New complaint filed against Dewey town manager

Independent investigation into accusations against Appelbaum not completed
September 11, 2017

Story Location:
Dagsworthy Ave
Dewey Beach  Delaware  19971
United States

Now sitting at 16, the list of current and former town employees who have come forward to publicly complain about Dewey Town Manager Marc Appelbaum continues to grow.

Wilmington-based attorney Rick Cross sent a letter to town solicitor Fred Townsend Sept. 5 saying that Alderman Court bailiff Don Robinson wrote a note to police Chief Sam Mackert in July to relay recent lewd and sexist comments made by Applebaum in front of women town employees.

“The office atmosphere changed and became quiet,” said Robinson in the July 21 note.

The total number of complaints that Appelbaum has created a toxic work environment is now 19.

The original letter, signed June 14 by Mackert, beach patrol Capt. Todd Fritchman, Building Inspector Bill Mears and nine members of the police department, 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, filed by Alderman Court clerk Diane Jones, Highway One Properties comptroller Martha Sweeney and former Alderman Court clerk Barbara Kyewski, were filed in late June.

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

Former town clerk Katrina White filed a complaint July 10, making her number 18.

Mayor Dale Cooke said Sept. 6 that he had heard the newest complaint exists, but he didn’t know anything about it. He said he was curious as to why Cross decided to hold onto the information for so long. The newest complaints come on the heels of news in the Cape Gazette that town police Sgt. Cliff Dempsey’s gun and two loaded magazines were stolen from his car and have not been recovered. Dempsey is one of the police officers who signed the original letter of complaint.

Cross said he made the formal request when he did because he was upset Cooke had recently said nothing had happened to change his view about suspending Appelbaum.

As recently as Aug. 25, days after town employees were caught allowing certain town documents to be shredded despite instruction to preserve documents from the Delaware State Public Integrity Commision, Cooke said if anything changes council would reconsider its decision to not suspend Appelbaum.

The bailiff came forward as soon as it happened, said Cross, and, according to his notes, he said had heard about it on or around July 27. He said he notified the town’s investigator as soon as heard about it, so the information, presumably, he said, was known by the town for six or seven weeks.

Cooke said he found out about the newest incident Sept. 5.

As far as when the town’s independent investigation against Appelbaum would be complete, Cooke said he didn’t know. He said all interviews may not yet be complete. 

“All I can say is that I hope it’s coming soon,” said Cooke.

Hanson says stolen gun sparked employee complaints

Commissioner Diane Hanson says the incident with the stolen gun is what sparked the original complaint. She said Appelbaum informed Mackert that an outside agent had been retained to conduct an audit of police policies and procedures as part of the town’s response to the theft. Four days later, she said, the chief and eight of his subordinates publicly filed their complaint letter against the town manager.

“To date, the chief has not made himself available to meet with the outside auditor on any of the numerous dates proposed,” she wrote in a prepared statement Sept. 6. “Town council still expects to have a thorough review of all police policies and procedures conducted, particularly to make sure those policies and procedures were followed with respect to the theft of a loaded weapon and to determine if changes and improvements are needed.”

In response, Mackert said the police department concluded its internal investigation regarding the stolen firearm June 7, and disciplinary action has been taken against the officer. As for the outside consultant, they have contacted the police department and will review the police department policy manual, Mackert said.