Dewey residents are questioning an upcoming vote on whether to use town funds to pay for a commissioner’s legal fees for actions taken while running as a candidate for office.
The commissioners’ Nov. 9 regular meeting agenda calls for discussion and a possible vote to indemnify Commissioner Paul Bauer for legal fees. Bauer is being sued by candidate Phil Rowe.
Rowe, who lost to Bauer by six votes in the Sept. 21 municipal election, filed a Delaware Superior Court lawsuit Oct. 3, stating the election and seating of Bauer was illegal because Bauer filed to run as a resident, but that he is not a bona fide resident and domiciliary of Dewey Beach as stated in town code.
A vote to indemnify Bauer means funds from the town’s general fund would be used to pay Bauer’s legal fees that are not covered by insurance because he is a commissioner and did not believe actions he took in connection with his official duties were unlawful, according to town code.
Several residents, including former Dewey audit committee member Dennis Trencher said per charter, only official acts are covered by statute, not violations committed by a candidate.
“It is interesting that his running mate and Mayor TJ Redefer now wants to use town funds during a deficit to pay for Bauer’s legal bills,” Trencher wrote in a letter to the editor of the Cape Gazette. “The same cast of characters that has been railing about town legal expenses now wants us to pay for Mr. Bauer's.”
Rowe said Bauer and Redefer should abstain from the vote. Rowe also said Redefer should not have even put it on the agenda, because he and Bauer ran as a ticket and pooled financial resources.
“Clearly, they are joined at the hip, and a benefit for one is a benefit for both,” Rowe said.
Bauer is being sued as a candidate, while Rowe is suing the town for seating him as a resident commissioner.
“No commissioner should be indemnified for acts as a candidate,” Rowe said. “Sounds like a money-grab to me and another self-inflicted lawsuit.”
Mayor TJ Redefer, who plans meeting agendas, said he understands residents’ concerns.
“Because there are pending legal issues here, I should not talk about this yet,” he said.
Bauer referred questions regarding possible indemnification to his lawyer, Glenn Mandalas. Mandalas could not be reached for comment.
No court dates have been set.