Harrington fires city manager pending hearing

DOVER — Harrington City Manager Don Williams was fired earlier this month over allegations he failed to perform his duties, including claims he often skipped work while still collecting a paycheck.

Though the termination was effective Jan. 9, Mr. Williams has asked for a public hearing, which is required by the city charter. As such, he is currently suspended without pay pending a public hearing, according to Vice Mayor Amy Minner.

A meeting of Harrington City Council’s Personnel Committee was scheduled for Wednesday, with the agenda listing the city manager vacancy as one of the items to be discussed, but it has since been canceled.

In October, former city planner Jeremy Rothwell accused Mr. Williams and Mayor Anthony Moyer of misusing their posts for personal gain, presenting the allegations to City Council along with documents obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request.

A week later, City Council voted to suspend Mr. Williams with pay, while Mr. Moyer agreed to temporarily step away from his duties. In Mr. Williams’ absence, Police Chief Norman Barlow has filled the role.

The state’s Public Integrity Commission, which has jurisdiction over most state and local government officials and employees, was tasked with investigating. It is unclear if the inquiry is complete, as the commission cannot legally comment on it.

Ms. Minner said Mr. Moyer returned to his city duties last month.

According to Mr. Rothwell, Mr. Williams committed time theft and bent rules to benefit Mr. Moyer.

“The City Manager throughout his employment has shown disturbing trends in his work ethic that constitutes fraud,” Mr. Rothwell wrote in a letter he presented to council members in October. “The City Manager would come into work late and/or leave work early almost every day.

“Since my office window and desk directly faced the rear employee entrance to City Hall, I can testify to having witnessed the City Manager consistently coming into work hours late and/or leaving work hours early on a regular basis. From June 20th to September 13th he claimed to have worked 474 hours, but actually worked only 375 hours.

“This discrepancy of 99 hours at $31.97 per hour (based on his initial contract salary of $66,500 per year) amounts to $3,165.14 in fraudulently-claimed wages in only a 3-month period, and I can testify under oath to having witnessed the same behavior throughout his entire tenure as City Manager. Under Delaware law, theft of anything greater than $1,500 is classified as a felony.”

Documents and surveillance video footage received through a public records request make that clear, Mr. Rothwell wrote. Those documents, which were shared with the State News, appear to corroborate his allegations, although the video footage has not yet been verified.

At a City Council meeting, Mr. Rothwell said the city’s manager calendar and timesheets indicate he took 58 personal appointments and seven days off between his hiring in February 2017 and June 2019 but did not use any personal or sick time.

The ex-city planner also cited a fall conference in Nashville, Tennessee, attended by Mr. Williams. While the conference lasted from Oct. 20 to Oct. 23, Mr. Williams stayed for seven days, bringing his family with him. He charged their travel costs to the city, ultimately reimbursing it after Mr. Rothwell first presented the allegations to City Council, according to the documents shared by Mr. Rothwell.

“This all constitutes fraud, and he should be criminally prosecuted for the before-mentioned crimes,” he wrote in a letter distributed to City Council.

Mr. Rothwell was fired from the city in June, which he says was improper and motivated partially by a personal vendetta by the manager and mayor. He has since filed a lawsuit against Harrington.

Mr. Williams was hired as city manager in February 2017 after nine years with Milford in code enforcement and building inspection. He received a five-year agreement worth $66,500 in the first year, with pay raises of at least 3 percent in subsequent years, according to a copy of that contract provided by Mr. Rothwell.

Though Mr. Rothwell accused Mr. Williams of acting subservient to the mayor, his contract states he answers to the city council.

At a November City Council meeting, the wives of the two men spoke in their defense, describing Mr. Williams as a relentless worker who cares about Harrington.

“He takes phone calls all hours, including weekends and holidays, to keep the city running smoothly,” Eve Moyer said of Mr. Williams.