Letter to the Editor: Seaford’s attempt to change charter on debt referendums should not go to GA


Background: On March 28, Seaford’s City Council voted in favor of a proposed change to Section 35 of the city of Seaford’s charter. Essentially, this change intends to eliminate required special elections/referendums in which voters have to approve some major borrowing (and spending) proposals.

Now, the city of Seaford has requested that Rep. Danny Short, R-Seaford, and Sen. Bryant Richardson, R-Seaford, sponsor and/or support this change to/through the Delaware General Assembly for approval in order to become law.

However, I strongly believe that the proposed charter change approved by a five-member City Council does not reflect the true will of the 5,000-plus eligible voters in Seaford. Therefore, I have formally requested that Mr. Short and/or Mr. Richardson decline to sponsor and/or support this proposed charter change for approval by the General Assembly.

Rationale: Recognizing that my request is somewhat unusual, I provide some (space-limited) supportive rationale.

This proposed charter change is an anti-democratic attempt to negate prudent and timely voter control over some major borrowing and spending, e.g. for wastewater treatment/the like projects. Currently, excessive and/or unwise borrowing and spending proposals by the mayor and City Council can be stopped in their tracks by a timely referendum defeat.

Elimination of voter approval by referendum is highly anti-democratic, as it would take this significant power to borrow and spend massive amounts of money out of the hands of voters to allow the five members of City Council up to $25 million-plus of unchecked borrowing and spending approval power.

A key element for judging the wisdom of taking away the power of citizen approval/disapproval by referendum and giving that power to Seaford’s council should be mayor and City Council’s public record regarding “good stewardship.”

Significant parts of this public record, including far-too-frequent illegal decisions by and behaviors of elected officials, strongly suggest that Seaford’s mayor and City Council have not provided a level of good stewardship deserving significant public trust. Over the last six to seven years, the city of Seaford has been found guilty of: 1.) multiple violations of the Freedom of Information Act laws by the Delaware Department of Justice, including holding two illegal secret meetings; 2.) violations of several election laws, including the illegal signing of the 2020 certificate of election by unauthorized personnel; 3.) passage of an illegal right-to-work law for Seaford, which was negated by action of the General Assembly; and 4.) most recently, passage of illegal fetal-remains ordinances, all of which were declared contrary to Delaware laws in the Delaware Court of Chancery in 2022.

A poignant example of the lack of good stewardship is the extremely negative history of public comment in Seaford. For decades, Seaford’s mayor and City Council rejected the idea that citizens should have the right to speak in public at public meetings. (Does not include public comments permitted during required public hearings.) They denied public comment in Seaford until June 2022, when the Delaware legislature mandated that public bodies allow public comment and forced Seaford to institute public comment. Until then, Seaford was the only municipality in Delaware that had refused to allow public comment.

This anti-democratic behavior by Seaford’s leaders reflected and continues to reflect unhealthy antipathy toward citizens publicly expressing their opinions (especially disagreement) as being an integral part of our democratic governing process. Such anti-democratic antipathy toward citizen opinion is also reflected in the current attempt to do away with required referendum approval or disapproval based on voters’/citizens’ opinions.

In conclusion, the city of Seaford’s request to amend its charter to eliminate the “special election”/referendum requirement should not be brought to the General Assembly for its consideration and/or approval. Seaford’s mayor and City Council have repeatedly demonstrated a major lack of the high level of good-stewardship prerequisite for according them a major increase in power(s).

Simply put, mayor and City Council have not earned nearly enough of our trust to risk dropping voter/referendum approval of major borrowing/spending.

These documented facts are virtually indisputable and clearly demonstrate the very unwise and far-too-frequent illegal decisions by and behaviors of elected officials in Seaford. Such decisions and behaviors are the antithesis of good stewardship.

Dan Cannon


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