Mitchell files complaint over police issue

Ocean View Councilman Perry Mitchell contacted the Delaware Attorney General’s office mid-week, complaining of alleged Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) violations at Tuesday’s Ocean View town council meeting.

Mitchell, in his e-mail to the Attorney General, which was also sent to the Coastal Point, questioned the legality of the council considering a resolution that had not been identified as a specific agenda item, “nor in the call of the meeting.”

He stated that the item was considered as a late item at the meeting, after many people in the public had left for the evening.

Mitchell wrote in his complaint, “The resolution read: that ‘the Mayor and Chief were authorized to present to the town of Millville such services at such a rates as they deem appropriate,’” referring to having temporary coverage of Millville by the Ocean View Police Department to work out kinks in the proposed joint policing operation and see how a more permanent relationship might unfold.

“The motion was belatedly amended that this plan would have to come back to the Council for approval. This motion was passed by a 4-0 vote. I abstained,” noted Mitchell. “As you can see from the agenda, the Mayor made a report on his meeting with Millville on this topic, but announced no resolution or action” on the published agenda.

”The Council even violated its own standing rules by not amending the agenda as is required by its rules. In short, this resolution came out of nowhere and was a shock, at least, to me. By considering the issue as the last item on the agenda, it was late and most people had left the meeting.”

Mitchell has requested that the Attorney General rule on whether the vote was a FOIA violation.

In the past, Mitchell has voiced opposition to the idea of a joint police operation. In an e-mail sent on Wednesday to select Ocean View citizens, as well as to the Coastal Point, he wrote, “The Mayor has been leading an effort to create a joint police force. His efforts were rebuffed twice by the last year’s council because he had only two votes for its support. Now the mayor is in a three-vote majority on the council. … This plan doesn’t even have the complete support of the Millville council, as my visits to their council and meetings with their town manager indicate.”

Though Mitchell has at times championed a reduction in the size of the town’s police force, he said he now is concerned that trying to share police with Millville will leave Ocean View’s police department undermanned.

“I suspect it will badly affect our force because the Chief last night said that, Officer Miller [was] unable to return to duty because of her accident last year. We are coming into summer with many people in town, but ready to share our police force with another town,” he wrote.

Mitchell is using his mailings to organize opposition to the proposal.

“I am interested in forming a group of concerned citizens to oppose such actions, to mobilize public opinion in the best interest of the town and to fight this joint police force which will tax us to death if we let it.” The new group is set to meet June 1, at 7 p.m. at the town hall, he writes.

Town Solicitor Dennis Schrader, who was present at Tuesday’s meeting, acknowledged receipt of a copy of Mitchell’s FOIA complaint but did not have further comment on the issue prior to the Coastal Point’s press deadline. Mayor Gordon Wood said he had not seen the complaint as of Coastal Point press time, but he said he was aware one had been made.

“I don’t know the details,” Wood said, “but I am convinced we properly followed the procedures.” He added that Mitchell “did not make a timely objection.”