Sussex2030 group weighs in on recent issues
The following letter was sent to Sussex County Council with a copy submitted to the Cape Gazette.
We are in complete agreement with the Sussex County Council attorney’s statement of March 7, introducing a proposed ordinance to clarify council’s authority to remove appointed officials prior to expiration of their term. The proposed ordinance is consistent with the general rule that the power to appoint officials of a municipal corporation carries with it power of removal of officials at the municipality’s pleasure, unless that power of removal is restricted by statutory law.
Government accountability is about maintaining trust between government and citizens. It is one of the hallmarks of good government. This proposed ordinance will assist council in fulfilling its obligations to properly oversee the performance of the officials it appoints, ensure good customer service and act appropriately to remove an appointed official when the official acts unethically, breaches their fiduciary duty, or otherwise fails to meet minimal performance or professional standards.
Sussex2030 would like to take this opportunity to weigh in other related matters.
Recruiting and selecting candidates for appointment to the county’s appointed boards, commissions and advisory boards is probably one of the most important responsibilities of council. Politics and the political party of the candidate, unless required to balance the body’s composition, should not be dispositive or among criteria for appointment. The public’s participation in an appropriate way (e.g., ad hoc committee) in the process can help ensure that council will receive critical, candid information about a candidate’s qualifications, background, education and the presence of any conflicts of interest that it might not otherwise receive as part of its current and more insulated process. Ultimately, we hope you will agree that who council decides to appoint to these boards, commissions and advisory boards is a matter of public interest, and their selection would benefit from the public’s involvement.
Resign-to-run laws require an appointed or elected official to first resign from their current position before running for another office. Such an ordinance would help candidates focus on campaign issues without distraction, and improve the public's perception of how their current elected or appointed position would be impacted by the election. Those holding elected or appointed office should not be able to leverage their current position against other candidates while retaining their position as a fallback if they lose the election.
When an elected official has been sworn into office, and subsequently becomes unfit to hold office or engages in misconduct that could rise to the level of just cause for removal from his or her position, there is currently no procedure in place (such as the ordinance designed to address removal for appointed officials) by which the council may seek removal of the elected official for misconduct or lack of fitness to hold office.