Marc Appelbaum may not be town manager anymore, but that doesn’t mean the town of Dewey is done shelling out money. The employees who filed complaints that led to Appelbaum’s departure also want to be financially compensated.
Rick Cross, the Wilmington-based attorney representing a list of complainants that includes the police chief, the chief’s senior officers, the beach patrol captain and the building inspector, said the victims in this case are his clients. They lived under the thumb of an out-of-control town manager who was allowed to act unchecked, he said.
“We look forward to wrapping up this ugly incident if the town is ready to do so as well,” said Cross in an Oct. 18 email.
After a summer-long nor’easter raged inside town hall, Mayor TJ Redefer and Appelbaum entered into a separation agreement Oct. 14. As part of the deal, the former town manager agreed to a number of conditions, including that his last day was Oct. 20. In return, town agreed to pay him the remaining six months of his contract, plus $100,000.
Shortly after the agreement was signed, Redefer estimated the town was nearing a total of $300,000 between Appelbaum’s buyout and the independent investigation into employee allegations against Appelbaum.
Cross said if the town isn’t willing to settle with his clients, a claim will be filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. He said the claim was the first step in filing a suit based on harassment.
“While we aren’t happy with the extra payment to [Appelbaum], if the town is willing to pay that kind of money to the perpetrator, I’m assuming they are willing to be reasonable with my clients, who were the victims of his behavior,” said Cross.
The investigation into the allegations, led by Wilmington attorney Max Walton, revealed some complaints had merit, but it also said many were overblown and the result of retaliation. Walton said he did not find grounds to dismiss Appelbaum. He recommended Appelbaum be formally reprimanded and required to complete training in anti-harassment and anti-discrimination.
Town council held a special executive session Oct. 25 to discuss the complainants’ demand. The following morning, Oct. 26, Redefer said there are offers being made and considered by the attorneys from both sides, but he declined to comment any further.
Cross said Oct. 26 the town rejected an offer made by his clients and he was moving forward on the complaint for the employment opportunity commission. He said he expected to file the complaint next week.
Redefer said he was bummed the complainants looked at the agreement with Appelbaum and thought they should get paid too. The reason the agreement was palatable at all, he said, was because it included employee protections from any suit filed by Appelbaum.
“That’s worth paying for,” Redefer said. “My hope all along has been that when those employees saw the fresh blood getting things done that they would know things were going to change. I was hoping that would be good enough.”
Interim town manager update
Redefer said Assistant Town Manager Jim Dedes and Town Clerk Ashleigh Hudson will fill the role of Appelbaum until at least the next council meeting Saturday, Nov. 11. He said he expects to have a discussion with fellow commissioners on who should serve as interim town manager while the town looks for Appelbaum’s permanent replacement.
Redefer said, in an effort to provide continuity, he and Commissioner Dale Cooke will act as liaisons for different departments for the next couple of weeks.