Harrington mayor accused of misconduct resigns, citing health issues

HARRINGTON — “The Hub of Delaware” has a new mayor, less than a year after a former city employee accused the prior officeholder of misusing his position for personal gain.

Anthony Moyer, who had been mayor of the small Kent County municipality since 2013, recently stepped down, citing his health. On Monday, Harrington City Council on Monday appointed Vice Mayor Duane Bivans, a member of city government since 2010, to succeed Mr. Moyer.

“He’s a great guy. He is really a good guy. Things are really going to start looking up here in Harrington,” City Manager Daniel Tartt, who began his current job in May, said of the new mayor. “We’ve really got some bright days ahead of us.”

For the city, this may be an end to a saga that has embroiled the community over the past 10 months.

Anthony Moyer

In October, ex-city planner Jeremy Rothwell urged City Council to authorize an independent investigation into actions by Mr. Moyer and City Manager Don Williams. Mr. Rothwell laid out the allegations in a 13-page letter he presented to council members, including documents obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request.

Among the alleged misconduct was violation of the Delaware Whistleblowers’ Protection Act, flagrant flouting of city code, time theft, bullying employees and use of office for personal gain.

“The Mayor and the City Manager abused their power on multiple occasions and the public has a strong interest in having honest and truthful leaders in their City’s government,” Mr. Rothwell, who is now employed by Smyrna, wrote in the letter.

Both men disputed the claims. Mr. Moyer, who spent 14 years on City Council before becoming mayor, reiterated his innocence Thursday, saying people chose to believe the other side of the story.

The ordeal has caused a lot of heartburn and sleepless nights, he said, though he stressed the decision to resign came from health concerns and a desire to spend more time with family.

Mr. Moyer stepped away from his city duties for about two months after the claims were unveiled, while Mr. Williams was suspended with pay. In the city manager’s absence, Police Chief Norm Barlow became the acting head of city government.

At the request of City Council, the state’s Public Integrity Commission conducted a review. In February, it released the conclusions of the investigation, based on interviews with 18 city employees and council members, including Mr. Moyer.

“It is more likely than not that Mr. Moyer and Mr. Williams both engaged in conduct that would constitute violations of the State Code of Conduct,” the report says in summary.

Duane Bivans

Mr. Williams was let go, and although he appealed it, City Council upheld the decision. The Public Integrity Commission noted it had no authority to remove Mr. Moyer, however, because he was an elected official and it has no jurisdiction beyond enforcing the code.

Harrington’s mayor mostly has ceremonial duties, presiding over council meetings and recommending committee appointments but not voting unless there is a tie. Under Mr. Moyer, the city changed its laws to limit the mayor to two four-years terms, meaning he would have been unable to stay in office past 2021 anyway.