Dewey Beach commissioners named members to three town committees Jan. 11. Most contentious was the battle over the budget and finance committee.
Mayor TJ Redefer said a town resolution states commissioners may recommend committee members to a committee chair, who will submit a proposed list of members for commissioner approval.
Committee membership has been an ongoing source of contention.
“There’s been quite a bit of public conversation about this,” Redefer said. “The notion that somehow the mayor is somehow controlling this is false.”
On the other hand, town resident Jim Degan, who attended budget and finance meetings, told commissioners Chair Dave Davis hand-picked his own people to limit public access to the committee.
Redefer said Davis proposed William Stevens, Jill Compello, James Przygocki, and Phil Winkler, as well as Joe Kienle in a nonvoting, advisory role.
Stevens ran unsuccessfully for commissioner in 2018; Compello ran in 2017. Przygocki is a former commissioner.
Redefer said Davis was asked to consider three additional names: Nancy McCloskey, Michelle Quinn and Lynn Winkler. However, Redefer said, Davis did not add those names to his list.
Commissioner Paul Bauer’s motion to approve the five members failed for lack of a second; when Redefer offered to second the motion he was informed that as mayor, he could not.
Commissioner David Moskowitz then motioned to approve the five original names, excluding Przygocki, and the three additional names. The additional nominees included an MBA, a lawyer who does business acquisitions and a budget director formerly employed by the town, he said. That motion also failed.
Bauer said town charter states the town has until the second week of March to prepare a draft budget, and that committee chairs should select members. “Are we now telling chairs who their committee is?” Bauer asked.
Commissioner Dale Cooke said the budget does not depend on the committee.
“If you want to quote charter, it says the town manager will create the budget and present it for approval to commissioners,” said Cooke, adding that commissioners have final say on committee members.
Town Counsel Fred Thompson agreed, “Otherwise there would be no point in sending it to the commissioners, if commissioners didn’t have the authority to add or subtract from the list.”
Commissioner Gary Persinger, budget and finance committee liaison, said he told Davis he would approve the five original names. He said he also suggested one of the three additional names to Davis a couple times.
“Neither time did he accept my recommendation,” Persinger said. “In my view, if someone is willing to volunteer to be on a committee, why would the committee chair not accept that? I can’t think of any rational reason why that would be the case.”
Persinger motioned to approve the original five and the additional three; Cooke seconded. Moskowitz moved to amend the motion to omit Przygocki, who Moskowitz said had been censured by commissioners a few years ago for creating a hostile workplace. The amended motion also failed for lack of a second.
Moskowitz said Davis had given commissioners an ultimatum.
“The committee shouldn’t be Dave Davis and friends, it should be an actual budget committee,” Moskowitz said. “[Davis] sent us a nasty email around Christmas saying you do it my way, or I’m going to resign in seven days.”
Persinger urged commissioners to give people the opportunity to help the town.
“We have trouble getting people to participate in town activities,” he said. “If people want to come forward and put the effort out to be a part of this community and have some influence over what is fundamental to providing town services, why in the world would we deny them that opportunity?”
All eight names were approved by commissioners.
Commissioners also approved Jimmie Lee, Brian Privor, Michael Shaffer, William Stevens, Dennis Trencher and advisor Rich Miller for the investment committee; and Ellen Blocher, Alex Hannah, Gil Hofheimer, Luisa Martinez, Kelly Ranieri and Janine Stevens for the marketing committee
Commissioners also voted unanimously to reappoint former Commissioner Marty Seitz to the planning and zoning commission for a three-year term.