Editorial: Time to get Dewey’s house in order

February 8, 2019

Some recent Cape Gazette stories read like the script of a sitcom.

There’s the missing document caper, when a Dewey Beach committee chairman chases a citizen into the parking lot demanding return of a report distributed and discussed during a public committee meeting. Meanwhile, two reporters leave the same meeting with the same public document, but no one chases them.

The chairman tries to pull the license plate off the citizen’s car, later telling police he thought it would be evidence.

Dewey Police investigate, but instead of interviewing people who saw what happened, police interview people who, at the time of the incident, were at a different meeting.

Dewey Police do nothing about the damaged license plate but instead charge the citizen with theft – for taking a public document.

Prosecutors later withdraw the charge for lack of prosecutorial merit.

But it doesn’t end there. Months later, the chairman decides to amend already approved minutes of the meeting to insert that he had requested return of the documents during the meeting.

The secretary and another official object, prompting the chairman to admit, in public, that his request came after the meeting had been adjourned, not during the meeting.

But did he give up changing the minutes? No. He insisted the minutes should say what he himself said had not happened.

The intentionally falsified minutes were adopted by a 2-1 vote.

It might be funny if all this took place in a bumbling, Mayberry sort of way. But when it’s the founder of a public watchdog group who is falsely charged, it’s not amusing. It looks more like police harassment.

There’s also nothing funny about falsifying meeting minutes. If we cannot rely on the minutes as a true record of the meeting, how will we know what officials are actually doing?

Dewey officials in 2017 approved an organizational analysis of police, code enforcement and beach patrol activities, and commissioners voted Jan. 21 to move ahead with hiring a consultant, a long-overdue move. Officials should also commit to making this report public, wherever it leads.