Planning commissioner recuses from Clear Space matter

Concerns raised after Rachel Macha contacted expert hired by appellants
February 26, 2021

Story Location:
Clear Space Theatre Company
415 Rehoboth Avenue
Rehoboth Beach, DE 19971
United States

Following a hearing with the state’s Public Integrity Commission, Rehoboth Beach Planning Commissioner Rachel Macha has recused herself from the Clear Space hearing set to resume Friday, Feb. 26.

Macha’s recusal comes after members of the public questioned her impartiality. She had independently contacted a sound engineer who submitted a report to the planning commission regarding potential noise levels from the theater’s two-building project at 413, 415 and 417 Rehoboth Ave. The report in question was submitted on behalf of a group of people who appealed, and won reversal of, the planning commission’s approval of the project back in August. City commissioners required the planning commission to conduct a second public hearing on the matter; the hearing was held Jan. 29.

Planning commissioners resumed discussion of the matter Feb. 12. In advance of that meeting, the appellants said Macha should not have contacted the sound engineer and she should recuse herself.

During the meeting, Macha said she reached out to the engineer with clarifying questions and that she would not recuse herself. However, she said she asked the PIC for an advisory opinion and that a hearing would be conducted the following week.

When reached by phone Feb. 24, Macha said she could not comment on her status for the meeting because the case on Clear Space is still open.

Planning Chair Jeff Trunzo confirmed Macha’s recusal in an email Feb. 24. She did not provide any details as to her reason for recusal, he said.

PIC Counsel Deborah Moreau said, by law, the PIC does not comment on reports that the commission is, or is not, involved in a matter.

Clear Space Executive Director Wesley Paulson declined to comment.

City solicitor accused of threatening appellant

In a Feb. 23 letter to the planning commission, appellant John Swift accused City Solicitor Glenn Mandalas of threatening him with unwarranted criminal and civil action if the complaint against Macha to the PIC wasn’t withdrawn. In addition to Macha contacting the PIC, Swift also submitted a complaint to the PIC about Macha contacting the sound engineer.

Swift goes on to say Mandalas should recuse himself as well. Swift argues that even if Mandalas didn’t participate in Macha’s original misdoing, he has subsequently participated with her. In addition to being threatened, Swift said Mandalas advised Macha to distribute the sound engineer’s report to the public, and he paved the way for Macha to improperly participate in the Feb. 12 meeting.

“If Ms. Macha cannot participate, neither should Mr. Mandalas,” said Swift, in his letter to the planning commission. “Mr. Mandalas has gone far beyond what is proper and certainly has himself shown an appearance of impropriety.”

Mandalas declined to comment.

The planning commission is set to resume deliberations at 11 a.m., Friday, Feb. 26.

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