In Dewey, now 18 complaints against Appelbaum

Council will address issue publicly for first time during July 14 meeting
July 14, 2017

Story Location:
105 Rodney Ave.
Dewey Beach  Delaware  19971
United States

The number of people in Dewey who are willing to testify under oath that Town Manager Marc Appelbaum should be removed from his position continues to grow.

Beginning with a letter sent by 12 employees to town commissioners June 14, the count of complaints has now reached 18 with the July 10 submission from former town clerk Katrina White.

“I have read the complaints in the letter dated June 14, 2017. I experienced first-hand many of the things described in that letter and wished to voice my support for the suspension and termination of Marc Appelbaum,” she writes.

White said she worked for the town seasonally off and on beginning in 1995 and then full time beginning in 2010. The last nine months of her employment were under Appelbaum.

After citing many of the same complaints as the previous 17, White says she would have stayed working for the town if it weren’t for Appelbaum. She said she relayed her concerns to then Mayor Diane Hanson during an exit interview.

“I finally became so fed up with Mr. Appelbaum's behavior that I could no longer tolerate working at the town and resigned,” she said. “I have never heard that anything was done as a result of my concerns.”

When asked to respond, Hanson, now a commissioner, said she had no comment. “I have been instructed by our attorney to not make any comments during the investigation,” she said. “I hope the public and the press can understand that.”

Appelbaum could not be reached for comment.

The original letter, signed by, among others, police Chief Sam Mackert, beach patrol Capt. Todd Fritchman and Building Inspector Bill Mears, cites sexual harassment, offensive language, misuse of town funds, racial discrimination and jeopardizing public safety as reasons for Appelbaum’s dismissal.

The 13th, 14th and 15th complaints were submitted to the commissioners June 27 by Alderman Court clerk Diane Jones and June 28 by Martha Sweeney, Highway One Properties comptroller, and former Alderman Court clerk Barbara Kyewski.

Then June 29, Richard Cross, the attorney representing the complainants, took the complaints to the next level by filing a complaint with Delaware’s Public Integrity Commission. Cross outlines the argument against Appelbaum and ends the complaint by asking for the permanent removal of Appelbaum as town manager.

Complainants 16 and 17, both submitted July 5, are property owner Robert Belmonte and former Commissioner Rick Solloway.

“I believe [Appelbaum] has created a toxic environment and acted inappropriately,” writes Solloway. “It is my belief that it is a pattern of behavior and not a one-time situation.”

Dewey Beach Town Council will meet July 14 for the first time since the revolt began. The meeting agenda calls for a statement regarding the allegations.

Mayor Dale Cooke said July 12 that he wasn’t sure if he or town solicitor Fred Townsend would be making the statement. He said it will likely be a preplanned statement.

As for the complaint to the integrity commission, not much has changed since it was submitted.

Richard Cross, the attorney representing the Dewey complainants, said the integrity commission has asked that he not make any further comment on the commission’s investigation.

“Under their rules, they ask that it stay confidential,” he said.

Other than confirming receipt of the complaint and giving a general timeframe, the commission itself is not saying much.

Deborah Moreau, commission counsel, said, barring any unforeseen circumstances, she is expecting the commission to conduct a preliminary review of the complaint during its August meeting. She said before the commission can investigate such a matter, it first must conduct the preliminary review to determine whether the complaint sufficiently alleges facts which, if true, would constitute a violation of the code of conduct.