Letters to the Editor — March 16, 2012

LWV seeks openness from leaders

March 11-17 is (was) Sunshine Week, a nationwide effort to call attention to transparency in government and freedom of information. While government transparency is its real objective, this election year, there is a greater need for transparency and disclosure of secret money in elections. Voters want to know just who is pouring millions of dollars in secret contributions into our elections.

Polls show the public overwhelmingly supports transparency for candidate campaigns and outside spending groups. A cardinal rule of campaign finance laws is that citizens are entitled to know the identity of and amounts given by the donors who are funding campaign expenditures to influence their votes.

Introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives in February, the DISCLOSE 2012 Act restores this fundamental right to know. The choice for members of Congress is clear: Do you support disclosure to provide citizens with basic information they have a right to know or do you support secret money being spent to influence our elections?

For decades, members of the League of Women Voters have acted as government watchdogs at the federal, state and local levels. We monitor the Sussex County budget, watch Sussex County public meetings, and hold them accountable.

Join us in supporting the DISCLOSE 2012 Act, which will hold our federal officials accountable and help to make our democracy healthy, vibrant and strong for all. And, please join us for “Disclosure in Delaware: Follow the Money!” on March 21, in Dover. (For information, call 302-674-3031.)

E. Anne Riley, Co-Chair
League of Women Voters, Sussex County

Mitchell discusses police departures

I write in response to comments made by the Ocean View mayor and police chief in a recent Coastal Point column pertaining to the departure of three police officers.

Let me first say that, while on Council, I generally supported increases in police salaries to bring their mean salaries to competitive levels when compared to other police departments. I believe that the Councils of 2008, 2009 and 2010 largely accomplished that goal of competitive salaries.

A massive police study of salaries was done by the town manager in 2007, comparing police salaries from other jurisdictions. The study was complicated by the fact that Ocean View had two administrative officers who did not provide any patrol time, and so the number of hours necessary for 24/7 coverage was increased. Why does a small town such as Ocean View have two administrative officers who supervise five officers?

As a result, in December 2007, all police salaries received an increase, putting their salaries above the mean salary for Sussex County employees.

Other findings of the study concluded that Ocean View employees have the best health, dental and life insurance benefits when compared with other jurisdictions. Indeed, one of the major budget problems during the years while I was on council was funding our very generous employee benefits. In the last budget I worked on, we managed to require employees to pay a small percentage of the percentage increase.

Ocean View pays a substantial amount of overtime to its police officers. I have no problem with that as long as it does not create much budget impact. For the next five years, overtime was projected at 5 percent growth per year. However, that overtime also increases our competitiveness with other police jurisdictions. We also give generous bonuses at Christmastime.

While I was on Council, 3 to 5 percent salary increases were usually given to all Ocean View employees in every budget year except FY 2010.

In the chief’s own study done in February 2010, it reflected that Ocean View police salaries were found to be within a comparable range and competitive with others, except for starting police officers. As a result, Council gave a substantial increase to two of our relatively new police officers and a 5 percent increase to all police officers, but not to town employees.

Some may say that Bethany Beach police officers receive more pay, but their officers have much more time on the job than ours do. How are you going to compare an officer with 15 years’ experience against one with 7 years’ experience? You can’t.

Further, the IACP police staffing study done two years ago suggested seven recommendations to improve our police, but increasing police salaries was not one of them.

In fact, in May 2011, one week into the new fiscal-year budget, Mayor Wood proposed without any data collected that all police officers receive a 3 percent pay raise on top of the 2 percent in the budget because Chief McLaughlin told him an officer might leave the force.

Last October, the chief proposed that all police titles be inflated to raise the morale of the police department and prevent officers from leaving. The Council passed this plan with inflated police titles. I imagine that our officers took a lot of ribbing from other officers in other jurisdiction because these inflated titles were not earned.

The departure of these fine police officers will be deleterious to our law enforcement deterrent for a time until more officers are hired or part time officers are hired for the summer. Unfortunately, other towns will receive the benefit of our highly trained and experience officers. But whose fault is that? In spite of the competitive salaries and the Cadillac health-insurance plan offered, police officers still have left the force, and so other reasons must exist for this mismanagement of our police force.

The voters should hold the mayor and council accountable at the ballot box. We need a new mayor and council, but you already knew that.

Perry J. Mitchell
Ocean View

Staton discusses state senatorial run

I am so thrilled by the outpouring of support from my friends and neighbors since I filed my paperwork to run for the state Senate last week. Your enthusiasm and encouragement, as well as your generous contributions, have shown me that you believe in our campaign for the 6th District.

Since I announced my candidacy, I have met with more than 100 community leaders over coffee, in meet-and-greets and one-on-one who represent the diversity of our district. You listened to my ideas and have shared your insights, and supported my vision for the 6th District. I feel so fortunate to have so many wonderful and creative people who are willing who have shared their ideas with me, and continue to show their support in so many ways. I promise that you as residents and business owners of the community, you will continue to be the focus of my campaign.

However, I have so many more people to meet to discuss my strategy to bring long-term sustainable jobs, community minded transportation services, and a plan to preserve the quality of life that we have come to know, while ensuring we are prepared for future growth. These are the issues that our campaign is about.

In the coming weeks, I’ll start hitting the streets and listening to what you have to say about the future of our district and explain my vision. And I know I can’t do it alone. I need your input and contributions just as much as I need your votes this fall. By putting our heads together, we can build a foundation that will go beyond this election.

Your enthusiasm and drive are contagious, and, working together, we will make our voices heard on Nov. 6. I am committed to winning this race and working hard to represent the people of the 6th District. Thank you for your support and encouragement.

I am deeply grateful to be your candidate for the state Senate.

Andy Staton
Candidate for the Delaware State Senate