Dewey commissioners re-elected TJ Redefer for a third one-year term as mayor at town council’s yearly organizational meeting Oct. 2.
Commissioners-elect Paul Bauer, Dale Cooke and Redefer were sworn in for two-year terms during the meeting. Cooke was also elected to a second one-year term as secretary.
The annual organizational meeting comes after two recounts, one ending just hours earlier, because of an extremely close vote tally. An Oct. 2 machine ballot recount and a Sept. 23 absentee vote recount, both conducted by the Dewey Beach Board of Elections, confirmed the initial certified vote tally from the Sept. 21 election.
Commissioner candidate Phil Rowe, who lost to Bauer by six votes, said he plans to file a lawsuit, alleging that Bauer, who filed to run as a resident, is not a resident as defined by town code.
Rowe first brought his complaint to the Dewey Beach Board of Elections Sept. 26, when the board voted unanimously to deny his complaint to dismiss election results after Town Counsel Fred Townsend said the board lacked jurisdiction to do so. Bauer made no public comment at the meeting.
After the meeting, Rowe said he would bypass the state board of elections and go right to court. “I’m the rightful holder of that seat because he [Bauer] committed fraud,” Rowe said.
Rowe, who hired a private investigator, said Bauer gave a false and misleading address on his filing form and did not give an accurate address where he receives his mail.
Among other findings, Rowe said, the private investigator produced a report with a photo showing no mailbox exists for Bauer’s Dewey residential unit, next to a series of mailboxes for Bauer’s neighbors. “He doesn’t get mail here,” Rowe said. “The private investigator found Bauer has no post office box in Rehoboth. It’s an error of omission with the goal of showing he is a resident.”
Rowe said the report states that Bauer pays county and school taxes in New Castle County and that his five cars are registered under a Wilmington address. The report states that in February, Bauer changed his driver’s license from his Wilmington address to his Dewey address.
“If his residency is no longer in Wilmington, he did not notify his car insurance company, meaning his vehicle is fraudulently registered,” Rowe said.
An email to Bauer requesting comment on Rowe’s allegations was answered by Glenn Mandalas, who identified himself as Bauer’s attorney.
“In our democratic system, elections are sometimes close,” Mandalas wrote. “But that should not engender doubt over the outcome. Emblematic of our election process is the peacefulness that permeates the great majority of elections across the United States. It is unfortunate that Mr. Rowe cannot accept his loss, but rather chooses to consume state resources, town resources and private resources in a doomed quest to reverse a completely legitimate election.”
Mandalas said Bauer is energized to get back to advancing the Town of Dewey Beach. “However, should Mr. Rowe or his affiliates foolishly bring a further challenge to the election, we will aggressively and successfully defeat it,” Mandalas wrote.
Council’s next meeting is scheduled for 9 a.m., Saturday, Oct. 12, at the Lifesaving Station, 1 Dagsworthy Ave.
New procedure for machine ballots
When town officials conducted the Sept. 23 absentee ballot recount, Dewey Beach Board of Elections Chair Elaine Bole said the Sussex County Board of Elections certified and retained the machine ballots, and that they would not be recounted.
On Oct. 2, Town Manager Scott Koenig said due to the voting machines’ new capability to create written ballots, the State Department of Elections established a new policy with regard to their handling. “They have determined that ballots are election records that belong to municipalities, and they intend to immediately turn them over to municipalities in the future,” Koenig said.
Koenig said the state did not mandate a recount of the machine ballots, but indicated that one was possible. “Once that message was communicated to the town, the town’s board of elections arranged to recount the machine ballots,” he said.
Wayne Osborn, information technology manager for the Sussex County Department of Elections, said officials are working on a statewide protocol to provide municipalities with paper records of machine ballot votes directly after elections. “This was the first time we had to do this with the new machines,” Osborn said. “It was good to see the machines are working properly and there was no variation.”