reported, Korn, who now lives in Hockessin, has joined with
Chuck Riley, of Claymont, to found Citizens for New
Directions, an organization they describe generally as intending
to foster good government and specifically to arouse people to
what they see as abuses in New Castle County government.
Korn also has joined
with Jerry Martin, of Brandywine Hundred, in a civil suit filed
by attorney Richard Abbott in Court of Chancery seeking to halt
the use of public money to pay outside law firms to represent
county employees in connection with the apparently open-ended
investigation of County
Gordon's administration by U.S. Attorney Colm Connolly.
After reading about
the investigation and related issues and following discussion of
them in Delaforum's Community Voices section and on radio
call-in programs, Korn decided it was time to more than just
talk about about such goings-on.
There is no hidden
agenda in his having taken a few giant steps beyond talk, he
maintained in an interview. He happens to take literally the old
saying that folks who don't get involved with what is happening
in government, particularly on the hometown level, deserve what
"You are not going
to get good government until you have participation," he said.
For him, there is
something of deja vu in that.
Back in 1987, the
county executive in Nassau County, on Long Island in New York,
touted an $81.1 million budget balance while running for
re-election. After the election, when it came time for a new
budget to be considered, the balance was stated to be $17.7
million. So Korn went to a public meeting and asked where the
$62.4 million difference went. "They told me to sit down because
I didn't understand how things like writing budgets worked," he
He didn't sit down.
He filed suit and fought it all the way to New York's highest
state court. The court, ruling in his favor, declared the
county's $1.4 million budget illegal and ordered it redone. The
New York Times reported on the case and it is still cited as
precedent in dealing with tax surpluses.
While Korn, 53,
still enjoys the 'David vs. Goliath' aspects of that case, it
could be said that the Nassau David came into the fray not
unschooled in the use of his slingshot. Korn has a bachelor
degree in political science from Adelphi University; a masters
in public administration, with a concentration in public
finance, from New York University; and a law degree from Hofstra
His interest in
politics goes back to grammar school when Joseph Resnick, the
father of a grammar school classmate, ran for Congress and
became the first Democrat in 28 years to represent that district
in New York's Catskill Mountains region. As a young adult, Korn,
also a Democrat, successfully lobbied Resnick's successor after
two terms, the son and namesake of Republican political legend
Hamilton Fish, to obtain federal money to replace a dilapidated
and unsafe highway bridge. Korn's late father, Philip, who died
recently, was for 50 years a trial lawyer and was prominent in
that profession's national organization.
Korn, who moved to
Delaware in 1999, is president and chief executive of a company
which developed and markets a computer disc the size of a
business card to store medical and other emergency information.
Korn said he
understands and appreciates the 'everybody knows everybody else'
underpinnings of public life in Delaware, but added that cannot
be used as a cover for "shielding anything that's just not
Using tax money to
hire outside counsel falls into that category, he said. If the
matter involves something connected with a person's duties as a
government employee, legal representation should be in house.
"That's why we have a county attorney. ... If the county
attorney can't do it, then someone who can do it should be
[appointed] county attorney. That's what we pay him for," Korn
He added that he is
more than a little amused that the county administration has
engaged Connolly Bove Lodge & Hutz, a private law firm, to
represent it in defending a suit challenging hiring outside
private law firms.
For his part, Korn
said he is comfortable having Abbott represent him. It was the
use of county employees to do campaign work on behalf of William
Tansey, Abbott's opponent in the September, 2002, primary
election, when Abbott was seeking the Republican nomination for
re-election, which reportedly touched off U.S. Attorney
Having met Abbott
through a mutual friend -- Korn lives in Abbott's former County
Council district -- Korn said he had discussed politics with
him. "I told him I didn't vote for him and probably wouldn't
have voted for him if he had run, but we did agree on that
[issue]," Korn said. Korn's co-plaintiff, Martin, is active in
Korn declined to
disclose what fee arrangement they have with Abbott, referring
to that as privileged information having to do with
While he obviously
is not happy with the current Democratic county administration,
including chief administrative officer Sherry Freebery, who has
declared herself a candidate to succeed Gordon, who is
ineligible to be re-elected, Korn said he also does not support
Council president Christopher Coons, who also is seeking the
Democratic nomination to run for county executive.
"He helped open the public treasury.
We could end up paying for unlimited legal representation," Korn
supported a change in the law to include investigations as
proceedings for which employees were eligible for county payment
for outside legal representation.
Republican against Democrat or Democrat against Democrat. It's a
principle. You see a wrong and you try to right it," Korn said.
Actually, he added,
his filing the case was inspired in part by a remark Vice
Chancellor John Noble make from the bench while presiding over
an earlier taxpayer suit to the effect he was "firmly persuaded"
that the outside legal representation issue should be addressed
in a separate case. The Korn-Martin case has been assigned to
Chancellor William Chandler.