The first meeting of the Dover City Council in 2014 was a short one, with council dispatching an 11-item agenda in approximately 15 minutes. Other than a handful of people who left after the city accepted an Excellence in Construction award for the public library, the meeting played out to an empty council chamber.
Council went into executive session following the public meeting to handle a revelation that several appointed city officials were behind on their utility bills or property taxes. The closed half-hour session ended with a decision to give those officials 30 days to bring their accounts up to date or face expulsion from the panels on which they serve.
The officials, who were not named during the meeting, are members of city boards, commissions or committees, appointed either by the mayor or the council president. None are council members.
As of press time, City Clerk Traci McDowell said she would be conferring with City Solicitor Nicholas H. Rodriguez to determine if the names could be released to the public.
City Council President David Bonar said most of the amounts owed were relatively small, but those who needed to would be allowed to set up a payment plan.
Council’s action was taken under Section 1-13 of the city municipal code, known as the “Clean Hands” provision, which requires any delinquency by an appointee of more than 45 days be reported to the council president. The president is required to convene a closed-door, executive session of council to discuss the problem.
Council has the authority to remove appointees to city boards, commissions or committees who fail to meet these requirements and may reject any pending appointments to those panels.
The Clean Hands provision is a relatively new addition to the city code, having been adopted in June 2012.
Bonar said appointed municipal officials are aware they’re required to stay current with their financial obligations toward the city. Like other Dover residents, if they run into trouble, they are given the chance to fix the problem, he added.
But because these individuals hold office as a public trust, they can lose that office if they fail to live up to their obligations to the city, he said.
“We give them an opportunity to become current and to set up a pay plan if they need one,” Bonar said. “If they fail to meet the terms of the obligation and meet the payments, or fail to bring themselves current, then we ask them to tender their resignations.”
McDowell did not bring up the names of the individuals during the executive session, a matter that did not trouble Bonar.
“To me, it doesn’t matter who it is,” he said. “Accepting the city’s request to serve on a commission or committee not only obligates you to make decisions that affect the rest of the city, but it also obligates you to uphold the laws of the city, and part of that is to pay your taxes and utilities.”
Page 2 of 2 - In other matters, council agreed to pay $20,000 to retain the law firm of Baird Mandalas Brockstedt LLC to represent the city during arbitration proceedings with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Union. During the executive session, council members set aside $15,000 to retain the services of an expert witness during those proceedings.
Council also agreed to a $39,400 contract to maintain the public library’s HVAC system over a three-year period. Funding for the contract will come out of the library’s internal budget, which will be adjusted by the library staff to meet the cost.