Rehoboth’s city manager contract continues to be questioned

Rehoboth mayor: Board stands by unanimous vote to hire new manager
May 10, 2024

Story Location:
Rehoboth Beach City Hall
229 Rehoboth Avenue
Rehoboth Beach, DE 19971
United States

For the second straight meeting since Rehoboth Beach officials announced the hiring of Taylour Tedder as the new city manager, members of the public raised concerns about his contract and if his resumé meets qualifications set out in the city charter.

On April 8, Rehoboth announced it had hired Tedder to replace former City Manager Laurence Christian, who had left in early November after 10 months. As part of Tedder’s contract, among other things, he will receive an annual salary of $250,000, $50,000 toward moving expenses and a $750,000 house loan that will be forgiven in full if he stays with the city for seven years.

The city charter says a new city manager must have served as city manager of another city for at least four years and have engineering experience of at least four years. Tedder doesn’t meet either of those requirements.

The topic of Tedder’s contract wasn’t specifically on the agenda May 6, but commissioners had planned to discuss possible charter changes that included wording related to the minimum requirements for a new city manager. Before any charter changes can go into effect, a municipality must get a local legislator to sponsor the changes and then get approval from the full General Assembly.

Mayor Stan Mills began the discussion on the charter changes by saying commissioners would defer the issue until the next legislative session, which begins in January 2025, instead of trying to get the changes passed by the end of this legislation session, which is June 30.

Mills then allowed members of the public in attendance to comment on Tedder’s contract, but not before reading a statement.

“There’s no doubt that Taylour brings a wealth of expertise to the table. His experience and credentials align well with the city’s unique challenges and opportunities. His hiring signifies a pivotal step forward in meeting the desires of our stakeholders and citizens in addressing the needs of our community,” said Mills. “The hiring of Mr. Tedder, by unanimous vote, was a statement that our hiring of Taylour applies with the spirit of the charter, and ensuring that a satisfactory candidate is appointed city manager.”

Members of the public in attendance weren’t swayed.

Cynthia and Bill Broydrick, who live on St. Lawrence Street, each had different concerns.

Cynthia said in a sarcastic tone that she and others in the city would like to be able to participate in the city’s mortgage reduction plan.

Bill questioned provisions in the charter about minimum requirements, which, he said, Tedder simply doesn’t meet. The city acted out of fear and now it’s in this situation, he said.

Property owner Jim Johnson said the contract is tone deaf to what the citizens of the city want, and he questioned why, if the city is providing such a house loan, commissioners didn’t require him to live in town.

A lot of mistakes were made and this was poorly handled, said Johnson.

Other than Mills’ opening comment, no other comments were made by commissioners.

Also not discussed during the meeting was how the city got to the terms of the contract. At a previous meeting, which took place April 19, Mills said commissioners would provide that information in the future.

When asked why the explanation wasn’t prepared for the May 6 meeting, Mills said it would be forthcoming, but it wasn’t ready at that point.

Case law appears to support legality of house loan

The Cape Gazette received an anonymous phone message asking the publication to look at Section 8 of Article VIII in the Delaware Constitution because it appears to suggest the home loan violates that section.

It’s a short passage and reads, “No county, city, town or other municipality shall lend its credit or appropriate money to, or assume the debt of, or become a shareholder or joint owner in or with any private corporation or any person or company whatever.”

The constitution doesn’t appear to have a list of exceptions to the law, but the city defended its decision.

In an email May 2, City Solicitor Alex Burns said this form of compensation is permissible because it is designed to serve the public purpose of securing a top-quality city manager and, in turn, improving city operations.

Widener University Delaware Law School Dean Todd J. Clark found previous case law that seems to read into the constitution a condition about public purpose such that a benefit to an individual would be upheld if it were found to have a public purpose.

The Delaware Supreme Court published an opinion in December 1963 in a case related to increasing the pension funds payable to firemen and widows of deceased firemen who had retired prior to or will retire subsequent to the effective date of legislation that had been signed into law in June 1963.

The court in this case upheld the legislation, finding that “if the act in question serves a public purpose, it will be held to be consistent with Article VIII, Section 8, of the Delaware Constitution,” said Clark.

He said he didn’t check to see if this is still good law, but assuming that this is, Clark said the question would be whether the loan in question serves a public purpose, understanding that the court in the cited case was notably deferential to the legislative judgment.

No extra money spent on Christian

Shortly after the city announced former City Manager Laurence Christian was leaving, commissioners voted in favor of hiring him as a consultant while the city searched for his replacement. It appears his services were not used.

The city never utilized Christian in a consultant capacity, said Lynne Coan, city spokesperson, in an email April 26. He did no additional work for the city after he left Nov. 3, and he received no additional compensation, she said.


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