July 28, 2003

County Councilman Robert Weiner reiterated a charge that he is the object of a political vendetta by the Gordon administration and said that it is hampering his ability to serve his Second District constituents. The county's second-ranking officer denied that and said strained relations are his fault.

Weiner made the charge at a meeting of residents of the State Line Road area off Concord Pike, north of Namans Road, which he convened to discuss highway and sewer matters relative to the large age-restricted community planned for just south of there on what has been known as the Mousley Farm tract.

He said that representatives of the Departments of Special Services and Land Use and the county executive's Community Governing Office had been barred by County Executive Tom Gordon and Sherry Freebery, the county's chief administrative..

"The Gordon administration has decided to punish me. That is why they are not here," Weiner said.

Freebery said the reason Weiner's request for their participation was denied was that he did not follow proper procedures, which call for him to channel such requests through her, Gordon or the

general manager of the respective department.

"Mr. Weiner is just whining about absolutely nothing. All our departments very much want to assist all county representatives," she said. The problem in this incidence was that Weiner and his administrative aide, Louis Hinkle, approached 'rank and file' county employees, she alleged.

"Mr. Weiner is not talking to the county executive or myself and recently he has stopped talking to the general managers," she said.

Weiner, however, displayed a sheaf of papers which he said were print-outs of e.mails

Councilman Robert Weiner (second from left) talks with residents of the State Line Road area after the recent meeting. James Hanby is at the left in the photo.

he had sent county officials in regard to the State Line Road meeting and on other occasions, all of which, he said, reflected his having observed proper protocol.

He said the pettiness involving participating in the meeting on July 24 was illustrated by his having been denied participation by the land use department only to have the department "call my office two hours before the meeting to say someone would be here and then call back an hour before the meeting to say [no one] would be."

Freebery said requiring that requests for county personnel to participate in meetings be property channeled has a practical purpose. "Council [members] are all scheduling meetings and we try to accommodate them all we can," she said. But, she added, there has to be controls because of the necessity to pay employees overtime for evening affairs and a desire not "to keep them way from their families every night of the week ... after [having] worked all day."

The exchange was the latest in a series of public displays of bitter feelings between the Republican councilman and the Democratic administration. He and Freebery have traded barbs at several Council committee meetings and during her testimony at Council sessions. As Delaforum has previously reported, the relationship had deteriorated far beyond political differences and is now lodged well within the realm of personal animosity.

Behind the scenes, there is a growing feeling that the dispute will have adverse repercussions on community projects and activities, according to several civic leaders. "We're all afraid this sis going to come back and hurt us," said one who agreed to discuss the situation with Delaforum on a not-for-attribution basis.

As it happened, both Weiner and Freebery agreed on that point. Speaking about the lack of county government participation in the meeting, Weiner told the State Line Road residents, "If it can happen to this community it can happen to all the others as well." Blaming Weiner's intransigency for blocking such participation, Freebery said, "What bothers us is that it's the people in the communities who are going to be hurt."

State Line Road resident Wayne Brasure told the meeting that he has been having difficulty approaching the special services department about providing sanitary sewers to the community as an adjunct to the development of Mousley Farm, "They've really got their heels dug in," he said. Freebery said that Weiner was interested in "pushing a favored developer ahead of everybody else [in northern Brandywine Hundred] waiting for sewer capacity." The community is to be developed by Joseph Setting.

Brasure said that special services general manager Joseph Freebery has been unresponsive to a community request to attend a meeting on the topic. "I don't feel they have the right to tell us we cannot have a meeting," Brasure said. Joseph Freebery is Sherry Freebery's brother.

Weiner, who was supportive of Gordon and his administration in its early years, began to openly criticize it after reports emerged of an investigation by the U.S. attorney of activities by county officials and employees during the campaign leading up to the primary election in September, 2002. That reached a climax when Weiner circulated an electronic-mail letter containing disparaging information about a county employee. More recently, it has flared over Weiner's initiation of an effort in the General Assembly to enact legislation restoring the county executive power to appoint department directors, a move said by some to be an effort to enable the next executive to replace 'merit system' general managers. Weiner has indicated an interest in seeking that position in the 2004 election.

In his dispute with the administration, Weiner has received vocal support from at least two people who previously have vehemently opposed him on other matters.

"I'm no hack for Bob as we have crossed swords in the past and most likely will in the future," said James Hanby, who ran against him when Weiner won his Council seat. "Once the voters have spoken, we have to look to our duly elected officials to represent us and we have a right to expect that they will be allowed to do that."

In the exchange of e.mails during the recent dispute over locating a ballfield in Woodley Park along Mount Lebanon Road, state Representative Greg Lavelle, who previously clashed with Weiner over some civic issues, chided the Gordon  administration for apparently excluding Weiner from participating in the decision-making process. "While they are not required under law to like Mr. Weiner, they should recall that he does represent the area and that residents of the area turn to him for information about county issues that impact their communities. Refusing to keep Mr. Weiner informed about issues of significance does not serve the residents of the area well and is yet another black mark on how New Castle County operates," he wrote.

2003. All rights reserved.

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