Citizens spur AG probe of city manager hire

Petition: Rehoboth officials violated FOIA when making offer to Tedder
June 11, 2024

At the request of dozens of concerned citizens and property owners, the Attorney General Office’s is investigating whether Rehoboth Beach violated Freedom of Information Act rules when it hired City Manager Taylour Tedder.

In a June 3 letter sent to City Solicitor Alex Burns, Deputy Attorney General Dorey L. Cole requested the city provide a response to the allegations, including the factual basis and any legal authorities for its position, by Tuesday, June 11. In many instances, the city will need to submit a sworn affidavit with its response to satisfy its burden of proof, she said.

A determination will be issued after the city’s submission, said Cole.

The city announced the hiring of Tedder in early April. Among other things, his contract calls for a $250,000 annual salary, plus $50,000 in moving expenses and a $750,000 home loan that will be forgiven in full if he stays for seven years.

A complaint letter was initially sent April 25 to the Joint Legislative Oversight and Sunset Committee, which performs periodic legislative review of entities, commissions or boards.

“The concerned citizens and stakeholders of Rehoboth Beach respectfully request support from the JLOSC, State of Delaware in reviewing these hiring and budgeting processes, financial and other authority and procedures; and/or to refer this request for review to the appropriate state entity which can effectively address these alarming issues,” reads the original letter.

A second petition was submitted May 31 to the AG’s Office.

“This is a new, unvetted, policy regarding the establishment of a total compensation package of over $1,000,000 in Year 1, more than any other public official makes in the State of Delaware, and constitutes a 600% increase over the previous salary for the Rehoboth Beach city manager,” reads the petition. “The petitioners understand that the details of the individual negotiation process were permitted to be conducted in an executive session; again, however, the specifics of the new, unprecedented hiring package compensation policy were not disclosed to the public, or to other potential candidates, prior to the solicitation, and ultimate selection of, the candidate.”

The petition also argues that commissioners hired a new city manager that doesn’t meet charter requirements, specifically the part that says the city manager must have an engineering degree and have been a city manager for another municipality for at least four years.

“The candidate does not possess a degree in engineering, nor has the selectee served as a city manager for not less than four years,” reads the petition. “While the [board of commissioners] has been given some discretion in adding qualifications for the city manager position, it has not been given the authority to eliminate the two stipulated required legal qualifications, as stated above.”

The petitioners and the city will have to wait about a month from the AG’s imposed deadline before they’ll know if there will be any further action.

Delaware Department of Justice spokesperson Mat Marshall said rules call for a determination to be issued no later than 20 business days from the receipt of the petition. The rules allow for an extension if needed, but those are the exception and not the rule, he said.

As for commenting on the specific issue, Marshall said the office will forgo comment on final outcomes pending the FOIA desk’s analysis and final opinion.

If the AG’s Office determines the city did violate FOIA law when hiring Tedder, it would be the second time it did so in the last year. In February, the office also determined commissioners violated FOIA when they voted to hire Burns in November without sufficient public notice. As a result, at a meeting soon after the finding, commissioners had to conduct a public vote on the hiring and give their reasons for hiring Burns.

The city did not respond to a request for comment.


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