Outgoing council member weighs in
I am currently on the South Bethany Town Council and have chosen not to run for re-election. I feel that I can provide more transparency to the issues that have overwhelmed this town over the last two years as a citizen.
The requirements of the Privacy Act and the Freedom of Information Act are frequently in conflict as related to the issues presented to this mayor and council. Consequently, some of the actions taken by the council could appear to those not familiar with these laws as a lack of transparency.
Personnel and personnel performance issues may not be discussed in public meetings. I believe this is the root of the mantra of “lack of transparency.” The mayor and council have been as open and transparent as they could be, given the legal constraints, have handled the police department and town employees professionally and competently since taking office.
Two studies (CPSM and Warren studies) reviewed the police department and operations in 2018 and found them severely lacking. Concurrently, the police department employees hired an attorney and the Town was presented a demand letter to increase pay and unpaid holiday pay. At that time, the council and former mayor corrected the backpay miscalculation.
The officers also alleged that the Town was planning to outsource the police department and posted signs all over town, creating confusion and anger. This was absolute misinformation. The Town has never considered outsourcing the police department.
The threated lawsuit never went anywhere. Nevertheless, the former mayor over-utilized lawyers to the tune of $125,000 to protect the Town legally from the threatened suit from the police department. This could have been negotiated but was not, and cost the Town in not only in money but in diminished the public trust, unnecessarily.
The new council used the studies and began to implement many of the recommendations. The Town also looked to best practices in other local municipalities. The studies both recommended the reduction of our 23 ranks for five employees to eight ranks. The chief was against this and fought this and resisted making it work.
The studies also concluded that the operations of the police department had been in a shambles for years. There are currently three different procedure manuals for the PD. This was known to the chief and the council in the summer of 2018. The chief did nothing to correct the deficiencies since then.
Since 2018 there has been a lack of police presence on Route 1, and magistrate fines and parking tickets were two-thirds less this year over last year. One measure of public safety is writing tickets.
Something had to be done, the police department was not doing its job. The current mayor pressured the PD to increase visibility on Route 1 and the Cat Hill blockade. This was not done. It was so bad that we had no police on duty the Saturday after July 4.
So, I would not depend on single-issue candidates that have a distorted, one-sided view of the police department and are supported by the former mayor who started this whole problem.
I support Carol Stevenson, Frank Weisgerber, Dick Oliver and Jerry Masiello to hire a new chief, provide the town with 24/7 South Bethany police department coverage and clean up the operating procedures for the PD. They will also focus their energy on the Town’s other pressing needs, like improving water quality, beach access and the street maintenance fund. Vote for continued improvement not turning things over again.