Unhappy Colls Resident January 06, 2012 at 05:27 PM
Porter - how long have you lived here? I have been here 23 years, plus a year when I was in junior high. I have seen the changes in town and frankly the ones I have seen in the last 5-6 years are scaring me. Yes, they have developed Haddon Avenue and have a great May Fair and such but there is crime, there have been murders, a shooting two blocks from my house, car thefts, absentee landlords, empty houses (3 on my block alone) It is not the Mayberry that our elected officials have portrayed. We waste our tax dollars on real estate development while we lay off police officers. When you contact the mayor regarding anything, you get a sarcastic reply not matter what you say. I am happy that my children purchased homes in other communities as I would really not want my grandchildren going to the public schools in town anymore.
Unhappy Colls Resident January 06, 2012 at 05:30 PM
Perhaps the mayor is trying to embarass Mr Dinella. Mr Maley does not like anyone questioning his authority decisions. This whole situation is an embarassment. Perhaps a "No Comment" from everyone is in order. BTW my w yr old grandson plays in the park and the plaque and its concrete marker posed no threat to him. I think the police have better things to do than carry out petty political agendas.
Abbe Effron January 06, 2012 at 05:36 PM
Whatever the reason Mr. Dinella brought the plaque to the Retrospect office, I do not know what would have happened to it had someone not rescued it. I fear it would have gotten lost in the shuffle and forgotten about. THAT is the Mayor's responsibility.
Unhappy Colls Resident January 06, 2012 at 05:50 PM
Collingswood has several other projects that request citizens to make monetary donations such as the bricks in front of the Reformation Building on Haddon Avenue and the pickets on the playground, which I understand are now also at the municipal facility. So, I donate money to honor/memorialize someone and then in 10-15 years it will just be thrown out because they are not wanted anymore? When they removed the pickets, which did not go all the way around the playground equipment, I hope they also removed the frame that held them - it is just the height of a small child. And Abbe, the mayor takes no responsibility - everything is always someone elses fault. It was a nice thing you did to put that plaque in the park. Thank you.
Collingswoodnative January 06, 2012 at 06:02 PM
"I see Mr. Dinella as a hero" Yes you might but you don't live in Collingswood any longer do you? Why have you not been outraged that the piece of playground equipment is surrounded by a moat of water 100 days a year for the past five years? I'm in the park about 300 days a year, just came back from cleaning up trash there. On the statement about removing the pickets from the playground. That's the work of vandals that take over Knight Park after dark. As to referring to the the mayor as " HE should have taken the responsibility to insure its safety". Not everything in this town is overseen by the mayor, in fact it's a part time job.
Ruth Rouff January 06, 2012 at 06:34 PM
Both Mr. Dinella and Mr. Maley have their flaws, as we all do. Display the plaque in a nice spot somewhere, and let's get on with making 2012 a better year than 2011.
Collingswoodnative January 06, 2012 at 06:54 PM
Ruth your right!! Lets move the piece of playground equipment also. Place it in Knight Park or Roberts Pool. It's in the wrong location now.
Unhappy Colls Resident January 06, 2012 at 07:09 PM
Used to be a caretaker in the park who did a pretty good job of keeping vandals out of the park. Perhaps if we still had a full police department, they could drive through every once in a while to keep people out of the park after dark. Instead, we "invest" in real estate, theater venues and slummy apartment buildings. Although being mayor is a part-time job, it is one that Mr. Maley was elected to do. What exactly is his responsibility? Of course, the people who vandalize the park, steal our cars, break into our houses and shoot at each other do not live in our town.
Brian Hamilton January 06, 2012 at 07:53 PM
@Ruth Rouff: Hear, hear! Simple solution.
john q public January 06, 2012 at 08:06 PM
Haddon Township, Audobon, Haddonfield, Haddon heights, oaklyn is seeing a little improvement - all these towns lack one thing - a huge debt for a nearly-defunct condo project that was grossly overpriced even DURING the real estate boom; a project which lined the pockets of the politically-connected, and all WITHOUT any residents having a single vote on any referendum dealing with this project. Most of the business was drawn in because of steep tax deferments - so actually zero tax revenue is generated.
john q public January 06, 2012 at 08:10 PM
Let us not forget that as a "part-time" mayor, he has parlayed it into a full-time consulting business
Porterincollingswood January 06, 2012 at 08:25 PM
Abbe, I agree that this was all handled poorly. When we moved here we came across the plaque and thought it was great - I had no idea he was born here. And, no, we didn't think it was a safety issue at all. I am not defending its removal or where it ended up. But it is important to note that whoever removed it from the facility was not "rescuing" or "liberating" it. They were, legally speaking, "stealing" it. That explains why the police are involved.
Porterincollingswood January 06, 2012 at 08:27 PM
What kills me is that there was a ready-made, ideal solution at hand - the Scottish Rite. A perfect venue to honor an actor.
Porterincollingswood January 06, 2012 at 08:33 PM
I think this is worth repeating. Whoever removed the plaque from that facility was not "saving" it. They were, legally speaking, "stealing" it. That's why the cops are involved.
Abbe Effron January 06, 2012 at 09:42 PM
I understand that is considered stealing if that indeed did happen. I am just saying, as the person who created and funded the plaque and held it personally in my home for months until the dedication ceremony in June 1997, I am glad it was taken to the Retrospect. Otherwise, I never would have known about it for months and by that time it might have met its demise.
Porterincollingswood January 06, 2012 at 09:52 PM
Abbe - my comment was directed at the people who envision the mayor as Boss Hogg sending Roscoe and Cletus over to harass this guy for no reason. I hope that your great work finds a new and fitting home!
Collingswoodnative January 06, 2012 at 10:02 PM
Dat true!!!!!!!
Abbe Effron January 06, 2012 at 10:25 PM
I understand what you are saying and prefer to not get involved with all of the "politics." Thanks for your good wishes about the plaque!
Future Old Angry Italian Guy January 07, 2012 at 12:37 AM
Sometime this weekend everyone please meet at the Pour House. Good night.
Abbe Effron January 07, 2012 at 02:19 AM
Except I don't and can't drink (lol). Boy do I wish I did!
Bob G-man January 07, 2012 at 07:03 PM
Since Landon loved children, I propose the plaque be remounted on the Blunderyard Condos, since our children will still be paying that debacle off.
Bob G-man January 07, 2012 at 07:28 PM
Porter "irrational hatred"? There might be a few, but most critics point to substantive issues - like the whole Lumberyard fiasco. ( btw I like your idea about the Scottish Rite for the plaque to be relocated) I do (as do many others) give Maley credit for the good things he's done, mainly in the early years. I would even go so far as to say, had not those efforts been made, I very possibly would not have moved to Collingswood. Let's give Joan Leonard credit, too. But acknowledging early good moves is in no way mutally exclusive from or contradictory to holding his feet to the fire for the Lumberyard. And if you watch him at town meetings, his dismissiveness, evasion, and misdirection are a thing to behold. He also refuses to consider any changes in town that he, in his own opinion, does not like - like considering a change to the alcohol situation - he makes up nonsense on the spot. Joe D. may not be perfect, but unlike the rest of us, he's actually gone to town hall and looked up information. Usually Joe's comments I've heard have basis; sometimes he might take something a little far, but at least he's pointing out some valid issues. That's more than all but just a very small handful of people ever do, at least with regard to municipal gov't. As for the comments about "run for office or shut up", that's just idiotic. There are 3 commissioner positions. are the other 14k residents supposed to not criticize when there is cause? The commissariat is proud.
Porterincollingswood January 08, 2012 at 12:50 AM
Bob - I didn't say things were 100% perfect or that there weren't valid reasons for questioning the mayor (my thoughts on parking and the lumberyard have been posted on this site, and they were not supportive; I also think the handling of this matter was downright sloppy) . Nor did I say that ALL critics were irrational "haters". But some are. And those people (let's say the 5%) are typically more about grudges / personal resentment than solutions. We need people to challenge things. I get that, I support that, I respect that. I do that. But I don't see the critics promoting an alternative. Not even on the ballot. The mayor (full disclosure - I voted for him twice) has run unopposed. They don't even field a candidate? That tells me that the opposition is more concerned with something other than meaningful change. I have been called by numerous people asking me why "we" (as if I personally removed it, much like how as a Flyers fan I am responsible for what happened at Geno's) removed the plaque. That stinks. But Abbe, every one of them has also said they had no idea he was from here, and none knew he was a star athlete (and other aspects of his life). So the memorial continues to spread the word! Granted, the scenario could've been better...
john q public January 08, 2012 at 01:03 AM
personally I do not understand any coments - genos and pats represent the absolute worlds worst cheese steaks - why even mention them - or are you just mindless automitoons that mention your party's favorites for at-best MEDIOCRE steak sandwiches
Porterincollingswood January 08, 2012 at 01:24 AM
Uh. What?

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