Fenwick Island council votes to settle lawsuit

The Fenwick Island Town Council Friday, Aug. 26, voted to allow its insurance carrier, Scottsdale Insurance Company, to resolve the lawsuit brought by former police Maj. William Manning against the town and council members past and present.

The board, however, declined a second motion authorizing Mayor Peter Frederick to execute the settlement documents. Instead, the legislators opted to hold an executive meeting to discuss the matter behind closed doors.

Passing the second resolution, Frederick said, would maintain the confidentiality of the settlement’s content and free The Town of Fenwick Island from Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA) requests — since they would have waived the right to access the facts.

The original litigation stemmed from a FOIA complaint registered by Manning in November 2002. The accuser alleged the town council violated FOIA after it did not allow Manning to speak when discussing whether to hire retired State Trooper Glenn Hudson as the new officer-in-charge of Fenwick Island’s police department, according to a letter sent by W. Michael Tupman, a deputy attorney general for Kent County, to Manning. Manning, second in command at the time, was passed over for the job, and was denied the floor because he did not own property in Fenwick Island, even though other out-of-towners were granted permission to talk, the letter said.

Two council members — Chris Clark and Harry Haon — Friday opposed delaying the motion until after an executive session, since they will enter the meeting without knowing the outcome of the case.

“If we want to have subsequent meetings where we discuss this, we can. But we will be discussing nothing,” said Council Member Chris Clark. “I feel like I am living in a Seinfeld episode. We’re having a meeting about nothing.”

Council Member Theodore Brans led the party advocating added deliberation, saying information on the case would eventually leak.

“The council has to be told (by Scottsdale) what is going on and what the final settlement is,” Brans said. “I will hear it from someone down the street, and I don’t want to hear it from anybody else.”

In other town council happenings:

• Tony Pratt, program administrator of Shoreline and Waterway Management for the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC), presented an update on beach replenishment project. Pratt said there would be no problems with the sand quality, unlike in nourishment efforts on the Dewey and Rehoboth beaches.

• Council Member Audrey Serio replaced Theodore Brans as chair of the Public Safety Commission.

• On the Board of Adjustments, Mary Pat Kyle replaced George Godfrey and the council renewed the term of John Rymer.

• In readjusting commissioner and board assignments, the council eliminated the Outreach Committee. To pick up the slack, each individual committee will be required to hold at least one outreach event each year. The complete roster of commissioners is available on Fenwick Island’s Web site, at www.fenwickisland.org/committees.html.

• Harry Haon recognized Susie Henicle and Sue Clark for operating Susie’s Storytime Program, a reading program held Saturdays for children.

• Council Member Vicki Carmean presented Star Business Awards to the Fenwick Crab House, Mazat Restaurant and Sands Motel.

• The council accepted two first readings delivered by Harry Haon, chair of the Charter & Ordinance Commission, on behalf of his committee. As reported last week by The Point, Haon recommended changing the code regulating apartments and motels, and the ordinance modifying commercial signs.

• Following surgery to rectify multiple fractures in her foot and ankle, Audrey Serio missed the meeting. “The last report is she’s not ready to play soccer, but as you know Audrey is ready to do about anything else,” Mayor Peter Frederick said. “She’s recovering and our prayers are with her for a speedy recovery.”