Sussex County Delaware

Dickerson Termination
Hearing Postponed
 
Fenwick Island ...

No New Date Set Yet;
Hudson OIC Pact Extended

By ERIC MAGILL
SC Online Publisher

The termination hearing of suspended Fenwick Island police chief George H. Dickerson Jr. has been postponed, according to a press release from town council on Monday, Dec. 2, 2002.

The release said that no new date had been set for the hearing, which had been originally scheduled for Wednesday, Dec. 4, at 1:30 p.m. to decide whether Dickerson should be reinstated as chief or fired.

The quasi-judicial proceeding was to be moderated by Hearing Officer Roger Akin, Esq., and allow council and Chief Dickerson to present evidence and witnesses. The public will be allowed to attend but may not participate unless called on as a witness.

Council voted on Friday, Nov. 22, to move the hearing to the Bethany Beach Fire Hall due to concerns about space limitations in Fenwick town hall.

Monday's release said the hearing was postponed by "mutual agreement of the parties involved." It said the postponement was necessary due to the "premature lawsuit alleging unlawful termination which was served on the Town on November 26, 2002, thus creating attorney conflict and availability issues."

Reached on Monday, Dec. 2, Dickerson said the reference to the attorney conflict involved Akin. Dickerson said he and his attorney, Richard Wier, have been informed that Akin had been hired by the town's liability insurance company to defend the town against Dickerson's lawsuit against the town and past and current council members.

That lawsuit was filed by Dickerson on Wednesday, Nov. 20. It alleges that council violated Dickerson's rights by firing him in retaliation for bringing council's alleged misuse of COPS Grants to the attention of the Department of Justice and for filing FOIA complaints against the council.

Wier was unavailable for comment on the release's contention that the lawsuit was "premature", but Dickerson disagreed with that characterization.

"It wasn't premature in that there were violations and things done to me," said Dickerson. "I don't have to be fired to bring a suit for the things that were done. Also, some documents I have say I was terminated. If they think the hearing is going to resolve these issues, I don't think so. I'm ready to go (with the hearing). The hearing will just give me an opportunity to tell my story."

The release also said there had been a death in the family of one of the key witnesses and that the witness would be unavailable for the hearing.

The town council said the chief's suspension with pay would continue. It also said that Glenn Hudson, hired as Officer in Charge through Thursday, Dec. 5, will now serve as Officer in Charge until at least the day after the rescheduled termination hearing.

Council originally hired Hudson as Officer in Charge for six months but had to clarify the length of that contract a week later because it had not officially fired Dickerson yet.

Monday's release was sent to the media following another executive session by council without the required 7 days notice on Monday, Dec. 2. The agenda for the executive session said it had to be held without the required 7 days notice due to the "urgency of pending litigation".

Council's continued use of executive sessions without meeting the 7-day notice requirement of the Freedom of Information Act has prompted yet another FOIA complaint against the town council, which has lost a half-dozen FOIA complaints this year alone.

Vicki Carmean, the newest town council member and the leading vote-getter in the town's August elections, filed the complaint the week of Nov. 18, asking the attorney general's office to determine if:

  • The town council violated FOIA by not providing minutes of town meetings and executive sessions in a timely manner;

  • Members of council met or discussed after the Nov. 1, 2002 council meeting to extend the contract to hire Glenn Hudson as Officer in Charge from Dec. 5, 2002, to six months;

  • Council gave only 3 days public notice of a special executive session meeting on Nov. 22, 2002, and whether the subjects of that executive session were authorized by statute.

Council has scheduled another executive session, this time with the required 7 days notice, for Thursday, Dec. 5, at 10 a.m. to discuss personnel and potential litigation.

It is then scheduled to come out of executive session to consider possible action stemming from the executive session, to discuss the organization of the Fenwick Island Police Department, and to approve prior meeting minutes.


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