Former Dewey commissioner critical

August 22, 2014

Mayor Diane Hanson wrote a letter in last Friday’s Cape Gazette that implied all commissioners unanimously supported Marc Appelbaum’s appointment as permanent town manager 18 months ago.

It is factually inaccurate. I did not support him. The vote was 4-1 with me voting against him and citing serious concerns about his understanding and commitment to transparency in government.

I thought his candidacy should have been evaluated by the town’s independent search committee, but Mayor Hanson disbanded it, so we lost that opportunity. I had many other concerns about his lack of municipal experience and closed-door operating style but diplomatically limited my comments publicly.

And when I saw his contract enabling him to have full use of the car, I certainly didn’t think it allowed him to be on the town payroll working from New Orleans in the winter and taking the town car there.

My transparency concerns have been proven right, unfortunately. We have a town government in which public information is at the lowest level in years. The public’s emails and some requests for information are largely ignored or sloppily fulfilled. Commissioner emails and emails of the town manager are often not included. Many tapes of town meetings are not available on the website, and town meetings are poorly webcast with volume now so low no one can hear what is said.

That makes it harder to discern that some information reported by town officials at public meetings is minimal or distorted. Posting of agenda items is sometimes vague and doesn’t tell the public that action may be taken so they can voice their concerns. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

There are many other actions by Appelbaum that are highly questionable.

Appelbaum ignores direct requests for information from both commissioners and the public, and Mayor Hanson enables him to do so with impunity. If a commissioner opposes his ideas, he retaliates against that commissioner by withholding information and keeping that person in the dark.

The mayor does not speak up for her fellow commissioners and insist that the town manager be accountable to the elected representatives of the people.

My observation is that the mayor continues to blindly support Appelbaum no matter what information is withheld, what inappropriate behavior he displays, how much harm he does to property owners costing them and the town tens of thousands of dollars for his arbitrary misuse of the zoning code, or how much disrespect he displays for the people that he supposedly works for.

Mayor Hanson has been a hardworking mayor and deserves our thanks for staying in the saddle so long. But I believe her allegiance to Appelbaum prevents her from seeing the downward spiral of the town under his reign - and it is his reign - and how much power he has taken from her and the duly elected representatives of the people. Appelbaum ignores the limitations on his role as town manager and expands it at every opportunity. This situation should be addressed before there is further harm to the town and its property owners.

Joy Howell
former commissioner
Town of Dewey Beach

Editor’s Note: In addition to serving as a commissioner, Joy Howell has a master’s degree in public administration from Harvard.


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