Dover council president: Lewis may have violated ethics rules

 

DOVER — Brian E. Lewis has upset fellow council members with the manner in which he questioned another council member’s potential conflict of interest.

Councilman Lewis questioned fellow councilman Tanner W. Polce’s participation in a vote, days after the city’s attorney already offered an opinion.

City Solicitor Nick Rodriguez issued his opinion on Sept. 13 that Mr. Polce didn’t violate any ethical rules when he participated in a vote involving his part-time employer Wesley College.

Mr. Lewis, who was not present for the Aug. 14 vote due to a family emergency, emailed the Delaware State News on Sept. 16 and again on Sept. 19 that he had been approached by a constituent who was concerned that Mr. Polce had been involved in the vote.

Mr. Lewis said he had requested an opinion from the city solicitor on a possible conflict of interest violation that he thought may have been committed by Mr. Polce and that he felt a story was warranted.

In his letter to the city solicitor, Mr. Lewis wrote, “My understanding is Councilman Polce was one of the council members casting a vote on this agreement. It has come to my awareness that Councilman Polce is a current employee of Wesley College and this fact was not disclosed prior to the vote.

“I would appreciate you reviewing and advising if this is a potential conflict of interest.”

Brian Lewis

However, Mr. Lewis did not reveal that Mr. Rodriguez rendered his opinion on the matter on Sept. 13 that stated Mr. Polce didn’t break any ethical violations.

On Tuesday, Mr. Lewis in an emailed response to the Delaware State News, said he was working all day and did not have phone access to respond. He said he “did not have any updated information at this time.”

Now, it is Mr. Lewis who is under ethical scrutiny by city council president Tim Slavin.

“There has been concern raised about a potential violation of the Ethics ordinance by Councilman Lewis and I am exploring this issue,” Mr. Slavin said in an email. “This is a serious issue and will be dealt with with the requisite seriousness it requires.

“This is further compounded by the apparent misrepresentation of facts to the Delaware State News and, by extension, to the citizens of Dover.”

Mr. Polce was one of six councilmen to vote for the city of Dover to sell the old public library building to Wesley College for $1, along with more than $1 million in Community Transportation Funds from Sen. Colin Bonini and Rep. Sean Lynn.

Tanner Polce

On Sept. 13, Mr. Rodriguez replied in an email to Mr. Lewis that said, “Councilman Lewis, Going by our Code of Conduct Councilman Polce would have no personal or private interest in the sale and would receive no financial benefit from the sale so I see no ethical violation. Nick”

Mr. Polce said he would never be swayed politically by a part-time teaching job at Wesley College that pays him around $5,000 per year.

“Believe me, there’s no conflict of interest, especially from the legal definition,” Mr. Polce said. “I’m not profiteering from the city’s decision to give the college the library.

“I know historically that statewide officials recuse themselves from different decisions to hide politically. However, this is a decision that I’m going to stand behind.”

Mr. Polce has taught three to four classes a year in both Wesley’s Political Science and Business Departments as an adjunct faculty member since the fall of 2014.

He teaches classes that are part of the Continuing Education Program for Air Force personnel at Dover Air Force Base. He added that he makes $1,800 for each class that he teaches.

Mr. Polce said he is just ready to move on from the issue.

“I’m happy to just put this whole thing behind me,” he said.

 

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

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