Coons introduced a new ordinance identical to the vetoed one,
but without what he described as a "minor typographical error"
which he indicated may have been the basis for the veto.
of parliamentary maneuvering came as the last seven-member
Council wrapped up its business and passed without ceremony into
At 9:38 p.m. on Oct. 26 Coons
brought down the gavel, ending a chapter in local political
history dating back to 1967 when an executive and council
replaced the three-member levy court -- whose
Seniors' tax break
may be sweetened
The income threshold for
seniors to qualify for exemptions from
the county property tax would be raised
to $50,000 a year, from $40,000 under
terms of a proposed ordinance introduced
on Oct. 26 by Councilwoman Patty Powell.
The amount of property
value exempted also would go up to and
from the same amounts.
The measure could come to
a vote as soon as Council's session on
went back to Colonial times -- as the government of the
northernmost and most populous of Delaware's three counties.
any unforeseen and highly unlikely circumstances, Council will
next convene on Nov. 9 to have the six new members and president
elected seven days earlier sworn into office. It is scheduled to
hold its first business session the following Tuesday evening.
be then that Coons's new ordinance, which has five co-sponsors,
is expected to be brought to a vote. As Delaforum previously
reported, it is uncertain at this point what, if any, role Coons
will have in those proceedings.
In one of those much-cherished 'only in Delaware' moments, the
legislature included in the law expanding Council a
provisionthat its members, including the president, take office
immediately upon election and certification of the results by
Superior Court. Rank-and-file members, who are elected by
districts, previously did so on that timetable, but the
president, who is elected at-large, waited until January to be
seated. That's the month in 2001 in which Coons began his
four-year term. A constitutional principle prohibits shortening
the term of an elected official while it is being served.
for Coons's, the terms of all the incumbent members run until
2006. The six newcomers will be elected in districts spun off
from the former ones.
who is the Democratic candidate seeking election to succeed Tom
Gordon as county executive, has deferred until after the
election a decision whether to see what happens with a dual
presidency or to simply resign. He hinted at the Oct. 26
session, however, that he might be leaning toward the latter by
quipping that he "may be sitting at home listening to what you
do on the radio." Council sessions are not broadcast, but sound
bites from them sometimes make it to the late news programs.
county executive takes office in January. Christopher Castagno
is Coons's Republican opponent.
that as it may, if the smaller Council went out without much
attention being paid, its passing did not come up short of
vetoed legislation for which Coons introduced a replacement was
aimed at preventing the Gordon administration from using
personnel actions involving county employees as a way of
rewarding or punishing some. Gordon and other officials have
flatly denied any of that is happening or intended. Coons said,
however, that "circumstances still warrant close monitoring" of
original ordinance was approved by a six-to-one vote with
Councilman William Tansey casting the negative one. He is the
only member not listed as a cosponsor on the new measure. Five
votes would have been necessary to override a veto. That will
increase to nine if the new ordinance is enacted and then
Councilman Penrose Hollins noted, such a scenario is possible,
if not likely. That, he said, would render the matter moot as
the only other regularly scheduled Council meeting before Gordon
leaves office is not be held until December and that is the
earliest a veto could be overridden. That would seem to allow
little possibility that the law, of it is indeed needed, would
Councilwoman Karen Venezky said she favors going along with a
recommendation from the Human Resources Advisory Council that
permanent legislation to apply to all future changes in
administration be enacted to bar transfers of political
appointees to jobs protected by the civil service merit system.
At the end of the Dennis Greenhouse administration eight years
ago, a specific prohibition of that practice was enacted, but it
did not survive a Greenhouse veto.
Coincidentally, Lynn Moroz, whose hiring as the ounty's
insurance and control manager, sparked the original legislation,
was in the midst of another controversy earlier in the day
before Council's finance committee. Moroz previously had worked
for county government as an outside contractor.
was asked to approve a $1,049,946 premiums-and-fee payment to
Marsh U.S.A. Inc., an insurance brokerage firm which placed
eight county insurance policies with underwriters. The policies
went into effect Oct. 1 and the payments are due before Oct. 31.
Failure to make them would invalidate the policies.
who chairs the committee, called the payment request into
question because of a media report that the New York state
attorney general is investigating Marsh in connection with
allegations of improper bidding practices. While Venezky and her
committee accepted an explanation from representatives of the
firm and Moroz, that the New York situation has no relationship
to the firm's business in Delaware, it was brought out during
discussion that Marsh has been working for the county under a
continuing contract which has not been subject to bid for
agreed that "it is probably time" that the relationship were
reviewed and said that will happen during the coming year.
payment was approved when it became clear that Council had no
alternative other than to put the county at risk of uninsured
the finance committee met inpublic, it was closeted behind
closed doors with acting county attorney Dennis Siebold. The
lengthy session evidently involved discussion of not only the
Gordon veto but also a decision earlier in the day to drop plans
to go to market with a controversial $80 million bond issue.
That was done after it appeared likely that Court of Chancery
would issue a temporary injunction blocking the sale.
injunction was sought in a taxpayers suit filed by Richard Korn
and Andrew Dal Nogare challenging some budget reserve funds
created by Gordon to, among other things, ward off the necessity
to increase county property taxes. The taxpayers allege that,
except for those established by law to protect against overruns
in the operating and sewer budgets, the funds are illegal.
is expected to hear arguments on the suit, probably in December.
a candidate in the September primary election seeking the
Democratic nomination to run to succeed Gordon. He opposed
Coons, who won, and Sherry Freebery, the county's chief
controversy was sidestepped when Councilwoman Patty Powell
agreed not to bring a proposed ordinance that would make
numerous changes in the county's property code to a vote.
Councilman Robert Weiner thanked her for having acceded to his
wishes to delay action on the measure she is sponsoring until
the new Council members are seated. Many of his Brandywine
Hundred constituents object to some of the proposed changes in
the code, Weiner said.
however, was not able to get past another controversy when
residents of communities which suffered property damage during
the September storm turned out to protest what they and their
state senator, Karen Peterson, alleged was favoritism to other
communities. That was based on a newspaper article which seemed
to imply that some remedial projects in the Red Clay Creek
valley had been given immediate priority without their having
been able to participate in reaching that decision or even being
aware that it was being made.