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Vote, Vote, Vote!

Get out and vote for Tom Kovach! You have until 8pm.   Same polling places as the Nov election.   Click here to lookup where you vote.    From all reports (and as expected), turnout is super low so far – your vote is very important!

 

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UPDATE:  THE MONEY HAS BEEN ACCOUNTED FOR!

Sheldon filed a year end report for 2010.   It closes the gap.   Not sure why dept of elections accepted this (they are normally due Jan 20th) but it looks like it was filed before the 8-day report deadline.   The problem is that it’s under the 2010 reports and not with the 2011 special election reports (the 30-day appears in both!).   Very confusing!!

So there were an additional $23,150 in contributions.   Check out the list of unions that contributed!  Almost all maxed out at $600:

LU 313 IBEW
IU PAT DC 21
IUOE 542
Sheet Metal LU 19
PAC Union 7
Bricklayers 1 PA/DE
Teamsters 326
LU 451
DE Bldg Trades
Carpenters of Phila
Cement Masons 592
Carpenters 626
Insulators 42
IUEC Local 5
Carpenters LU 2012
Bricklayers-Allied Craftworkers LU #2
Bricklayers Local 3 NY

2nd update (1/11/11 11:45pm) – Forgot to upload the missing 2010 year end report earlier.  Here it is.

———

As you may know, campaign finance reports are posted for public review on the Dept of Elections website.   In every election candidates are required to file a report 30 days before the election and then another 8 days before.   This allows people to know what kind of contributions the candidates are taking in and how they are spending them.    And if something looks funny, it allows the Elections Commissioner to investigate before it’s too late and a person wins by breaking contribution limits, etc.

Well, something looks funny.  According the information currently available to the public, Tim Sheldon, the Democrat’s candidate for New Castle County Council President, has a huge 2 week gap in his financial reports.

His 30 day report ends on 12/14/2010 with a balance of $39,472.41.

His 8 day report begins on 12/31/2010 and ends on 1/6/2011 with a beginning balance of $58,585.42 and ending balance of $79,536.99.    You’ll note that this is an amended report and it is still wrong!

The ending balance of the 30-day should match the beginning balance of the 8-day.  In this case there is discrepancy of $19,113.01!

So we have just over $19,000 dollars in unaccounted campaign contributions (or more depending on how much he spent in those two weeks).  This is unacceptable!    Who gave him money during this period and how did he spend it?!   If this guy can’t file a correct finance report (or hire someone to do it for him) how can we trust him with our county finances?

Sheldon had been giving the Republican candidate, Tom Kovach, a hard time about not filing his NCCo Ethics Commission Statement of Financial Interests.   This was an oversight by the Dept of Elections to notify Kovach about the form and dubbed “no big deal” by the Ethics Commission.  Kovach has since filed the form online.

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The following was emailed to me a couple of days ago. I must admit that I’m not familiar with all of the particulars, but it seemed like one of these issues that simmers until a crisis hits. If there were balance in our County government, perhaps we wouldn’t have to accept these types of questionable practices that seem to violate laws, but no one in power seems to care…

Charlie,

I wonder how Paul Clark (and Chris Coons) can explain how a top level County employee is allowed to violate the employment requirements, requirements that they modified for the sole purpose of benefiting this  employee?

David M. Culver was appointed/hired by Coons on October 3, 2008. Therefore, on March 4, 2009, he would have exhausted his 6 month required residency requirement. Thus Coons/Clark drafted a change to the residency requirement and implemented a 18 month extension clause. Now he has exhausted his 18 month extension, as of Oct 3, 2010 and has been given a FULL TWO (2) years to move from Elkton, MD to New Castle County, which is a legal requirement of his employment as the GM of NCC Land Use Dept.

His Elkton, MD property has been on the market for over a year.

98 RICHARD DR
SHAH VALLEY
ELKTON, MD 21921-2201
$500,000, 5 beds, 3.1 baths
MLS# 5597129

Now I’m not sure how it works in Government, but in the private sector, I’ve been mandated to move to a certain location (state and/or area) as part of my employment. Typically I’ve gotten an apartment in the area required to fulfill my “residency” requirement. I highly doubt that Mr. Culver has done that, as he still has a MD driver’s license and vehicle registration and still has his house listed for sale in Elkton, MD. Thing is that Mr. Culver would have to have a physical address and utilities in his name at that address and been paying for it before the deadline of Oct 3, 2010, but it didn’t happen.

Does NCC government have a provision (like City of Wilmington) that would require him to be dismissed or step down from the position, as he failed to meet the required residency clause? Seems that Clark/Coons have some other ethics issues involving how they hire/appoint key dept. managers, that don’t get publicized.

Special change to employment requirements made by Coons/Clark et al.

Sec. 26.01.003. – Residency requirement for certain County employees.

The Chief Administrative Officer, each department general manager and director, the County Attorney, First Assistant County Attorney(s), all Assistant County Attorneys, and any othersenior Executive appointees as deemed appropriate by the County Executive and conveyed to County Council in writing must become residents of the County within six (6) months after assuming such position. The County Executive, with the advice of the County Attorney, may extend the time within which to obtain residency for good cause. Good cause shall include, but not be limited to, conclusion of a school year for children of the appointee, difficulties in the sale of a listed home such as during a severe economic downturn, or an unexpected medical condition in an appointee’s family after assumption of the position, during which a move would create a hardship. In no event may an extension exceed eighteen (18) months.

(Ord. No. 98-047, § 1(26-3), 5-12-1998; Ord. No. 09-086, § 1, 10-27-2009)

Anyway, I thought with the new year, it might be time to get some display of the type of “integrity” that Mr Clark (& Coons) showed with something as simple as a key employee and the hoops they jumped through to make it easier for Mr. Culver to stay on as one of the most powerful Dept heads in NCC Government.

 

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So here we are a week before the special election and the financial train wreck (“Clarksville”) is coming very soon.   Now is our chance to get county government back on the right track.

Vote Tom Kovach on January 13 and help derail the Paul Clark Express:

Ron Williams wrote the following in his editorial yesterday:

A scathing minority report from a member of the county executive’s finance transition team says New Castle County government is basically broke.

The opinion was authored by financial services planner and well-known media commentator Dace Blaskovitz.

As a matter of full disclosure, Blaskovitz and I do a monthly political radio commentary on WILM1450/WDOV1410. But this report was born from his service on New Castle County Executive Paul Clark’s Finance Committee transition team. Blaskovitz is also a member of the county’s Pension Board and the Wilmington Economic Financial Advisory Committee, the city’s version of the state’s DEFAC budgetary advisory group.

Blaskovitz was joined in his minority opinion by former state House majority leader Wayne Smith. The other members of the committee are J.J. Davis, former state budget director, now with the University of Delaware; Pete Ross, former state head of the Delaware Compensation Commission; and Jill Floore, finance director for the Red Clay Consolidated School District.

The majority report from the team’s three Democrats, scheduled for release Friday, is expected to call for “revenue enhancements,” also popularly known as tax increases.

Smith is a Republican and Blaskovitz an independent.

Here is Blaskovitz’s opinion from yesterday’s paper where he says:

New Castle County is broke, in my opinion.

NCCo is broke in structure — and moving towards being broke financially.

NCCo government is simply unsustainable, given today’s new economic climate. Therefore, our elected officials should be asked if they endorse the status quo or oppose. Looking forward, will better informed voters choose to continue to reward municipal workers with million-dollar deals (from an actuarial basis)?

Instead, citizens should demand a reduction in head-count. NCCo’s actuary has pension and health care proposals waiting for action. Salaries have to reflect the balance sheet. Perhaps a spending oversight board would assist in fiscal restraint.

Can New Castle County branches or departments be merged or combined with state or Wilmington units? Do these specialty investment firms that advise and/or assist strained municipalities see NCCo assets that can be monetized? What can NCCo outsource to the private sector?

Here is what we should not do. We should not raise taxes, nor raise fees, nor raise service charges. In my opinion, it is unconscionable for “revenue enhancements” to even be mentioned in our report. Other than those motivated by self-interest, who is asking for more-of-the-same?

Like a hefty chunk of the local households who have already done it, New Castle County government needs basic, immediate belt-tightening. More than ever, leadership is needed.


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Councilman Tim Sheldon (D), in a classic case of the pot calling the kettle black, released a press release today accusing his opponent in the Jan 13th special election, Tom Kovach (R), of having a conflict of interest because Kovach’s law firm may have clients who appear before county council.   Kovach has already been quoted as saying “he will recuse himself if he has a client with a project in the county, or might even refuse to represent such clients altogether.”

In an effort to add an extra zing, Sheldon included the definition in the press release:

con•flict of in•ter•est

A term used to describe the situation in which a public official or fiduciary who, contrary to the obligation and absolute duty to act for the benefit of the public or a designated individual, exploits the relationship for personal benefit, typically pecuniary.

Remember the old 3rd grade joke – “If I looked up ‘ugly’ in the dictionary there would be a picture of your mom!” ???

Well, it seems that Sheldon forgot to include the picture:

Yeah – let’s not forget about Sheldon’s fellow Democrat County Executive Paul Clark’s conflict of interest with his wife’s law firm.

Oh yeah and isn’t Sheldon a union boss??   You really think he’ll take the taxpayers’ side when it comes down to pay negotiations with the unions?   Give me a break.

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It is less than two weeks until the special election to fill Paul Clark’s former council president position.   About a month ago it was reported in the News Journal that Mr. Clark had been admonished by the Ethics Commission for presiding over a County Council debate of an issue involving his wife’s law firm.

There has since been an executive order given by newly elevated County Executive Clark to create a firewall that removes him from any decisions involving his wife’s law firm.   Councilman Tim Sheldon, the Democrat running for the open council president position, says the first thing he would do as council president is to draft a resolution asking the ethics commission to look into Mr. Clark’s potential conflict of interest.   Why hasn’t Mr. Sheldon already drafted the resolution?   He is a sitting member of council – there’s no need to wait.

It seems Mr. Sheldon isn’t quite up to speed on most of the issues and is ducking debates with Kovach.  Paul Clark’s conflict of interest, land use (Mr. Sheldon admits his aide knows more than he does about it), and Vince Meconi are all included in this video:

If you are interested in ethics, responsible development, and bringing balance to the one party rule in county government, be sure to vote for Tom Kovach on January 13th.

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There is a newly released ethics commission report on the new County Executive and former Council President, Paul Clark.   In July of 2009 there was an ethics review when he accidentally sent an email to a group of developers with his wife’s law firm signature, instructed two employees to delete 5,000 emails from his county office computer, and then tried to sue to keep the opinion private (more here).    From the News Journal:

He stayed in president’s chair in rezoning vote involving wife’s firm

By CHAD LIVENGOOD
The News Journal – 12/3/2010

The New Castle County Ethics Commission has admonished County Executive Paul Clark for presiding over a County Council debate of an issue involving his wife’s law firm.

In February, Clark, then council president, recused himself from voting on the rezoning of the Potts Welding factory site near Newark for a developer represented by his wife’s law firm, Saul Ewing. But he remained in the president’s chair and called witnesses to testify in favor of rezoning the land on Del. 273 from industrial to commercial use. The rezoning was defeated in a 3-9 vote.

That prompted someone to file a complaint to the ethics commission, which previously had instructed Clark to recuse himself from votes on matters in which his wife, attorney Pam Scott, or her law firm are involved. The identity of complainants, who sign under the penalty of perjury, remain confidential.

“The Commission finds by clear and convincing evidence that the official adversely affected the public confidence in his impartiality by presiding over a matter involving his wife’s business,” the panel wrote in an order released Thursday.

The Ethics Commission issued Clark a letter of notification, which is how the panel can admonish public officials and tell them what they did wrong. The commission has no authority to fine or sanction Clark.

Clark was elevated from council president to the county executive’s office on Nov. 15 after former County Executive Chris Coons stepped down following his election to the U.S. Senate.

The Ethics Commission order does not identify Clark by name, as its rules prohibit it from doing so. But Clark confirmed Thursday that the order was issued against him. In a statement, Clark said the commission’s finding was a “technical violation.”

“It has been my understanding of the Ethics Code that relinquishing the chair is not necessary when my actions as president are ministerial,” Clark said. “Had I known it was in violation of the Ethics Code to preside in this instance, I would have delegated the chair immediately.”

County law prohibits elected officials from exercising their authority for the benefit of themselves or their family members. Scott is a partner in Saul Ewing’s Wilmington office.

Clark did not dispute the Ethics Commission’s evidence. In fact, he stated in writing to the panel that he “presided over [a matter] where the applicant was represented by my wife’s [business].”

Rezonings central concern

Since being elected countywide as council president in 2004, Clark has been dogged by allegations that his position has helped Scott and her law partners become the go-to firm for getting rezonings.

In this case, the application was to rezone 13.38 acres at the Potts Welding site from industrial to commercial use.

Saul Ewing attorney Richard Forsten represented a developer seeking to redevelop the former wheel manufacturing plant into a 129,000-square-foot retail shopping center. After Forsten answered questions from council members, Clark asked Land Use Department General Manager Dave Culver to speak, according to an audio recording of the meeting obtained by The News Journal.

“I just think it’s important to get on the record what your department’s position was and then have a chance if anyone wants to ask you a question,” Clark told Culver.

Culver, who now works for Clark, said his department favored the rezoning because the Ogletown area east of the Newark city limits on Del. 273 has been transforming from industrial to commercial and office uses.

The county’s planning board was split 4-4 on the issue, with some members voting against the rezoning because of a belief that the land should remain industrial. At the time of the council vote, Clark said he was recusing himself from voting because Forsten works at “my wife’s firm.”

Ethics Commission members do not comment on opinions and orders they issue. Commission members Miguel Gonzales, James Keeley, Eugene McCoy and Gerald Turkel voted in favor of the sanction, while commissioner Vincent White voted against the decision, which was issued Oct. 13 but not made public until Thursday. The panel has one vacancy, and Chairman Thomas Collins Sr. did not vote on the sanction.

During Clark’s last month as council president, he took additional steps to recuse himself from matters involving his wife’s clients. For example, at an Oct. 26 meeting, he turned over the gavel to Council President Pro Tem Penrose Hollins to run a vote on the refund of taxes to one of Scott’s former clients just to “play it safe.”

A few days after Clark became county executive, he issued an order instructing employees to not involve him in any matters that his wife or Saul Ewing have before the county.

Democrats mired in issue

Clark’s conflict-of-interest issue increasingly has become a political problem for him and fellow Democrats on County Council.

Councilman Timothy Sheldon, a Pike Creek Democrat, is running for the council president’s seat against former state Rep. Tom Kovach, a Brandywine Hundred Republican.

If elected, Sheldon has vowed to seek an Ethics Commission opinion on how Clark’s administration can continue to interact with Scott and her law firm without creating the appearance of favoritism.

New Castle County Republican Party Chairman Michael Fleming seized on the Ethics Commission ruling Thursday, saying Clark has brought an “embarrassing ethical circus” to county government.

“The Ethics Commission’s condemnation of County Executive Paul Clark makes abundantly clear why we desperately need new, independent leadership in our county government,” Fleming said in a statement.

Here is the full NCC GOP statement from their website:

The Ethics Commission’s condemnation of County Executive Paul Clark makes abundantly clear why we desperately need new, independent leadership in our county government.  Sadly, this isn’t the first rebuke of Mr. Clark by the Ethics Commission but just the latest in an appalling litany of ethical dysfunction: the constant specter of conflicts of interest, refusing to make council proceedings more available to the public, forcing elected officials to file FOIA requests for public information – and now this striking denunciation of the former council president for “adversely affect[ing] the public confidence in his impartiality by presiding over a matter involving his wife’s business.”

Yet Mr. Clark’s hand-picked successor Councilman Tim Sheldon says he is proud of the fact no one on council has gone to jail in the last six years. Is that their standard for ethical excellence? It is time to end this embarrassing ethical circus by electing Tom Kovach as county council president on January 13 and beginning the process of restoring integrity and accountability in our county government.

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From yesterday’s News Journal (The article can be found here):

Delaware has been able to bounce back from economic setbacks using persistence and a personal approach, the state’s economic development director told regional business leaders on Wednesday.

Today, the Department of Labor released Delaware’s employment report. So let’s see how DEDO is defining “bouncing back”:

I don’t know about you, but I don’t consider a 13.5% of Delaware’s citizens unemployed “bouncing back”.

I know that the Economic Development Director is out promoting the State that is his job, and I think that he’s doing all that he can. But most business owners really aren’t fooled by government slogans. They are more interested in overall business climate. Given Wilmington’s $3+ million budget deficit, New Castle County government’s $12+ million operating deficit, Delaware’s looming $125+ million shortfall, and progressive-controlled legislature & executive branch, the overall business climate in Delaware is not going to get better anytime soon.

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From NCCGOP.com:

Tom KovachWednesday, November 17 – The New Castle County Republican Committee today named former State Representative Tom Kovach as the party’s candidate for the upcoming special election for County Council President.

“I enter this race with an absolute commitment to bring balance and accountability back to county government.” said Kovach.  “The county needs a new, independent voice to advocate for county residents and stand firm against ill-conceived development, while encouraging responsible land-use decisions, economic growth and job creation.  Having more openness and transparency in the county’s decision-making process will be the first-step towards a better, more trusted government.  I look forward to a positive campaign on the issues – and the opportunities – for our county.  We can and must do better for our county.”

“We are extraordinarily fortunate to have Tom Kovach as the candidate for the Republican Party in this critical campaign,” said Michael Fleming, chairman of the New Castle County Republican Committee.

“Tom has the energy, the experience and the know-how to win this race and bring desperately needed balance to our county government.  Tom’s background as an effective state representative, his knowledge of state and county issues, and his winning record in special elections made him a clear consensus choice.  Tom is not just the right choice for the party, he is the right choice for New Castle County’s families and businesses.  As a fiscal conservative with a proven record of fighting excessive government spending and higher taxes, Tom knows how to hold government accountable.  Tom’s candidacy will offer voters a clear and unmistakable choice between someone who will challenge the tired status quo that has led to conflicts of interest, shortsighted planning, higher taxes and a systemic budget deficit, and the forces that have been part of the problem.”

Tom Kovach’s background and experience provides him with a comprehensive understanding of many of the tough issues facing County Council and the ability to make substantive progress on these issues.  As an environmental attorney, Tom understands the legal complexities of land-use issues, helping him counter special interests.  A chemical engineer from the University of Delaware, Tom worked for the U.S. EPA before attending law school.  Tom is a leader in DNREC’s Brownfields program, which takes contaminated industrial sites, cleans them up, and promotes new business in places where there is adequate, existing infrastructure.  During his two years in public office as a State Representative, Tom demonstrated his dedication and commitment to the community, supporting the many non-profits and community organizations in and around his district.  In addition, Tom has been extremely active in communication with his constituents, reaching out with Town Hall meetings, constituent coffees, and through social media venues such as Facebook and Twitter.  Although new to public service in 2008, Tom has earned national recognition for his efforts, being selected as one of twenty-four emerging political leaders from across the county for the Aspen-Rodel Fellowship in Public Leadership.  A graduate of Brandywine High School, Tom lives in Eastern Brandywine with his wife Sandi and three children.

The impending special election has been triggered by former County Council President Paul Clark’s ascension to the role of County Executive, following the election of Chris Coons to the US Senate.

“The people are best served when there are adequate checks in place in our system and the appropriate balance of power.  More than ever, residents of New Castle County need a strong voice on County Council to provide the necessary check and balance with the executive branch.  Our County Council must remain separate and independent, and directly accountable to the people.   As Council President, Tom Kovach will not let Council be a rubber stamp for the County Executive.  Tom’s record shows he will ensure openness in the government process and offer the new leadership we need to move the county forward in a positive and fresh direction,” continued Fleming.

In making the selection, the NCC GOP executive committee consulted with Republicans across the county including elected officials, local party leaders and volunteers, and conducted interviews with interested candidates.

“We thank everyone involved in the process including candidates and those on the selection committee for their interest and willingness to serve.  Now we unite behind Tom and take our message to the voters,” said Fleming.

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Here is the Delaware state statute that says the Governor appoints a temporary US Senator and that appointee’s term terminates upon the election (not swearing in) of a new Senator as to avoid a vacancy in the US Senate seat:

Title 15. Elections
Part V. Special, Municipal, and Other Elections
Chapter 73. Vacancy in Office of Representative in Congress, United States Senator or Presidential Elector
Subchapter II. United States Senator
§ 7321. Vacancy; temporary appointment; term

Whenever a vacancy shall happen by death, resignation or otherwise in the office of Senator from this State in the Senate of the United States, the Governor may make a temporary or ad interim appointment from among the qualified electors of this State of some person to fill such vacancy until the same shall be filled at the next ensuing general election in the manner prescribed by law. The office of such temporary appointee shall terminate upon the election, under this title, of a Senator from this State in the Senate of the United States to fill the vacancy.

Here is the Delaware Constitutional provision that prohibits a person from serving as US Senator and County Executive simultaneously:

Constitution of the State of Delaware
Article III. Executive
§ 11. County officers; qualifications; members of Congress, federal employees and other officers holding dual office

Section 11. No person shall be elected or appointed to an office within a county who shall not have a right to vote for a Representative in the General Assembly, and have been a resident therein one year next before his or her election or appointment, nor hold the office longer than he or she continues to reside in the county, unless herein otherwise provided.

No member of Congress, nor any person holding or exercising any office under the United States, except officers usually appointed by the courts of justice respectively and attorneys-at-law, shall at the same time hold or exercise any office of profit under this State, unless herein otherwise provided.

No person shall hold more than one of the following offices at the same time, to-wit: Secretary of State, Attorney-General, Insurance Commissioner, State Treasurer, Auditor of Accounts, Prothonotary, Clerk of the Peace, Register of Wills, Recorder, or Sheriff.

So technically speaking, as soon as the election results were certified (maybe as late as the 8th – don’t know exactly when Gov Markell issued the certificate), Chris Coons was elected US Senator and there was an implied resignation of his County Executive office.  By continuing to act as County Exec, Mr. Coons may have been violating Delaware law.

So what’s the big deal?    Here’s a few conspiracy theories:

  • It’s possible that any county related decisions that Chris Coons has made in the last week could be challenged in court now.   An unhappy vendor, employee or citizen could come back and say Mr. Coons didn’t have the authority to do whatever he (or his staff) did.   They may not win, but they could make the county pay some hefty legal fees defending itself.
  • It’s possible that any county council business that Paul Clark presided over could be challenged in court.   Technically Council President Paul Clark automatically became County Executive as soon as the election results were certified (and Mr. Coons became Senator).   Penrose Hollins, as president pro tem, should have been chairing the council meeting this past week.
  • By law, the president pro tem (Mr. Hollins) has 10 days to report the Council President vacancy to the Dept. of Elections.  They then must schedule a special election within 45 days.  Depending on how you look at this, his 10 days are almost up.
  • This could be a large plot by the Democrats (including the Governor) to delay the special election for our new Council President.   They know a special election before Christmas favors the Republicans and delaying it until after New Year’s is in their favor.  Turnout is critical – John Tobin, and the folks at Delaware PoliticsDelaware Liberal have already started discussing it.

Mr. Coons plans to resign from his County Executive position via fax from Washington on Monday, moments before being ceremonially sworn in as a US Senator.   This drama is unnecessary and it would have been better for all of us if Mr. Coons had immediately stepped down from his county post and taken a week of vacation.

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