A Dewey Beach man is seeking relief from a no-contact order obtained against him by Dewey Beach Police.
Under the no-contact order, Jeffrey C. Smith of the advocacy group Dewey Citizens for Accountability is prohibited from contacting any Dewey commissioner or audit committee member until his arraignment Sept. 17, two days after Dewey’s municipal election.
Smith founded Dewey Citizens for Accountability in September 2017 in part to investigate the Dewey Beach Police Department’s use of funds from the acquisition and sale of surplus federal military equipment.
Following an Aug. 3 audit committee meeting, Smith was charged with theft and disorderly conduct after he declined a request to return a draft audit report discussed during the meeting.
Smith’s lawyer, Tim Willard, says the no-contact order is unusual because the police department is essentially claiming the town is the victim.
Willard filed an expedited motion for bond review Aug. 14, stating, “Mr. Smith’s right to free speech should not be restricted as it pertains to communications to town council or the audit committee. The town council or its members are not victims, nor were any members of the audit committee.
“No one other than the police department has apparently requested a no-contact order, and the police department is the entity being investigated by the audit,” Willard stated in the motion.
At press time, Willard said the court is still waiting for the state’s reply to his motion for an expedited hearing. In his motion, he requested the no-contact order with town commissioners and audit committee members, except audit committee Chair Larry Silver, be removed so that Smith can advocate for the citizens’ group and question town council and audit committee members, except Silver, during a crucial time period.
The audit committee meets Aug. 17 for a final vote on recommendations to Dewey’s town manager and commissioners regarding the second phase of agreed-upon procedures. Absentee voting in the town election begins Saturday, Sept. 1; election day is Saturday, Sept. 15.
At the Aug. 3 meeting, copies of the draft agreed-upon procedures report were distributed to attendees, who included audit committee members, town commissioners, reporters and the public. Two reporters and Smith left the meeting with copies of the draft financial report.
Court records state an announcement was made to the group that the documents must be returned after the meeting. Neither the reporters nor Smith recall hearing this announcement.
Smith said audit committee Chair Larry Silver ran at him across the parking lot and demanded the document’s return.
Court records state that Silver repeatedly asked Smith to return the draft as he continued walking to his car, and that Smith “began to scream loud and vulgar obscenities at Silver.” Court records state Silver attempted to grab the documents from Smith, who pulled them from Silver’s hand, causing a laceration.
Court records show Smith entered his car and placed the draft under a large dog in the passenger seat. Silver felt intimidated and walked away from the car, court documents state.
Smith returned the document by courier Aug. 8. He turned himself in to the Dewey Beach Police Department Aug. 10 on charges of theft and disorderly conduct. The no-contact order was issued Aug. 10.