Rehoboth tables LLC voting

Residency requirement, purging process still on agenda
December 15, 2017

The Rehoboth Beach commissioners, by a 5-0 vote, agreed to table a proposal that would have allowed property owners who own property through a limited liability company to vote.

By tabling the measure, a majority of the commissioners must vote to bring the item back for discussion.

Removing an agenda topic in this fashion is highly unusual in Rehoboth. Most of the commissioners were not aware of this ever occurring before.

At their Dec. 15 meeting, Commissioners Stan Mills, Patrick Gossett, Toni Sharp, Jay Lagree and Mayor Paul Kuhns all voted in favor of tabling, while commissioners Kathy McGuiness and Lisa Schlosser abstained. Although the commissioners had agreed to table the measure at their Dec. 4 workshop, McGuiness asked why the commissioners tabled the measure instead of removing it from the agenda.

Mills said while he was fine with tabling the measure, he also didn’t mind taking the matter to a vote as a way of killing it once and for all.

City Solicitor Glenn Mandalas said tabling the provision was the most effective way to formalize that the commissioners were no longer going to talk about LLC voting rights for the near future. Sharp said the commissioners heard the community loud and clear, and after the vote was taken, a few members of the small audience applauded.

The LLC provision would have allowed those who owned at least 50 percent of a property that was 100 percent owned in an LLC to vote. The measure proved highly unpopular at a Dec. 2 town hall meeting, where public opinion was overwhelmingly opposed. Besides letters from citizens, the city also received a letter from the Delaware chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union against the measure. While the organization usually supports expanding the right to vote, the LLC provision would have diluted the voter pool for political purposes, the letter stated.

“We fear this may be an attempt on the part of elected officials to choose their voters, rather than the voters choosing their elected officials,” the letter said. “The proposal is to enfranchise only the stakeholders of one kind of artificial entity that owns property.”

After tabling LLC voting, the commissioners moved forward with other charter changes related to voting.

For their January workshop, commissioners will begin discussing issues such as entity voting in referendum elections, a change they said would bring the city in line with state law, and term limits. Also part of this package would be changing the residency requirement for voting and changing the process for removing voters from the voter rolls. The city currently purges voters who have not voted in two consecutive elections, and while all the commissioners agree that should be changed, there is disagreement as to what the criteria should be.