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Public questions Dewey investigator’s contract

Report regarding accusations against town manager expected Sept. 12
Dewey’s independent investigation into accusation against Town Manager Marc Appelbaum is expected to be completed by Tuesday, Sept. 12. FILE PHOTO
September 12, 2017

Story Location:
Dagsworthy Ave
Dewey Beach  Delaware  19958
United States

For the first time since the June council meeting, and for the first time since town department heads and others revolted against Town Manager Marc Appelbaum, Dewey commissioners allowed public comment during its Sept. 9 meeting.

Property owner Marcia Schieck asked why the town hadn’t responded to former Mayor Dell Tush’s Freedom of Information Act request for the contract used to hire Wilmington-based attorney Max Walton, who is conducting the independent investigation into the employee accusations against Appelbaum.

It’s curious, Scheick said. It just feels like council is trying to hide something, she said.

Town solicitor Fred Townsend announced June 29 that Walton had been hired by the town to conduct the independent investigation, and his hiring was reaffirmed by council during its July 14 meeting.

During commissioner comment period, Commissioner Courtney Riordan agreed with Schieck’s comments and said he hadn’t seen the contract himself. He said he would like to see the contract because it’s an expenditure of public money for a public purpose.

The delivery of that contract should be expedited, he said, regarding Tush’s FOIA request.

In a follow-up conversation Sept. 11, Mayor Dale Cooke said Riordan hadn’t seen the contract because he didn’t ask. Cooke said during the initial executive session regarding this issue, town council told town solicitor Fred Townsend to hire someone. Other than that, he said, Townsend said town council shouldn’t be involved because it would look like the town’s governing body was trying to influence the results.

Cooke, who as mayor signs town checks, said Walton is getting paid $350 an hour, with no cap on spending, because the town isn’t going to tell the investigator to stop because after reaching some arbitrary limit.

“The best thing we can do is let the man do his job,” said Cooke. “They can claim we wasted money, which is not true, but they can’t claim we influenced the investigation.”

Townsend said he expected the results of Walton’s investigation, which may not be made public, at some point Tuesday, Sept. 12. 

In anticipation of investigation results, town council has scheduled three executive sessions over the next week – Wednesday, Sept. 13; Thursday, Sept. 14; and Friday, Sept. 15. All three meetings are scheduled for 5 p.m. in the life saving station, 1 Dagsworthy Ave.

As of Sept. 11, there is an action item for the Sept. 15 meeting calling for a discussion and possible vote on the Appelbaum issue.