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In Dewey, town committees draw debate

Moskowitz removed as audit committee liaison
November 29, 2019

Dewey commissioners approved most town committees Nov. 9, but one commissioner objected to his removal as audit committee liaison.

Commissioner David Moskowitz said as a CPA, he should be in charge of the audit committee. Moskowitz also questioned the accuracy of the committee member list, noting one member was deceased.

Mayor TJ Redefer originally listed himself as audit committee liaison, but later substituted Commissioner Gary Persinger for the role. The vote approving Persinger as liaison and Julie Johnson as chair passed 3-2; Moskowitz voted against and Persinger abstained.

Later in the meeting, Redefer told Moskowitz he removed him as liaison because he didn’t respond to a Freedom of Information Act request by a deadline set by Town Clerk/FOIA Coordinator Ashleigh Hudson.

“You asked why you were taken off the committee there was so much controversy around,” Redefer said. “This is the answer why.”

On Sept. 20, Moskowitz received Redefer’s request that he provide emails he sent and received between certain Dewey residents and several reporters, including a Cape Gazette reporter and editor, from his election in September 2018 to the present, by Sept. 27.

“Commissioner Moskowitz has been conducting [a] sinister attack to undermine our town, town manager, other staff, and several committees for some time and it is time to show the world what he has been up to,” Redefer wrote in his request. 

Redefer said Moskowitz committed a FOIA violation by not submitting the emails on time, which he said could result in an attorney general or Public Integrity Commission complaint. Delaware Code states that a public body must respond to a FOIA request as soon as possible, but in any event within 15 business days by providing requested documents or by advising that additional time is needed.

“I do not wish to be the headline in the Cape Gazette that the mayor of Dewey Beach is filing a complaint against a sitting commissioner,” Redefer said. “I want to be able to trust everybody at this table, I want the facts to be clear, and I want them to be provided.” 

Moskowitz said he submitted 74 emails Oct. 14 and 27 emails Oct. 23 from private accounts and his official account. “Those are all the emails,” he said.

In other committee business, commissioners voted unanimously to retain Moskowitz as investment committee liaison and Manuel Bramao as chair.

Infrastructure committee Chair Jim Tyler said he wanted Diane Hanson, whose name was stricken from the committee list, to remain on the committee.

“She has exceptional knowledge and experience with the town, and a strong relationship with the Center for the Inland Bays,” Tyler said. “Diane will serve on the committee only if Dave Davis will not.”

A motion to table the vote passed 3-2; Redefer, Paul Bauer and Dale Cooke voted for, and Persinger and Moskowitz voted against. Persinger said any volunteers who want to work should be given the opportunity regardless of personality conflicts.

After the meeting, Davis said he has volunteered for several town committees over the years.

“I just finished chairing the budget and finance committee for two successive and successful years,” he said. “I asked to be on infrastructure this year so I can continue the work of helping the town deal with its most pressing need - its aging infrastructure and the need to deal with sea level rise before it begins to submerge the southern end of town. It’s a shame that Diane Hanson has taken this surprising and rather immature stance, and I hope the commissioners will see fit to include me as a member of the committee.”

Budget and finance committee was approved with Bill Stevens replacing Dave Davis as chair; charter and code review and marketing committees were also approved unanimously with chairs David King and Drew Martin, respectively. 

A vote to approve the comprehensive development plan committee was tabled because it had no chair.