Frankford discusses policing, searching for new attorney

The Town of Frankford will be looking to hire two part-time police officers, on temporary loan from the Selbyville and Dagsboro departments. Currently, the Town does not have any officers on its own police force.

The Frankford Police Department comprised two officers; however, in December 2014 former Police Chief William Dudley retired, then Officer Nate Hudson left the department in February to join the South Bethany Police Department.

At the Town Council’s monthly meeting on March 2, the council voted 4-0, with Councilman Jesse Truitt absent at voting time, to temporarily hire two part-time officers to cover the town until they are able to hire permanent full-time replacements. The officers would work a total of 20 hours each.

“I just want to get two police officers here to cover us until we get a police chief,” said Councilman Charles Shelton, following the vote, adding that he hopes they start providing the town coverage as soon as possible.

Monday was also the deadline for applications for the vacant chief of police position. Shelton said the Town had received a total of eight applications.

“We’ll start the process of starting to bring the applicants in to get a police chief,” said Shelton. “We want to make sure we get the right person for the job.”

“I hope when you all look at the applications, you look at them all fairly and do a good, thorough investigation… We need a good police officer here,” said resident Skip Ash, who serves on the Town’s police committee. “I hope we move quick. There’s a lot of cars riding the road quick in the mornings and other things going on.”

At the March 2 meeting, Council President Joanne Bacon also announced that Town Solicitor Dennis Schrader would not be representing the Town in the upcoming year.

“Mr. Schrader will not be acting as council to the Town for the coming year,” she said.

Schrader, who had served as the Town’s solicitor since 1997, submitted a letter to Bacon stating he would not be seeking reappointment as its legal advisor.

“I have enjoyed representing the Town, as I have met some very good and interesting people in Frankford, all of whom have a vision of what is in the Town’s best interest,” wrote Schrader. “In recent years, controversy has dominated Frankford, and given the election results and your opportunity for new beginnings in the Town, I think it is appropriate that I do not seek reappointment as the Town’s attorney.

“In doing so, I believe it will give you and the Council the opportunity to move forward with a new attorney with a fresh set of eyes, focused on your plans for Frankford’s future.”

Bacon said the Town will be looking for another attorney and will use Schrader’s help and expertise in seeking new legal counsel.

In his letter, Schrader gave Bacon his “best wishes for a harmonious and prosperous Frankford.”

Potential Charter changes discussed

Also at Monday’s meeting, the town council discussed reviewing and potentially changing the Town Charter.

Following two complaints to the Town’s Board of Elections regarding election practices, in their Jan. 31 decision, the Board recommended the council consider changing the charter.

“The Board recommends to the Town Council that Section 5 of the Charter be amended to establish the date of the general election as the second Saturday in March; establish the filing deadline for candidates; establish the State Voter Registration system in lieu of the current Town system; reaffirm the appointment by the Town Council of a Board of Elections for a term of three years and of Election Officers; and to specifically authorize the use of absentee ballots.”

From that, a proposed charter amendment was drafted, which, if approved by council, would change the Town’s Charter in accordance with the recommendations of the Board.

“It’s very disrespectful of what a Charter is to have it show up in this forum, without any discussion,” said resident Greg Welch, who was one of the residents who submitted a complaint to the Board. “I see several things here that are going to cause even more problems.”

Welch said the decisions made regarding the charter must be made by council.

“These things are just being passed in front of you like the advertising dates were last time, that didn’t exist in the Charter. They weren’t discussed, they weren’t talked about of our council as of yet…

“There’s a whole lot still wrong, and it’s because it’s not discussed. Town legislation is supposed to come from the Town. It’s always been handed down… It seems like it’s coming from the State and the Town’s attorney.”

Truitt asked Welch if he had registered to vote in the Town, as Welch has lodged a number of complaints regarding his eligibility to vote and run in Town elections.

“I am registered to vote in the State. I have registered to vote several times,” he said of his past problems with the town’s voter registration process.

“I’ll bring a card here to the next meeting. In front of these people, you can sign it and turn it in,” said Truitt.

Welch said he would not sign the card because it asks for personal information, such as one’s Social Security number.

“All that barking, and you don’t even play by the rules yourself,” said Truitt.

Resident Jerry Smith, who also previously submitted a complaint to the Board, said he was concerned that not all the members of the council were familiar with the draft document.

“This is what has happened before,” he said. “I don’t think a simple council member up there would have voted in the last Charter change had they known that there was no Board of Election established in the Charter, as required by law.”

Resident Marty Presley asked if it would be more prudent to do a comprehensive review of the Town’s Charter, as opposed to making changes as issues present themselves.

“I think the whole thing needs to be looked at… I think this is a good start, but I think there’s a lot of other things and other ideas that need to be incorporated.”

Resident Liz Carpenter said she believes that, when it comes to any potential changes to the Town’s Charter, it should be a requirement to solicit input from the Town’s residents.

“We’re the ones — and you, too — we have to live under this. I would think we would have the right as citizens here to give feedback on proposed changes.”

Recently-elected Councilwoman Velicia Melson motioned that the council table consideration of the draft until the Town has a comprehensive review of its Charter.

“I don’t want to go back six months or a year from now, and propose another amendment to the Charter. I’d rather do a comprehensive review and try to capture everything at once.”

The council voted 5-0 to table the draft and develop a committee, headed by Melson, to review the Charter.

In other Town news:

• The council voted unanimously to use the $10,000 Sussex County 2015 Economic Development & Infrastructure Grant for the Town’s water tower. Recently, the town’s water customers have been having rust-colored water, due to issues with the water department’s decant tank. Truitt said that, in order to fix the problem, the Town would have to do a slow flow of its fire hydrants over the next few days, weather permitting.

• Shelton swore in Bacon and Melson to their seats on council, after the two won the Town’s municipal election on Feb. 7.