City manager says the position with electric dept. not created for mayor

By Tony E. Windsor

A Seaford City Councilwoman feels that more should have been done by city officials to make citizens aware that the citys current Mayor was being considered for a position with the electric department. This resulted in council action being taken last week to appoint an acting mayor to fill Mayor Bill Bennetts seat. The citys manager disagrees.

Councilwoman Pat Jones, who was Bennetts challenger in the last mayoral election, expressed frustration during the Tuesday, Aug. 13, council meeting when four of her colleagues chose to appoint Council newcomer David Genshaw to serve out the remainder of Bennetts term. Jones said this turn of events is the lowest point of my entire history on the city council. She said she is disappointed that her colleagues chose to select an acting mayor using an anonymous ballot process, rather than holding a special election.

The people of Seaford need to know what is going on here, she said. I ran for the office of mayor and would have graciously accepted the acting mayors position when Mayor Bennett stepped down. I cannot understand what Councilman Genshaw with less than two years of experience has to offer that my colleagues feel is more valuable than my 12 years of experience; coupled with the fact that I actively pursued the office in a municipal election. If I was not chosen to fill the seat as Mayor Bennetts former opposing candidate, I believe it should have gone to special election so the people of Seaford could make the decision.

During his time as acting mayor, Genshaw will continue to serve as a councilman and in his position as liaison with the parks and recreation department. Bennetts term will be up next spring, at which time an election for mayor will be held.

Jones said she also feels there has been little shared with the public regarding former Mayor Bennetts stepping down to accept a position with the city. He is filling a position that has been vacant for at least a year and apparently interviewed for the position while he was still Mayor of Seaford. This seems like a conflict to me, she said.

She went on to say that the position that Bennett had applied for had been vacant for over a year and as far as she knew there was no money earmarked in the citys newly adopted budget to pay for it. She said it seemed coincidental that the position would suddenly be opened up when Bennett became unemployed.

When he was elected mayor in April 2012, Bennett was working at Harley-Davidson of Seaford, where he was vice president and chief of operations. That business, which was owned by his father, was recently sold and Bennett is currently unemployed.

City Manager Dolores Slatcher says the job that Bennett applied for was in no way created for him. She said it is a position that the city, including the city council, feels a need to fill. The electric department is a very busy part of the city, Slatcher said. This position has been vacant since the last superintendent retired, however, we realized that things we needed were not getting done and it was important to have the position filled, she said.

Slatcher said when considering whether to fill the superintendent position at the electric department, she cautioned members of the council that Mayor Bennett was someone who could theoretically be a potential applicant, especially given his 12 years of prior service in the citys electric department and the fact he was unemployed. They opted to move ahead because it was felt this position needed to be filled, she said. At no time did I have any discussion with Mayor Bennett about the job. I felt this was a very sensitive issue and I did not want there to be any perception of potential conflict of interest.

Slatcher said in terms of feeling there may have been efforts to keep the application process covert she says it was the complete opposite. We over-advertised this position, she said. Ordinarily we advertise in a statewide daily newspaper to be sure we get broad coverage. For this position we advertised in two local weekly publications and a statewide publication that also puts the advertisement online. We went the extra mile to ensure that there would be no partiality shown in this process.

Slatcher said there were five applicants and four were interviewed. Each applicant was scored based on an oral and written interview. She said in both the oral and written interviews Bill Bennett had the highest scores. This is why he was offered the job, she said.

In addressing whether there is money for the superintendents position allocated in the budget, Slatcher said No and yes. She said although the superintendents position was not part of the current city budget there is money in the budget to fund the position.

The budget is developed to be used as a plan for addressing the operations of the city. We are always faced with having to make adjustments to address needs, she said. In this case, we had a recent staff member retire and an administrative staff member will be retiring at the end of the year. Between these two vacancies we will have funds available in excess of what is needed to fund the electric superintendents position.

Jones said she is still angered by not being considered to fill the mayors seat when he takes the job with the city, but has no plans to challenge the action beyond what she has stated publicly. However, she has said that she has no plans to attend Genshaws swearing in ceremony at the next Seaford Council meeting.

What more can I lose, she said. I ran for the Mayors position in open election and though I did not win, I feel that I made my positions clear and took my ideas to the public. Now, when the man that I ran against steps down, I am not even considered for the position. This speaks volumes about what the people who sit with me at the council table must think of me. I know I am qualified. So is it because I am a young woman, or because I am a black woman? I am very disappointed, but certainly not surprised.

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