Dewey Beach Town Manager Marc Appelbaum’s last day on the job is Friday, Oct. 20, and he’s going to be leaving $100,000 richer.
As part of a separation agreement reached between Appelbaum and the town, the town will pay Appelbaum’s salary and health benefits until his contract ends in March. In addition, the town agreed to pay Appelbaum an additional $100,000 by Tuesday, Oct. 31. Appelbaum’s two-year contract was set to expire March 11, 2018; his annual salary is a little more than $75,000 a year.
Mayor TJ Redefer said in return, the town gets some protection for its employees, because Appelbaum has agreed the lawsuits would end. He said there’s also wording in the agreement that prevents town officials or Appelbaum from saying anything disparaging about the other party.
“It’s time to move on and end this war,” he said.
Immediately following Dewey town council’s Oct. 14 meeting, when town council unanimously agreed to enter into a separation agreement with Appelbaum, Redefer said the agreement would be available by Freedom of Information Act requests only. By Oct. 16, Redefer had changed his mind and put the document, along with a statement, on the town’s website.
“It was important to make a public statement,” he said Oct. 17. “We’re not a private company, and we can’t really have a private agreement. We wanted to make sure we do things in the sunshine.”
To date, and not including Appelbaum’s remaining contract, Redefer said the town is closing in on spending more than $300,000 between the $100,000 buyout and attorney fees.
“We could possibly break [$300,000], which makes me sick,” he said.
Redefer is remaining mum on who will serve as interim town manager while town officials search for a permanent replacement. He said he is confident Ashleigh Hudson, town clerk, knows how to run the day-to-day operations in the immediate future.
“This could take months,” he said of finding Appelbaum’s replacement.
Redefer said he was hoping to schedule an emergency executive session for Saturday, Oct. 21, to discussion with fellow commissioners his plan for the interim town manager. As of Thursday, Oct. 19, the meeting had not been scheduled.
Public Integrity Commission closes investigation
The Delaware Public Integrity Commission has finished its investigation into Dewey Beach Town Manager Marc Appelbaum, and much like the town’s own investigator, while condemning behavior Appelbaum was accused of, the commission ultimately decided it had no jurisdiction to move forward.
Deborah Moreau, commission counsel, said the commission reviewed its findings into the employee complaints lodged against Appelbaum during its Oct. 17 meeting. The commission received the complaint June 29 and reviewed it during its August meeting before deciding to conduct the investigation.
“Despite the unconscionable conduct inflicted upon the parties who filed the complaints, the commission decided that the vast majority of the allegations were for conduct that was not within PIC's jurisdiction,” wrote Moreau in an Oct. 18 email. “No cause, however sympathetic, can confer jurisdiction where it does not exist.”
Moreau said the few remaining allegations, for which the commission did have jurisdiction, were not supported by evidence and did not meet statutory requirements to support the violation.
“The matter is now considered closed,” she said.
Rick Cross, the attorney representing the complainants, which include police Chief Sam Mackert, beach patrol Capt. Todd Fritchman, building inspector Bill Mears, additional current and former employees, former council members and the comptroller for a local business, was not impressed by the commission’s decision.
Cross said the commission sent him a little more detail on its findings. He said the commission found that since Martha Sweeney, comptroller for Dewey-based Highway One, wasn’t interested in obtaining a job, that Appelbaum cornering her in his office, putting his hand on her leg and offering a job for “playing her cards right” was not improper. Appelbaum denied Sweeney’s allegations.
“If that’s the new standard for behavior by government officials, we should all be outraged,” Cross wrote in an Oct. 18 email.
Redefer said he knew the PIC investigation had ended.
“The entire town and all of its staff have been through enough,” he said in an email Oct. 19. “People on all sides have suffered for far too long, and the costs are far too high. It is my hope that this is the beginning of a new day in Dewey Beach.”
Laurence Cronin, Appelbaum’s attorney, did not comment on the decision.