Lewes discusses ways to better handle citizen complaints
Lewes Mayor and City Council are discussing changes to the way the city receives, responds to and resolves citizen complaints and concerns.
The public had an opportunity to comment at the July 27 mayor and council workshop.
Accessibility, accountability and resolution were three words often used at the meeting.
Several solutions have been proposed, but the overwhelming sentiment was that the city should not form another committee.
Councilwoman Carolyn Jones said she’s always accessible. “I have no problem with people approaching me,” she said. “We do hear you. We spend an awful lot of time hearing you and addressing each of these things as they come up.”
Kevin McGuiness, head of the Lewes Beach Civic Association, said the current system is not working and expressed frustration with the process of navigating Lewes government. He floated the idea of an independent ombudsman, a person who would advocate for a citizen with a complaint. “It would allow for resolutions that are quicker, more effective, accurate and transparent, and take some of the burden off mayor and council,” he said.
“An ombudsman helps shepherd a person through the system, resolve conflict,” said Councilman Joe Elder, while saying he is open to all ideas. “It shouldn’t be a threat to us. It should be helpful,” he said.
Businessman Rick Quill said working with the city needs to be a friendlier experience. “I don’t want an adversarial position. I want cooperation and communication,” he said.
Another sentiment aired at the meeting was that the city should treat complaints and concerns from residents and nonresidents equally.
The city is already taking a step toward making it easier for residents and nonresidents to get in touch with city leaders by redesigning its website to include a section called Resident Self-Service. It will allow anyone to submit a complaint or question and be directed to the correct staff manager. “The update will allow people to report potholes or lodge a complaint much more efficiently and get 24-48-hour responses,” said Deputy Mayor Khalil Saliba. The new website is expected to launch in six to eight months.
The full workshop can be viewed at lewes.civicweb.net.