Dewey commissioner accuses mayor of coercion
With the 2016 Dewey Beach municipal election a little more than a month away, Commissioner Gary Mauler has accused Mayor Diane Hanson of using coercion to affect the election’s outcome.
Mauler, who has been a commissioner since 2012, holds one of two commissioner seats up for re-election this year, but has not yet filed to seek another term. The other is Commissioner Courtney Riordan, who filed July 22.
During a recent interview, Mauler said that three to four weeks ago Hanson spoke with his wife over the phone and said that if he runs for re-election, “he was going to be sued by a town employee.”
When asked, Hanson, prepared for questions on the matter, said she had been advised by an attorney not to say anything.
“I have no comment,” she said.
Asked if she knew who the employee was, Hanson said she had no comment. Asked if the conversation was an appropriate action for mayor of a town to take, she said, “I didn’t say I did anything. I said, ‘No comment.’”
Mauler said his wife asked Hanson whether the town would defend Mauler against a suit because he was commissioner. He said his wife said Hanson responded that the unnamed employee would wait to file the lawsuit until after the election so the town wouldn’t be obligated to defend him anymore.
Mauler said he had an idea who the town employee was, but he declined to speculate. He said he hasn’t gone after any employee. He said it was his job as commissioner to be informed on the details of the town’s business, and it’s not his fault if employees get uncomfortable when he asks for the information.
“That’s our job. We were elected to get information and make sure the town is running smoothly,” he said. “This employee is taking things personal. I have a right to ask questions. I have a right to probe.”
Riordan and Commissioner Dale Cooke both said Mauler had told them the same story, but both said they didn’t know if it was true or not.
Riordan, an attorney, said if what Mauler was saying is true, it’s a Class A misdemeanor under Delaware law. The problem, he said, is that it’s very difficult to prove.
“Unless it’s written down, it’s a case of she said versus she said,” he said.
Cooke said when Mauler told him, his response was, “I hope that didn’t actually happen.”
Cooke said as far as he knows Mauler and his wife had no reason to lie about the conversation. He said he was taking Mauler’s word at face value.
“If he tells me that his wife told him this, I believe him,” he said.
Commissioner Mike Dunmyer’s wife works for the town. He said it was not his wife making the threats to sue.
Dunmyer said he would be shocked if Hanson were to have taken the path Mauler is describing. He said over the past year Mauler has taken every opportunity he could to be uncooperative with Hanson.
“I’d be hard pressed to believe any version Gary tells me,” he said.
Mauler, whose house on Dickinson Avenue abuts Hanson’s house on Collins Avenue, said his biggest problem with the situation is that Hanson spoke to his wife instead of him. That crossed a line, he said.
“She spoke to my wife for God sakes,” he said. “Why would she engage my wife? It shows the intentions were not honorable.”
As of Aug. 5, Mauler said he was leaning heavily towards filing for re-election, but he couldn’t say for sure.
“I’m still weighing my options,” he said. “It’s getting to the point, from a legal perspective, if it’s worth me being a commissioner or not.”
The filing deadline for the Saturday, Sept. 17 election is 5 p.m., Thursday, Aug. 18. Planning commission and comprehensive plan working group member Gary Persinger filed for the election July 26.