UPDATED: Attorney Rick Cross responded with the following statement:
” I asked Max Walton for 2 simple conditions. First, he had verbally assured me that the investigation was not an attempt to go after my clients. I have asked him to put in writing that they would not use it against my clients since the Mayor already publicly announced that “everyone will be held accountable” which sounds like a plan to use this against my clients. Second, I asked for a copy of each interview of my clients to ensure they aren’t taken out of context or misquoted.
Thus far, they have not responded to my request.
If they are serious about looking into these allegations, my conditions shouldn’t be a problem. If not, then it appears they are simply looking at covering up what happened and using this to punish my clients.
As an aside, the Town’s response that Max’s cozy relationship with Marc Appelbaum doesn’t prevent him from investigating Appelbaum is laughable. Furthermore, if it was not a problem, why did they deny any prior relationship when asked. Of all the lawyers in Delaware, why choose one who has a prior relationship with Appelbaum.
My clients intend to cooperate fully with the Public Integrity Commission. Thus far we view it as the only true independent investigation of this matter. ”
Dewey Beach’s Mayor is doubling down on its pick of attorney Max Walton to be an independent investigator looking into allegations of abuse and misconduct by the town manager Marc Appelbaum. Over the past week, the lawyer representing the town employees in the case, Rick Cross, has raised questions about a previous litigation where Walton represented the Town, saying Walton previously did not disclose his relationship fully.
In a statement released yesterday by Mayor Dale Cooke, he says the last time Walton had any meaningful contact with any town officials was over 7 years ago. Ultimately, Cooke says there is “no basis” to conclude Walton “lacks the necessary independence” to conduct an investigation.
Read Mayor Cooke’s full statement below:
“Recent allegations have challenged whether attorney Max Walton is sufficiently independent to investigate the complaints filed against the Dewey Beach Town Manager.
After discussions with our Town Solicitor, we have concluded this contention has no validity. Mr. Walton has had no meaningful relationship with Mr. Appelbaum and his only contact with other Town officials ended approximately 7 years ago. The email in which Mr. Appelbaum expresses admiration for the quality of Mr. Walton’s legal ability does not suggest a lack of independence. The same is true with respect to the other emails we have been asked to examine. There is simply no basis to conclude Mr. Walton lacks the necessary independence to fairly conduct this important investigation. Therefore, Mr. Townsend will direct Mr. Walton’s team to proceed as quickly as possible to complete the investigation.
We understand that, on advice of counsel, those who have made these serious allegations have thus far refused to participate in the investigation of those very same complaints. We believe our Charter obliges us, in the interest of all parties, to resolve this matter in a timely and fair manner. To that end, we would urge those alleging violations, the Town Manager, and any others who have evidence relevant to the charges to arrange to meet with Mr. Walton’s team as soon as possible. We have an obligation to consider any and all information available as we determine an appropriate course of action.
Mr. Walton’s team has been asked to make an assessment of the claims. That is the scope of his investigation and it needs to be completed expeditiously with interviews of all those who have relevant evidence. Once the investigation has been completed, we will receive a report and decide the next step.
We understand that the complainants have turned to the Delaware Public Integrity Commission and our investigation may be helpful to that process. However, we cannot shirk our responsibility to investigate these allegations and obtain a full and clear understanding of all relevant facts. As elected town officials, it is our obligation to protect the rights and welfare of all the employees involved.
Dale H. Cooke
Mayor, Town of Dewey Beach”