Sussex County Delaware

Letters to the Editor
Fenwick Island News

F.I. Council Should Be
Embarrassed by Failures

Editor's Note: Fenwick Island residents Bobbi and Wayne Lednum have submitted the following letter to Sussex County Online for publication.

Dear Editor:

We want to congratulate the WAVE on its strong editorial outlining the failures of the Fenwick Island Town Council during Chief Dickerson's hearing. It is refreshing that a local paper addresses an issue with such force and courage. We would also like to compliment Sussex County Online for its accurate and resolute reporting.

Mr. Sombar, the town auditor, addressed this week's Council meeting and did more than a yeoman's job in reconstructing the four-year audit mess, presenting his report in a very professional, gentlemanly way. Unfortunately, instead of being embarrassed by the serious findings, various Council members reacted with the stance that nothing bad really happened:

  • ONE said, "... nobody has done anything illegal," ignoring the fact that not sending employees' withholding taxes of $98,000 to the State is not only illegal but also criminal.

  • ONE said, "... we knew exactly how much (money) we had," ignoring the obvious in that unaudited books and unbalanced checkbooks cannot possibly convey an accurate accounting of money.

  • ONE said, "... We are fiscally responsible," which elicited laughter from the citizens in the audience. Perhaps she meant physically responsible.

  • ONE was proud of the "strong financial position" mentioned in the auditor's report -- ignoring that the fund balance accumulated largely as the result of the transfer taxes and the 3% building permit fees. Council's mindset in acquiring a six month reserve appears focused on raising taxes, not  in reducing expenditures.

  • ONE mentioned that "... litigation has passed," thus implying that Council's dismissal of Chief Dickerson during what the WAVE described as "the farce they called a public hearing" would somehow evaporate his suit. Council members even assured the townspeople that its insurance carrier would take care of future expenses and claims, less the $5,000 exemption.

  • ONE wanted to blame the media. ONE wanted to blame the cost of the 22 FOIA complaints filed in the past year (supposedly costing $1,000 each) but glossed over the seven complaints which were upheld by the Attorney General's office. This Council member also mentioned that public participation was not required  by law in Delaware.

The obvious implication is that Council wants to ignore its absolute failure to audit as required by the town charter, along with its absolute failure to uphold the public trust in handling tax money. Instead, the Council prefers to transfer the fault for wrong-doing to the citizens who complain to the media, to those people who must file FOIAs to ensure a degree of democracy, to the townspeople who are ALLOWED to talk at the Council meetings, or to those who dare question what the regal minority dictates.

In reality, the townspeople have been voicing opposition since last summer's election. Their general complaint then was that Council did not listen to the people, never dreaming at the time that the Council was inept in handling the town's finances or that it was going to fire the police chief -- all of which came out as the months unfolded. It is obvious to us that the Council has reinforced its "I know best" mindset and not become humbled as reasonable people would assume.

The citizens now await action by the State and federal agencies.

Wayne and Bobbi Lednum

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