Ethics Commission takes no action against Dover mayor

 

The city of Dover’s Ethics Commission met on Thursday and didn’t act on City Councilman Roy Sudler Jr.’s complaint against Mayor Robin R. Christiansen. Pictured (from left) are Deputy City Solicitor William Pepper, City Clerk Traci McDowell and Ethics Commission members Andrew S. Moreland, Robin Case, Thomas C. Jackson and Gary Coy. (Delaware State News/Mike Finney)

DOVER — A complaint filed by Dover City Councilman Roy Sudler Jr. to the city’s Ethics Commission regarding Mayor Robin R. Christiansen’s role as chairman of the police chief search committee was heard on Thursday morning.

After reviewing the evidence submitted by Councilman Sudler in a 22-minute executive session, the Ethics Commission voted unanimously 4-0 to take no action against Mayor Christiansen, which will allow him to remain as the chairman of the police chief search committee.

Mayor Christiansen will also have the final say as to who the next police chief will be, upon receiving city council’s final recommendation.

“After careful review of the complaint and consideration of the context of the complaint itself, and the current state of the city’s attempt to name a new police chief, we have determined that the complaint does not state an ethical violation,” said Thomas C. Jackson, chairman of the Ethics Commission.

Robin Case, an Ethics Commission member, then made a motion that “per the city ordinance of the ethics ordinance in Section 30-72A3 that our ethics commission may dismiss, without reference to the city solicitor, any complaint which the ethics commission determines as frivolous or fails to state a violation.”

A vote was then taken with Mr. Jackson, Ms. Case, Gary Coy and Andrew S. Moreland voting unanimously to dismiss any ethics violation regarding Mayor Christiansen. Nancy J. Shevock, who is also on the commission, was unable to attend.

Councilman Sudler said he was not surprised by the decision.

“I am not surprised that the Ethics (Commission) voted in favor of the mayor, since the entire Ethics Commission is appointed by the mayor and confirmed by council,” Mr. Sudler said.

Robin Christiansen

“I believe that when an ethics complaint involves the one who appoints you to a committee, then a third-party committee such as the State Integrity Commission should render a judgment free from any scrutiny (or) lack of impartiality.”

Complaints brought before the Ethics Commission are usually shrouded in secrecy and names involving those involved are kept confidential.

However, Councilman Sudler has remained steadfast in letting the media and his constituents know he believes Mayor Christiansen should recluse himself from the police chief search committee.

He has been at odds with the mayor ever since former Police Chief Paul Bernat announced he was going to retire near the end of last year.

Councilman Sudler believes that Deputy Chief Maj. Marvin Mailey, who is serving as the acting police chief until a permanent replacement is named, should have been immediately promoted to chief of police.

Roy Sudler

Mayor Christiansen continues to say that the city has guidelines and procedures in place that it must follow in selecting a new police chief.

Those procedures were passed by city council following a police switch of command that sparked controversy in 2014.

That was when the city paid five high-ranking officers a combined $300,000 after city council expressed concern about possible racial discrimination during the promotion process.

While then-Chief Bernat selected Maj. Mailey — an African-American — as his second in charge, council was concerned that former Major Carleton E. Cary may have unduly influenced the selection and opened the city up to potential civil liability. Mr. Carey denied the allegations and resigned shortly afterward.

Four officers in the settlement were white, and a fifth bi-racial.

Councilman Sudler believes Mayor Christiansen’s comments at a Jan. 9 staff meeting at the Dover Police Department regarding Deputy Chief Maj. Mailey’s candidacy for police chief should disqualify him from selecting a new police chief.

Perturbed by what he believed was over-aggressive campaigning for Mr. Mailey by state representative and former city councilman Sean Lynn, Mr. Sudler and others, the mayor told police at that January meeting that he believed the candidacy was “tarnished.”

Mr. Christiansen confirmed his remarks and said he was “angry at the time,” but believes a transparent and fair process to pick a chief is underway through a five-member selection committee.

Councilman Sudler offered no apologies on Thursday and still believes that the mayor should step away from the police chief hiring process.

“Regardless of the decision I have done my job as the people’s voice in the Fourth District trying to save the taxpayer’s dollars from a possible illegal hiring practice lawsuit that may occur in the near future,” he said.

“In closing, for the record, it was brought to my attention by my legal counsel that I have not violated any confidentiality ordinance (in regards to the Ethics Commission’s confidentiality procedures).”

Delaware State News staff writer Mike Finney can be reached at mfinney@newszap.com.

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