everyone who should have been consulted was given the
opportunity to have input," he said on Sept. 10 at a reconvened meeting of
the committee. "I think it is premature for us
to get too far down the road."
sticking to a previous position that the situation should be
brought to timely resolution, he said "it is more important
that we get it resolved correctly." He did not indicate how long
he now thinks that might take.
remarks came as a surprise to observers who has expected the
committee to move quickly to end the impasse created when all
seven members of the unpaid County Ethics Commission resigned in
a dispute over how much should be budgeted to enable its
part-time attorney to handle a growing caseload.
pointedly recessed the executive committee's bi-weekly meeting
on Sept. 3 so that it could reassemble for substantive
discussion of the issue as soon as policy director Emily Knearl
completed work on a report which would answer several technical
questions and make recommendations on how to proceed. Foremost
consideration in her assignment was to resolve the impasse
over whether county government should continue to have its own
ethics-review commission or shift ethics code enforcement to the
completed work on the document and distributed it internally, as
scheduled, on Sept. 6. [Delaforum is providing the full text of
the report. Use the link at the end of this article to access
Delaforum previously reported, its pivotal recommendation
is for the county to keep most ethics enforcement in-house but
to ask the state commission to keep an eye on the 11 to 18
county officials considered to have the power to compromise the
local commission. Knearl maintains in her report that that would
remove any vestige of possibly improper political control of the quasijudicial county commission. Included in
the group under state jurisdiction would be
members of Council, the county executive, chief
administrative officer, county attorney and department managers.
she links that proposal with a recommendation that the county
seek state legislation that would empower the state agency to
make the county's top brass subject to the more stringent
standards, comparable to those that would still apply to the
some 1,600 rank-and-file county employees.
points out, present state law exempts local elected officials,
appointees and employees required by New Castle County law to do
so from having to file a financial disclosure form. State
officials are required to file such forms; however, real estate
interests are exempted from the state disclosure requirement.
state law is passed to require financial disclosure by New
Castle County officials, appointees and [some] employees, it
should include the requirement that real estate information be
disclosed," Knearl's report said.
not specifically refer to that point while explaining his reason
for delaying executive committee discussion of the report, but
Richard Abbott, the only Council member to address its contents
at the meeting, did so obliquely when he said, "I think it is a
fine idea to have county officials [subject to] the Public
Integrity Commission. It will take the politics out of it."
members of Council are members of the executive committee, as
they are of all other Council committees. Coons is chairman. All
but Councilman Christopher Roberts attended the reconvened
session, but none of the others spoke to the contents of the
report, copies of which were distributed to members of the
general public before the session began 45 minutes past its
said afterwards that the Council members did not caucus before
the session and that he had spoken to them only on an individual
basis to ask if they had received copies of the report. He
apologized for but did not explain the delay other than to
indicate that it had no bearing on the course of the
As to the
Knearl's report, Coons at the meeting referred to it as "a good
first crack at this issue." But he seemed to want to distance
himself from its head-on approach when he added that "it does
not represent the opinion of County Council or county
whose position on County Council's staff is relatively new, was
present at the session but did not comment.
went on to indicate that he prefers settling the issue by
consensus rather than "having lawyers arguing over different
agreeing with Abbott that ethics in government is a major public
concern, he said ethics enforcement is a complex thing which
does not lend itself to easy answers.
are politics and political effects all over the place," he said.
"I'm not sure any other government in the country has gotten it