appointments are scheduled to be confirmed at Council's regular
session on Nov. 26. It is not certain, however, when the
commission, which has been inactive since summer when all its
former members resigned in a dispute over financing, will begin
to function again. "That is something I hope we will address in
the next two months," Council president Christopher Coons said.
meeting of Council's executive committee on Nov. 19, he
circulated a memorandum which purportedly updated members on the
status of conversations that he, Councilwoman Karen Venezky and
policy director Emily Knearl are having with top people in the
Gordon administration and of the unions representing county
He indicated that the discussions
have to do with deciding on mutually agreeable revisions to the
code covering the commission and how it functions.
Knearl later told Delaforum that the
Charging the commission to be more
pro-active on ethics education and training of new emplSoyees;
Increasing employees' access to it
by such things as establishing a Web site where its opinions can
be accessed and asking the staff to provide 'office hours' in
County facilities which are open to all employees;
Christopher Coons (left) chats with prospective nominees
to the county Ethics Commission. They are (from the
left) Dennis Clower, Loren Grober and Eugene McCoy.
Reviewing current commission
regulations and determining what, if any, should be added to the
county code; and
Ethics Commission staffing.
She said any changes proposed by the
county must be approved by the state Public Integrity Commission
and be at least as stringent as state requirements.
"We need to put the meat on the
bones ... and have more discussions, but I am encouraged by the
great progress we are making," she said.
Councilman Robert Weiner said that
he considers the basic question to be resolved in determining
the effectiveness of the commission is the level of financing it
will receive. At a minimum, he said. he would favor enabling it
to hire a full-time lawyer for about $75,000, a full-time staff
member for about $30,000 and for it to be provided with about
$20,000 for operations. Those are annual amounts.
The issue of putting the
seven-member commission back in business -- it has not
been closed down
or dropped from the county government structure -- is
separate from the reported federal grand jury investigation into
allegations that county employees improperly engaged in
political activity in connection with the primary election in
September and a pending citizen's suit in Court of Chancery
seeking to block the use of tax money to pay attorney fees for
employees summoned before the grand jury.
lawyer who lives in Newark, drew a distinction between
enforcement of law and enforcement of ethics. "Ethics is how
people ought to act; law is how they have to act," he said.
Coons replied that he would hope that government workers "hold
to a higher standard than the minimum the law requires."
would come to the New Castle County position with an unusual
credential -- he wrote the law which established an ethics board
for Cecil County, Md., and served for two years as its founding
chairman. A nominee of County Executive Tom Gordon, he initiated
the contact after reading about the resignations here.
Brandywine Hundred resident who is retired from the Du Pont Co.
and has been active with the Council of Civic Organizations of
Brandywine Hundred and the Civic League for New Castle County,
said he believes that ethics issues "have to be decided by
facts, not perceptions" and that its key function should be
educating county employees about what is expected of them.
he agreed with Weiner, who nominated him, that "without an
attorney and proper staff [the commission] cannot do its job."
The commission lawyer should not be in the county Law
Department, he added.
was introduced as a woman who owns and operates two very
disparate companies. One deals in industrial specialty steel and
the other in household items such as draperies. Coons, who
nominated her and knows her from activities with their
Wilmington neighborhood association, said she "doesn't pick a
fight but won't walk away from one either."
said that he expects to have more prospective appointees by the
time the executive committee, on which all Council members sit,
meets again on Dec. 3.