Dewey Beach commissioners voted Feb. 29 to fully reimburse Commissioner Paul Bauer for legal expenses involving a lawsuit regarding his candidacy.
The amount, just over $14,000, was not outrageous, said Commissioner Dale Cooke, noting he would have also immediately hired an attorney if he were in Bauer’s position.
“I would have thought it would be higher,” Cooke said. “We could’ve found ourselves in a hell of a mess if we hadn't voted to indemnify. The town would be paying a lot more than this.”
Commissioner David Moskowitz said council voted in January to reimburse Bauer for reasonable legal fees regarding the lawsuit that was filed and dropped by commissioner candidate Phil Rowe.
Moskowitz said he would vote to reimburse just under $13,000, the amount he said was recommended by Town Solicitor Fred Townsend. Townsend said it was unusual to have his advice made public and that commissioners are within their discretion to vote as they choose.
Commissioner Gary Persinger said he first agreed with Townsend’s recommendation, but changed his mind. Persinger said about $2,300 in fees were incurred before the lawsuit was filed, $10,000 in fees were associated with the complaint, and an additional $1,400 was incurred after the suit was withdrawn.
Persinger said he was uncomfortable having the town pay the entire bill, but he said the post-complaint fee was reasonable and necessary because Bauer could not be an advocate for his own indemnification.
“There’s a personal cost to being a commissioner, so I don't think it's worthwhile for us to turn down Commissioner Bauer’s request,” he said.
Mayor TJ Redefer said commissioners could change the indemnification process in the future.
“But for me, right here, right now today, I know I would have had counsel as soon as possible, and I believe these are reasonable,” he said.
Former Mayor Pat Wright, who was Bauer’s poll watcher during the election vote recounts, spoke in favor of full reimbursement.
Council voted 3-0-1; Redefer, Cooke and Persinger voted to fully reimburse, Moskowitz abstained, and Bauer was absent.
In a Feb. 29 email, Rowe said, “I find it interesting that Bauer’s legal fees were over 250 percent of mine and that town rules were ignored to pay them. However, I am on to bigger things where my skills are valued and needed and will leave the citizens of Dewey to judge these types of off-budget expenditures.”
After the meeting, Bauer said he was glad the issue was put to rest. He said allegations made against him were false, and the suit was a personal attack on his family and the town.