Time to end spat over Hanson's integrity

March 18, 2013

The state Public Integrity Commission and Dewey Beach Mayor Diane Hanson have gone head to head for nearly two years over Hanson’s decision to vote to limit the height of new construction at Ruddertowne.

The commission had two primary arguments in finding Hanson violated the state code of conduct: Hanson owns rental property in Dewey Beach that could be negatively affected by Ruddertowne, and she was personally being sued in federal court by the developer, and the ordinance she voted on could be used in her defense.

Despite the commission’s finding against Hanson, the voters of Dewey Beach re-elected her, and in August 2012, a Superior Court judge reversed the commission’s decision.

But now the ethics commission has appealed the Superior Court decision to the Delaware Supreme Court.

There is something unseemly about a state agency that is supposed to protect public integrity spending taxpayer dollars to take a small-town mayor to court over a vote that has long since given way to bricks and mortar going up in Dewey Beach.

On the face of it, neither argument the commission puts forth reflects a concern for good government. If anyone who owns rental property must recuse on development decisions that could possibly affect their property, many beach town officials would be unable to vote on the most critical decisions facing their towns.

Even worse, if all it takes to force a commissioner to recuse is filing a federal case against her, what is to stop developers from filing cases against any council members who might vote against their interests?

These arguments appear to fly in the face of government by people in favor of government by attorneys.

If Hanson committed missteps, a more fruitful path would have been for the commission to issue instructions to town attorneys who approved her actions.

It’s time for the the commission and Hanson to issue a joint statement declining to spend further taxpayer dollars over an issue that is now moot.

Enough already. Both sides should allow this case to die the death it so long ago deserved.







  • Cape Gazette editorials are considered and written by members of the Cape Gazette editorial board which includes Dennis Forney, publisher; Trish Vernon, editor; Dave Frederick, sports editor emeritus; Laura Ritter, news editor; Jen Ellingsworth, associate editor; and Nick Roth, sports editor.

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