Eight months after Dewey commissioners passed a motion to sell unneeded military surplus items by April 11, officials decided March 30 to extend the deadline until July and liquidate the entire inventory.
“Independence Day is a lovely day to get to zero,” said Dewey Mayor TJ Redefer. “Let’s sell it, scrap it or trash it, get to zero and start again to build trust within the town.”
Reading from a statement, Redefer said, “We’ve made great progress despite an angry minority that finds fault in all we’ve done.”
Town Manager Scott Koenig said some items, such as cameras and weapons, have been returned to the government. The original number of items in the town’s possession has dropped from 2,634 to 2,187.
“If we had to buy any of this with our dollars, would we have bought it?” Koenig asked. “I don’t think we would have bought any of it.”
Koenig said a state or national auction website would be the first way to dispose of items, possibly followed by a local auction. He said the only item used regularly is the Humvee. “But I would release it to get away from the entire stigma of the program.”
Commissioner Gary Persinger said it took months to receive a full inventory of items, and said he still did not receive justification on actual use for items on the list.
“It struck me as foot-dragging. It was disturbing,” Persinger said. “I could not imagine after eight months there could be any doubt about what would be sold.”
Persinger said he wants to start with items of highest acquisition value.
“We’re already at the end of the time frame we originally set unanimously in August for disposing of all equipment,” he said. “We’ve had eight months to do this. It’s time.”
Commissioner Dale Cooke said the police did the town a great favor by participating in the program.
“The program is not toxic; the process became a problem,” he said. “There was a lack of oversight as things drew out over many years. [Police] were winging it, trying to do what they thought was best. There was foot-dragging, but not deliberate. I just feel they were overwhelmed. We need to move on. I’m willing to say get rid of it all.”
Cooke said the town should stay in the program, and said proceeds from the sale of any items should go to the police restricted fund as originally intended. “Let’s not throw out the baby with the bathwater.”
Commissioner David Moskowitz said he supported staying in the program if it is managed responsibly, and he suggested keeping things with a legitimate need, such as a Shop-Vac used by officers.
In an email following the meeting, Diane Hanson, who was mayor in spring 2016, said the town did not know the true extent of the program until Dewey Citizens for Accountability did extensive research in 2017 and found the police had accumulated thousands of pieces of equipment originally valued at $2.8 million over a period of about four years.
“That occurred when TJ was mayor, and he has done very little to hold anyone accountable for the equipment accumulation, the false accusations against Town Manager Marc Appelbaum that cost the town at least $500,000, or the repeated false arrests of citizens who have now sued the town,” Hanson added. “I do not think his ‘angry minority’ is, in fact, a minority. The people of Dewey Beach are not at all happy about what is occurring right now, and TJ has no one to blame but himself for his misrepresentation of the facts and his failure to hold employees accountable.”