Business owner Alex Pires linked to complaints, Applebaum recommended for "a written reprimand and certain other measures."

The Dewey Beach Commissioners have released a statement concerning complaints surrounding Town Manager Marc Appelbaum after being briefed on the results of an independent investigation:

"Significantly, the investigator does not recommend suspension or termination; however, the investigator concluded that the town manager has, on various occasions, failed to meet expectations of decorum and behavior and the investigator recommends a written reprimand and certain other measures. The Council will consider the appropriate course in the coming weeks. Any actions taken will only occur after appropriate public notice and appropriate public discussion required by state law."

A letter dated June 14 addressed to the Dewey Beach mayor and commissioners, ten DBPD officers, including Chief Sam Mackert, Dewey Beach Patrol Captain Todd Fritchman and Dewey Beach Building Inspector William Mears demanded the town take immediate action to fire Appelbaum. The letter accused Appelbaum of sexual harassment, racism, abusive conduct and improper interference with the town’s police department, beach patrol and building inspector.

Read more about those complaints here. Since June 14, six additional complaints regarding Applebaum have been submitted.

The independent investigation of the accusations, which was conducted by Wilmington lawyer Max Walton, also found that the original complaints, outlined in an 11-page letter to the town, were authored by Alex Pires. Pires owns several Dewey Beach businesses, including the Bottle & Cork.

The statement:

STATEMENT BY DEWEY BEACH MAYOR AND COMMISSIONER HANSON REGARDING INDEPENDENT INVESTIGATION INTO ALLEGATIONS AGAINST TOWN MANAGER

In response to a June 14 letter signed by 12 Town employees making various allegations against the Town Manager, the Dewey Beach Town Council engaged an independent investigator to conduct an independent investigation and report back to Town Council an independent set of findings and conclusions. The investigator interviewed over 20 individuals, including current and former Town employees, as well as non-employees. The investigator reviewed hundreds of pages of documents, and spent hundreds of hours on the investigation. At this point in the investigation, findings and recommendations have become available.

Last night, in an executive session, the investigator briefed Town Council on the results of his investigation. A final written report of his investigation is to follow shortly.

In addition to a detailed investigation of the allegations against Mr. Appelbaum, Mr. Walton’s investigation revealed troubling facts about the genesis and timing of those allegations and a Town businessman who is apparently facilitating the attempt to oust Marc Appelbaum. But first we tum to the claims against Mr. Appelbaum.

Significantly, the investigator does not recommend suspension or termination; however, the investigator concluded that the town manager has, on various occasions, failed to meet expectations of decorum and behavior and· the investigator recommends a written reprimand and certain other measures. The Council will consider the appropriate course in the coming weeks. Any actions taken will only occur after appropriate public notice and appropriate public discussion as required by state law.

In the course of the investigation, though, certain remarkable facts have come to light.

First and foremost, the investigator learned that local businessman Alex Pires drafted the original June 14 letter signed by the 12 employees that began this saga. The reasons for Mr. Pires’ involvement are not known, but certainly his disagreements with the Town (and presumably the Town Manager) are. Mr. Pires has unsuccessfully sued the Town. His establishments have been subject to enforcement actions by the Town. Mr. Pires’ involvement may explain why his frequent co-counsel in lawsuits, Rick Cross, has represented the complaining employees. It may also explain why an employee of one of Mr. Pires’ companies acted as notary for affidavits signed by the complaining employees.

That Town employees would tum to Mr. Pires to draft such a letter is disturbing in and of itself. However, the investigator has also concluded that the letter and its allegations were made public by the employees (presumably with the assistance and possible urging of Mr. Pires, who, after all, drafted the letter) in an effort to discredit the Town Manager and to retaliate against him for actions taken with respect to them. That is the investigator’s independent conclusion - reached after his numerous interviews - and we are troubled by it.

It is regrettable that the independent findings and recommendations were not available for Council’s consideration until just days before the Town’s annual election. We had hoped to have concluded our review and taken final action long before now, but the initial refusal of the complaining employees to cooperate delayed our investigator by several weeks.

Having received an oral summary of the investigator’s conclusions and  recommendations, and knowing this to be a matter of great public interest, we wanted to let the public know immediately of the results.

You can expect Town Council in the days and weeks ahead to address fully all of the issues raised by the report.

In the meantime, we call upon Mr. Pires, Mr. Cross and the complaining Town employees to disclose more about the relationship between Mr. Pires and the claims made against the Town Manager. In particular, we would like to know whether Mr. Pires is providing any sort of financial assistance to the employees or Mr. Cross in connection with the investigation, the Court of Chancery lawsuit, the Public Integrity Commission complaint and other efforts to discredit the Town Manager and the Town.

 

“It was not a big surprise that Alex Pires was involved in writing the complaint," Dewey Beach Commissioner Diane Hanson said in an email. "His fingerprints have been all over this incident from the beginning. Police should be independent from the establishments they regulate, so it is very disconcerting that our police are working with an individual who owns many bars/restaurants in this town.”

On Saturday, Dewey Beach residents will vote on the commissioner seats of both Hanson and Mayor Dale Cooke. Commissioner Mike Dunmeyer's seat is up for grabs; he decided not to run for re-election.

Hanson and Cooke have been challenged by candidates TJ Redefer, Paul Bauer and Jill Compello, who recently began campaigning as a team and calling for a "clean sweep."