Letters to the Editor — July 18, 2014
A good deed gets noticed
Editor’s note: The following letter was addressed to “Jo,” possibly from Ocean View, and was sent to the Coastal Point for publication.
Thank you for “paying forward.” You found my wallet at Mama Celeste in Dewey Beach on Thursday night, June 6. You quickly mailed it to my home in Hockessin, Del., with all the contents intact. You never left a return address or even your last name, so I could thank you.
You indicated that you lost your wallet last year and someone found it and returned it to you. Your message was to “pay forward,” and I certainly will when that time comes. Having my wallet back was a true favor of God and St. Anthony answering my prayers.
Thank you, Jo!
Connor reintroduces himself to readers
I am Brad Connor, and I am running for the 5th District Sussex County Council position presently held by Mr. Phillips. I read with interest the letter from my primary opponent concerning a Sussex County code of ethics in last week’s various papers.
I first want to make it clear — I was the first candidate to even begin talking about a code of ethics, and it has been on my literature and presentations since the day I filed for office on March 5, 2014. All the other candidates are now either hopping on my train, or coming up with their own way to bring ethics and integrity to Sussex County.
When I am elected, the first piece of legislation that I will introduce will be a Sussex County Code of Ethics. New Castle County and Kent County have one, and it is way past time for the county I love and have called home to have their own.
This is not a political game or something to joke about. Since I have been going door to door, everyone I meet is telling me to stay on this, and they did not even know that our elected officials and County employees were not operating under an ethics code.
In the next couple of weeks, I will be meeting with officials in Kent County to get a briefing on how their code works, what is the cost for administering the code, and what has worked and not worked.
As the mayor of Dagsboro, I have long operated under the Town’s Charter, Section 14, Contracts, which lays out the language that forbids the Town Council and mayor to enter into a contract in excess of $500 with any partnership or corporation in which any of us have an interest. I will not have a problem being an elected official under a Sussex County Code of Ethics.
Brad Connor, Candidate
5th District, Sussex County Council
Reader not a huge fan of Wheatley
Although I am not a resident of District 5, the entire makeup of the five-member Sussex County Council is of vital interest to me and all Sussex residents. It is absolutely mindboggling that District 5 County Council candidate Bob Wheatley can call for stricter observance of the state code of ethics with a straight face. If anyone doubts why Sussex County needs its own strict code of ethics, just look at the conflicts of interest swirling around Bob Wheatley himself.
• Wheatley is head of the Sussex County Planning & Zoning Commission and in the key position to recommend which developments and building projects actually reach the council for a vote.
• Wheatley is also head of business development for Whayland construction management firm, a company I believed he owned until recently, which performs the following services, among others, according to its web site: land/building acquisition; permit acquisition; construction services; financing assistance and project consulting.
Now if all of that isn’t enough of a conflict, Wheatley apparently sells real estate as a “Real Estate Pro” with Alliance Real Estate Professionals. He has been said to have recused himself from some decisions that could set up a conflict. Really? His entire Planning & Zoning job is in direct conflict with his daily business.
Wheatley told the Cape Gazette last week, “Sussex County Council needs to adopt a resolution giving its unqualified support for both the spirit and the letter of the (state) code” and “provide training necessary to educate all county officeholders and employees about the code.” He added, “One Republican councilman has already expressed his support for the idea.” That councilman offering more support for a state code of ethics I believe is District 5 incumbent Vance Phillips! Do I hear laughter from the rafters?
Go figure. Whether Sussex develops its own code of ethics, as District 5 candidate Brad Connor originally stated we need, or it continues to operate under the state code, Wheatley cannot stand up to the conflict-of-interest test of either.
Recent grad grateful for support
In six weeks I will leave for preseason training at Bloomsburg University. Before I leave, I want to take the opportunity to thank the members of our community for all their support during my high school years. I am excited and ready to start the next part of my life, but I know I wouldn’t be where I am without the support of the great people in this community.
I have many special memories. Riding through Dagsboro on the way to and from our state championship soccer and football games and seeing the street lined with supporters was a highlight of my high school career. Being stopped in the store while wearing Indian River gear and being wished good luck by strangers still makes me smile.
I’m sure that I will leave someone out but I really want to thank some very important people for everything they have done for my classmates and me in the past four years. Indian River High School and District staff — you have prepared us well. Community businesses — your financial support in the form of donations and scholarships made a huge difference for many of us.
Neighbors and friends — seeing you at games, competitions and ceremonies showed us that you really do care. Boosters and IR alumni — the meals, equipment and support in general let us know that there was always someone in our corner. Media — your coverage allowed us to celebrate ourselves and made our parents very proud.
Finally, family — without you none of us would be where we are. Your love and dedication mean everything. I look forward to hearing more great things from the Indian River Indians family. Best of luck in all you do and God bless! Go IR!
Class of 2014, IRHS
Reader weighs in on Woodland Avenue
I have seen that there are renewed discussions concerning the condition of Woodland Avenue, as well as continued use of it as a two-way thoroughfare. While I have to agree that the roadbed is in serious need of repair and that traffic at the intersection of Central and Woodland is sometimes precarious, I see no valid reason for making it one-way.
The street is certainly in need of repair, but isn’t that a responsibility that the Town should take seriously? Should all roads that need repair be converted to one-way thoroughfares so that the potholes can be avoided? Of course not!
Also, Woodland Avenue is a valuable option for avoiding the horrendous congestion on Route 26 caused by the traffic lights at Central and West. Who in their right mind would seriously consider adding traffic to that already overburdened area?
While I do have to agree that the right turn from Central onto Woodland is at times a bit precarious, it is absurd to consider making Woodland a one-way street because some drivers are so bad they have trouble negotiating the turn. Following that line of reasoning, we would certainly open a Pandora’s Box of driving restrictions!
I understand that the cost for installing those useless sidewalks along Woodland Avenue was paid for with federal dollars, but I wonder why, considering the deteriorated condition of the street, it was not better spent on the roadbed.
Of course, we all know that federal grants/funds have to be spent the way the feds dictate, so we have useless sidewalks and a terrible roadbed. But now it seems it is time for Ocean View to step to the line and fulfill its responsibility by repairing Woodland Avenue and stop blowing a lot of hot air with an absurd solution!
Reader not buying bicycling excuses
I read with interest the article on bike, car and foot safety in the July 11 issue of Coastal Point. Cycling on the incorrect side continues to be a huge problem, not only in Fenwick, but also in Bethany Beach.
In the article, Fenwick’s police chief, William Boyden, states the problem with foreign students is that the rules in Europe are different. That is absolutely false. The rules there are exactly the same — no exceptions. The difference is that Europe is more bike-friendly than many states in the U.S.
Having cycled there for many years, there are bike paths everywhere. One truly does not have to ride in the street in most locations. But if one does, the rule is the same — cycles ride with flow of traffic and obey all traffic rules.
Should any readers, police, cycle trainers wish to check this for themselves, there is a website: fixiebikes.com/European-bicycle-laws.
Let us refrain from sharing incorrect information, especially regarding bike safety. There is absolutely no excuse for cycling on the incorrect side. These folks should be fined so that they stop putting those of us who are doing the right thing at risk.
Fenwick resident talks sheriff duties
What is a sheriff?
A sheriff is typically the highest conservator of the peace in almost every state or county. They are elected by “We the People” to protect and uphold the constitution — not only the constitution of the nation, but also that of the state. They recognize and take seriously their oath of office.
Their authority to interpose between the citizens and the “corporate” law enforcement officers is critical to protect our rights against the overreaching government. Our elected sheriff works for “We the People,” not the also-elected county council (How dare anyone challenge their authority?).
They do control the sheriff’s budget. Right now, the office of the sheriff has the same budget as the county dog catcher and library administration. Needless to say, they have not added millions of dollars to the county’s income column, as our sheriff has.
Sheriffs that don’t believe in their oath and authority of interposition should not have the honorable title of sheriff.
Frankford resident has thoughts on Town
Was the Frankford 2013-2014 budget padded to make way for this year’s budget to fund a four-year pension plan going back three years for three town employees, which consist of a police chief and one other officer — the chief, who already has a pension plan and says he will soon be retiring — and the town clerk, employed 13 years, who happens to be the council president’s wife?
This is just one of the questions that came from a group of about 10 concerned residents and property owners of the Town of Frankford at the June 23, 2014, budget meeting.
Another question was whether the council president had a conflict of interest when it appears he voted to change the town’s charter to pave the way for pensions going back three years, when his wife would likely be a direct beneficiary.
If you talk to some people in the town and its surrounding areas, you’ll find there are long-held concerns about possible nepotism. No one has been able to rationally explain why the council president’s wife has been allowed to open town hall late or close it early on school snow days to make school bus runs.
Nor has anyone explained — the question has been asked — why the wife regularly receives pay raises and bonuses when water bills have been chronically late, up to six months late, for years, when she was directly responsible for those bills going out.
This brings us to the pensions.
In order to make room for these pensions, the charter had to be changed, because it capped employee benefits at15 percent of payroll. The council president in April of last year announced he thought employees should have a pension (no exclusion for back years’ pensions mentioned), so a meeting was set for May 21, 2013.
At that meeting with the council president and other council members, the police chief, with no opposition or objection from any council member, ordered the representatives from the Delaware State Office of Pensions not to tell the two of us in attendance the estimate of how much it would cost the Town for prior years’ pensions including a pension going 13 years back. We simply couldn’t ask or get an answer to relevant questions that would ultimately affect all the residents of Frankford.
At the end of this year’s first budget meeting, May 29, 2014, the town clerk announced that she was proud that this year’s budget ended up being only $6,800 over last year’s budget. Another way of looking at this is $64,000 for pensions in arrears barely increased this budget.
What she didn’t tell us or the council members in this gleeful moment was she had put $65,000 in the 2013-2014 budget for police training, of which only $500 was used (?) in anticipation of funding these pensions.
It was believed by some in the group in attendance that this was padding the budget and is thought to be deceitful and unethical, according to the definition read. Imagine what the budget would have looked like if the council wasn’t entertaining the idea of going back to pay for pensions that did not exist when these employees were hired.
Frankford has corroded pipes, broken sidewalks, a rusting water tower and a plethora of potholes, just to name a few other things money could be wisely spent on. If the council was to put money in these projects, it would benefit the town as a whole, not just two or three people.
One person said the council would be looking to pass a 13.5 percent pay increase retroactive from three years ago if it went along with what’s proposed in the budget for these pensions.
Next in pension-land was to change the charter to remove the aforementioned cap. On Dec. 2, 2013, at the regular meeting, only three council members were present — the council president was one of them. A vote was required to send the charter to the General Assembly for adoption so these pensions could become a reality. One council member made the motion to send it, a second member seconded that motion — the “motion was unanimous.”
If you were to ask the council president’s wife, one or two of the other members present that night, or the town solicitor, according to them, the council president didn’t vote that night.
Also this same night, votes were cast to give the employees almost $2,000 in bonuses, with one bonus being as much as $875 and one coming in second at $575. It appears anything that was passed this night in question only required two votes out of a five-member council or two votes out of a three-member quorum, even though our charter says there has to be three votes.
At budget meetings in years past, it had been noticed that council members virtually never ask a question when these budgets are proposed — they only vote yes. So the question was asked at this June 23 meeting if any of them could go through specified line items of the budget and explain the item and its cost and whether it’s over or under budget.
Each council member responded that they could not. This could explain why they did not know last year that $65,000 was allocated in the budget for police training when there was essentially no police training. But, rest assured, someone else knew.
Another person of the group wanted to know why the Town’s employees seemed to never be satisfied and were fighting for three years back pensions when they get the overtime they want, don’t have to contribute to the healthcare insurance provided for them, don’t have to pay into the healthcare insurance for their family members, which could include the council president, receive generous bonuses and have very flexible working hours.
All this from a very small town of about 300 households, which consists of a lot of retirees on fixed incomes, along with many low-income renters — not comparable in many aspects to the surrounding towns.
It was also brought to the council’s attention that it would be in the best financial interest of the Town to have employees contributing to their healthcare insurance, including paying something for covered family members, as state employees and virtually all other corporations now do to save money and to make the employee just a little more responsible when using their insurance.
Some, who have a keen interest in the Town providing them back pensions, say if those pensions are not provided, the employees will go elsewhere for employment. The response to that was that that sounds reasonable until you think about it. And when you do, it fosters another question: Where else are the employees going to go and receive three years’ back pensions?
A person from the group who works in the financial industry asked council members if they had considered plans other than the state-defined plan. He says this type of pension plan is one of the highest plans out there where funding is concerned, since they are often chronically underfunded. This is causing a lot of these pension plans to go under across the country.
He reminds them that $64,000 is a tremendous amount of money to be allocated all at one time, and there’s going to be a tremendous allocation needed for the next 10 to 20 years.
At the end, one council member said he doesn’t like bickering. He said if a resident wanted to know something, they could ask the council and if the council didn’t know the answer, it would later come back with an answer. He went on to say another avenue a resident could use was to ask to be on the agenda.
He must not have been present at many of the council meetings to be aware of the number of times someone was prevented from being on the agenda. Or the many times they never received an answer months or years later.
What he seems to have forgotten to mention was if you tell the council how beautiful the grass is at the park, you can talk. He also forgot if you ask why the water bills are chronically late and the answer they give you is a fabrication of fact, such as the problem is it is difficult to read the water meters, you are not to question that. If you question that, it will cause bickering.
When they give you their solution to spend $165,000 on new meters, causing the water rates once again to unnecessarily skyrocket when it had been empirically proven to them the problem was never late water meter readings in the first place, a plan is then put in place to shut you down.
Overall, it was a very good meeting. Who would think just residents being able to talk without being cut off by council members, that that alone, even though the problems weren’t solved, would be the sole reason a meeting would turn out to be good.