Castle County Council's executive committee is to receive a set
of recommendations at a special meeting on Sept. 10 which, if
followed, would 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.
Council and the executive branch, which jointly provide members
of the autonomous commission, have been undecided whether to
appoint new members or turn the commission's function over the
the state agency, which handles ethics enforcement for Kent and
Sussex Counties as well as state government.
has learned that county policy director Emily Knearl will
recommend that both paths be followed.
report prepared for the executive committee, she recommends that
the local commission be, in effect, reconstituted and continue
to monitor compliance with the county code of conduct by some
1,600 rank-and-file county employees.
to the code by the 11 to 18 county officials who have any say
over policies and the commission's financing, however, should be
monitored by the state commission. Knearl maintains that would
remove any vestige of possibly improper political control of the
quasijudicial county commission. Included in that group would be
members of Council, the county executive, chief
administrative officer, county attorney and department managers.
the financial-disclosure and other rules that the top brass have
to follow in line with what is expected of those in the lower
ranks, she will recommend that state legislation be sought to
make them subject to county standards rather than less stringent
County Council should continue to
appoint four members to the commission and the county executive
the remaining three, but the appointments should be made from a
list provided by a blue ribbon advisory group, which would
screen candidates and pass on their qualifications. That would
be similar to the practice followed by the governor in making
judicial appointments from a list submitted by the Delaware Bar
That procedure would be followed to
determine replacements for the resigned commission members,
whose terms would be staggered over three years to provide for
Knearl will recommend that the
dispute over financing for the current fiscal year be resolved
by shifting about $25,000 of the $30,000 budgeted for outside
investigations to finance the services of a full-time attorney
and a part-time one-person office staff. The commission spent
only $4,500 of its investigations budget in the fiscal year
ended June 30.
The amount to be budgeted for fiscal
2004, she said, should be determined by studying the workload
and function of the commission between the time it is
reactivated and the county budget for the coming year is being
She also will suggest that the
commission place increased emphasis on ethics training for
county officials, board appointees and employees.
The County Council executive
committee is chaired by Council president Christopher Coons and,
like all Council committees, consists of all seven Council