Letters to the Editor -- November 28, 2008

Nippes defends reorganization of CAP
Editor:

Why the need to revise the manual that established the CAP organization? A majority of the town council perceived that a handful of CAP members were not adhering to the guidelines set forth in the original manual. Disruptive incidents became blatant at council meetings, resulting in a vote by council to have the town manager develop a new CAP manual.

What types of actions by a handful of CAP members led to this action by council?

The CAP organization is to be apolitical or neutral in the elective process. When I was running for office, a few members of CAP went to my opponent and offered to support him and help defeat me. Attempting to influence the outcome of an election is a serious violation of the guidelines set forth in the CAP manual. The CAP organization was created to be a volunteer group of citizens to assist the Public Safety Department but has transcended into a PAC or political action committee with little internal oversight.

At town council meetings, a handful of CAP members have disrupted the orderly flow of business by calling some councilmen names and most egregiously intimidated citizens who have spoken up to support council decisions. Many citizens do not feel comfortable in attending meetings, as they feel threatened for expressing an opinion that differs from a vocal opposition group.

Every citizen should feel free to express an opinion. You do not have to agree with the position, but democratic ideals require you to be respectful of that individual’s right to express them and not feel intimidated.

The argument provided, that these individuals cannot be disciplined for their maligning remarks, is that they are exercising their First Amendment rights. During the Korean War, Gen. MacArthur openly criticized in the press the policies of President Truman. When President Truman ordered him to cease and Gen. MacArthur persisted in speaking out in opposition, President Truman relieved him of his command.

It is imperative to provide some historical perspective to justify the rationale for the action undertaken by the council. The “Founding Fathers” had a strong fear of paramilitary and military groups, thus they built into the Constitution the principle of Civilian Supremacy.

A civilian in the appropriate branch of government directly controls all such groups. Each branch of our military is responsible to a civilian secretary and ultimately to the Secretary of Defense and the president. Even such organizations as the ATF and the FBI are responsible to civilian bosses. This principle has filtered down to the state level and even to local municipalities.

The chief of police has stated that he considers the CAP organization to be a paramilitary organization and to be responsible to one boss. The majority of the council disagrees with this premise and concludes that civilian oversight is essential. Thus any paramilitary group must be accountable to the town council or its designee, the town manager. Even the council is not immune from oversight, since the electorate judges our decisions and actions at election time. If the cherished traditions of our democracy are to survive even at the local town level, civilian accountability must prevail.

In conclusion, the council applauds the CAP members for their outstanding service rendered to the citizens of Ocean View and to other communities.

The fact is that the CAP members met prior to the November council meeting and voted to resign en masse if the council passed the reorganization manual. If the council would succumb to this form of pressure, the council would become powerless to effectively run the government. The council must not cave into such a threat, since it would establish a precedent that would embolden other such group action.

The town manager made several attempts to work with the leaders of CAP organization to solicit their views on reorganization but received few constructive suggestions. After the new manual had been implemented for a reasonable time period, the council would have been amenable to meet with the leaders of CAP to find accommodations that would make the manual work for both sides.

The mass resignation makes that possibility a moot issue, and the council will ask the town manager to form a new organization made up of Ocean View citizens helping other citizens and government agencies in times of tranquility and when emergency situations arise.

Richard Nippes, Councilman
Ocean View

Genealogical Society offers thanks
Editor:

The Sussex County Genealogical Society thanks the Roadhouse Steak Joint, Rehoboth Beach, Del., and county residents for participating in the successful fundraiser held on Tuesday, Oct. 14, at the restaurant.

The Roadhouse generously donated 10 percent of the entire day’s receipts to the Society to promote its initiatives in purchasing genealogy books for the Rehoboth Public Library, presenting free genealogical programs to local organizations, providing guest speakers at meetings and helping people learn more about their family histories.

All attendees enjoyed a wonderful meal and contributed greatly to the success of the Society and its mission.

Norman J. Montigny, Chairman, Public Relations
Sussex County Genealogical Society

Council’s opposition to PCS appalling
Editor:

I was appalled to read that the Sussex County Council is suing the state government over land-use standards having to do with buffers to protect water runoff and pollution of our inland bays. This is a clear case of pandering to the land developers and not to the vast majority of county residents, who are concerned about the decline in water quality of our county’s most precious natural resource, our inland bays.

At a time when county and state funds are shrinking rapidly, it is criminal to spend taxpayer funds to argue an issue that should be paid for by the special interests who really benefit - namely the land developers.

David Jaeger
Selbyville

Resident takes issues with council decisions
Editor:

If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, there is a very good chance that it is a duck.

A group of three Ocean View town councilmen seems to be working together to diminish the effectiveness of the Public Safety Department. The same group has sponsored almost every resolution that has upset the town. I suspect that there is a high probability that the results are as intended.

Ocean View planned and built a Public Safety Building to meet present and future needs. The “group of three” has worked diligently to move it away from its intended and designed purpose.

Ocean View Police Department is led by one of the most effective police officers in the country. The “group of three” has worked diligently to alter his reporting relationship and minimize his stature.

The Ocean View Citizens Auxiliary Patrol is the first, largest and most effective such group in the state. State and other local governments have recognized the CAP for its excellence. The “group of three” has implemented “improvements” in the CAP operations that are so insulting and demeaning that the unit has resigned in protest.

I would like to believe that all of the town council members are working in the best interest of the town. I would like to believe that our elected representatives actually listen to the voices of the citizens. I would like to believe that resolutions presented for consideration at town council meetings were actually being considered at the meeting and not decided beforehand.

Unfortunately, the evidence is otherwise.

Robert R. Lawless
Ocean View

Martinez despairs for CAP’s future
Editor’s note: The following letter was addressed to Ocean View Mayor Gordon Wood and was forwarded to the Coastal Point for publication.

I am writing to you not as a member of the Ocean View Citizen Auxiliary Patrol but as a private citizen.

I know you have attempted to pull the council together and I believe you are a reasonable and fair person, but the council continues to hemorrhage money and take abusive actions toward our citizens and our police.

I, for the life of me, can’t understand the grudge Roy Thomas, Perry Mitchell and Dr. Nippes seem to hold against the police, the CAP unit and anything associated with our police department.

The Ocean View Civilian Auxiliary Patrol has received special recognition from the governor and is considered one of the finest volunteer groups in Delaware. Yet the three councilmen continue in an attempt to discredit and dismiss the organization, and I believe this time they have succeeded.

As I see it, the document presented and passed by the council (3-2) last night is an attempt to restrict and control almost every aspect of the CAP unit.

Is there any volunteer group that limits its members in numbers (presently there are approx 20 CAP members), or restricts membership to those residing within the town? Previously, membership was restricted to citizens of Sussex County.

How could our town manager, residing in another state, (our taxes keep paying for his car and gasoline) demand CAP members live within the Ocean View town limits? How could he suggest that lifesaving training and charity work should not be credited to the 84 hours required of the CAP volunteers?

The document is engineered to confuse (who is to report to whom?), reduce the effectiveness of the CAP unit and increase the “power” of the town manager. Let’s remember, this is an unpaid volunteer group and it’s unfair to expect them to accept unreasonable terms or questionable leadership.

The three councilmen and the town manager seem only interested in how much power and control they can hold over Ocean View. I don’t believe they have ever voted in disagreement with one another. Concerned citizens show up at the council meetings and overflow the meeting room.

They come in opposition to the council’s dictatorial style of government. Citizens voice their disagreement and offer suggestions, but it all falls on deaf ears!

The meetings are becoming more confrontational and almost uncontrollable. Last night’s meeting was interrupted twice and a time-out had to be called.

I understand CAP members will resign in protest to the document and the continued abusive received from the three councilman.

I am sad to see the Town of Ocean View lose such a valuable asset.

I will urge all Citizens to vote against Councilman Roy Thomas in the upcoming April election. I believe he is the major cause of our problems.

Gordon – Keep butting your head against that wall. You have earned my respect!

Joe Martinez
Ocean View

Thomas addresses problems with residents
Editor’s note: The following letter was addressed to the citizens of Ocean View and was forwarded to the Coastal Point for publication.

It is unfortunate that Ocean View CAP members have chosen to resign. There is no doubt that the organization has accomplished many good tasks over many years.
However, as a manager once told me, “No matter how thin you make a piece of paper, it still has two sides.”

Let’s take a few minutes to talk about the “other side.” Let’s review how a core group of the CAP members and their spouses have acted during the past two years. They attend Town Council meetings and take every opportunity to disrupt the legislative process. They insult fellow citizens, the mayor, Town Council members, the town manager and other staff members.

They have a right to speak out but not to violate the rules of decorum, and they refuse to come to order without the mayor having to bang the gavel time and time again. They called a woman who spoke in opposition to CAP’s stand a [profanity]. After another meeting, several CAP members surrounded a woman as she was leaving the Council chambers and attempted to intimidate her. She had to be rescued by her husband.

In another incident, a different woman spoke in opposition. She was called names that are not fit to print. She felt so intimidated that she was afraid to walk to her car and questions whether she will ever return to another council meeting. Recently, a CAP member was forced to resign because of aggressive behavior against a town employee at a Town Council meeting.

In a recent election, they formally backed a candidate for Town Council. A clear violation of the CAP’s Operations Manual.

These incidents are not isolated cases. Many citizens have contacted myself and other councilmen and informed us that they would love to speak out but felt intimidated and “muzzled” by the behavior of this organization. Numerous citizens are refusing to attend Town Council meetings because they actually feel afraid for their safety.

The CAP organization has fought every cost-cutting measure for the Public Safety Department while encouraging the Council to make significant budget cuts in other areas of the town government. They cheered when, in jest, I stated that maybe the Administrative staff could work from tents in the parking lot.

When I asked the question “Are non-Public Safety employees second-class citizens?” they loudly cheered that they were, humiliating several employees of OV. CAP has even referred to themselves as a paramilitary unit and should not answer to civilian control. The chief of police has even commented that he could not tell them what to do. It is an organization out of control.

Their latest antic was to take a vote that if the Council approved the revised CAP Operating Manual they would resign in mass. Think of the audacity of such a vote. They actually believed that their influence and power was so great that they could dictate to the Town Council.

At the Town Council meeting, when it appeared that they would not get their way, the Officer in Charge of the CAP, Tom Sheeran, made a spectacle of himself by walking out of the Town Council meeting while addressing the Council. It appeared to be a staged event that used a small technicality as a basis for outrage and subsequent exit.

The mayor pleaded with him not to leave and the Council would correct the small discrepancy. To no avail. CAP had no intention of working within the system. It was either the CAP way or the highway.

Luckily, three councilmen saw through this charade and had the courage to defy CAP’s display of imaginary power and unprofessional behavior. The vote was more than a vote on the manual. It was a vote to determine if the CAP organization was in charge of OV or the citizens are in control through their elected officials.

No good can come from a situation where an organization, no matter how much good they do, believes and acts like they can dictate to the elected government. I am reminded of 1981 when the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization (PATCO) thought that they were bigger than the U.S. government.

Just so you are fully informed. The CAP’s claim that they have saved OV $70,000 this year is “creative accounting” at its best. I challenge anyone to show the “real” savings to OV to be anywhere near this number.

What does the Council do next? I believe that OV needs a CAP organization. I believe that, with the right controls and oversight, an organization such as this can assist the Police Department. To that end, it is my intention to put a motion forward at the next Council meeting to task the mayor and myself with reconstituting the CAP organization. Exactly what that entails will be determined by the Town Council.

Roy Thomas, Councilman
Ocean View