Complaint alleges disparities in council’s actions

DOVER — Dover businessman La Mar Gunn and attorney Ron Poliquin believe that Dover City Council has proven that it has a different set of rules when it comes to certain councilmen’s actions.

It was a complaint filed by Mr. Gunn that led to a meeting of Dover’s Ethics Commission on Nov. 14 to review a driving under the influence charge against Councilman Tanner Polce.

The Ethics Commission, minus Commissioner Nancy Shevock who was not in attendance, elected to forward Mr. Gunn’s complaint to City Solicitor Nicholas Rodriguez for review.

“I had to file a complaint for city officials to do their job,” Mr. Gunn said. “I have not heard from the solicitor. He seemed to want to block my complaint during the hearing. He seems to believe that (Tanner) Polce is above the law.”

Mr. Gunn went up to the podium and spoke during the public comment session before an Oct. 9 city council meeting that featured the censure of Councilman Brian Lewis, who was accused of “violating the spirit and purpose” of the city’s Code of Ethics.

Mr. Lewis was eventually censured by his fellow council members after he “promoted an unfounded allegation of a potential ethics violation against a member of council.”

Mr. Poliquin, Mr. Lewis’ attorney, was not allowed to speak on his clients’ behalf during the city council censure hearing.

“The reason I was not given time to speak on my client’s behalf is obvious, the members of council, other than Councilmen Sudler and (David) Anderson, did not want to hear what I had to say,” Mr. Poliquin said.

“And also by that time it really didn’t matter because the fix was in. Let’s not confuse that ‘Soviet-style’ vote with a real hearing.”

Councilman Lewis said he is still “weighing his options” regarding his censure.

“I am also exploring federal litigation for my civil rights being violated by Council President (Tim) Slavin,” he said.

Mr. Gunn said if Mr. Lewis’ actions led to a censure that some other councilmen’s actions should also lead to punishment — including Mr. Polce and Roy Sudler Jr., whom he was involved in a heated argument with at Dover’s Modern Maturity Center on Oct. 19, 2016.

Mr. Gunn alleged that Councilman Sudler was intoxicated at the time of the incident. Though four Dover police officers arrived to investigate the confrontation, no charges were filed.

“There has been an issue of citizens having to encounter or be engaged with intoxicated councilmen,” Mr. Gunn said in front of council. “I personally believe that when you are appointed or elected to office you have a higher level of accountability to the citizenry and subject yourselves to public scrutiny, and if you cannot handle that, you probably should not be in those chairs.”

Mr. Polce, just 20 days after being sworn in as a 1st District Councilman and becoming Dover’s youngest councilman at the age of 26, was involved in an automobile crash on May 28 in New Castle County that injured a pair of men in another vehicle.

Mr. Polce was driving a 2016 Toyota Camry that struck the other vehicle after allegedly running a stop sign at the intersection of Del. 71 (Red Lion Road) and Chesapeake City Road, according to Delaware State Police.

At the time, Mr. Polce, who also serves as the policy director for Lt. Gov. Bethany Hall-Long, said, “The responding officer issued a citation regarding facts underlying the motor vehicle accident, including a citation for driving under the influence of alcohol. I contest this allegation and look forward to proving my innocence in Court.”

However, he eventually pleaded guilty to a single charge of driving under the influence. He was fined $500 and put on 12 months’ probation, with probation suspended.

“Ironically, President Slavin didn’t feel a need to propose a public censure when Councilman Tanner Polce was recently convicted of the serious crime of (Driving) Under the Influence, which actually caused injuries and endangered lives,” Mr. Poliquin said.

“Any quick Google search of censure would demonstrate that Councilman Polce’s conduct is much more appropriate for receiving a censure that was Councilman Lewis is accused of doing.”

Mr. Gunn, who lost election for Lieutenant Governor to Ms. Hall-Long last November, said he also finds it appalling that there was no accountability regarding the councilman’s DUI charge.

“It’s time to send a message that it is not OK for members of council to encounter citizens throughout this city in an intoxicated manner, especially one that could end in death,” he said.

Through all of the recent drama and allegations, Councilman Anderson said he just wishes council could just hit a “reset button” and regroup from its recent issues.

“No one benefits from pursuing these issues when there is no evidence of intentional wrongdoing on anyone’s behalf,” Mr. Anderson said. “We are at a challenging juncture in the city and do not need to blow up council when the city needs us the most.”

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

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