Sussex County Code of Conduct and Ethics Discussion Continues…

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Image courtesy Sussex County Government

The Sussex County Council Tuesday continues its discussion on the County Code of Conduct and recent Ethics training earlier this month. After the training, District 2 Councilwoman Cindy Green opted not to sign the Conflict of Interest disclosure form saying that she wanted this in ordinance form with a Council vote. This same form has been used by Sussex County for several years – and Green did sign the same form last year.

County officials tell the Talk of Delmarva that the form from last year and this year are not identical. “In practical terms, it is not different. The questions are the same. The one exception is the form previously referenced the internal procedures of the County’s purchasing policy; it has since been updated to reference Title 29 of Delaware Code where the Code of Ethics can be found to help with clarity for the questions of the form. Beyond that, there is no difference.”

The Sussex County Finance Director, Gina Jennings, did say there are possible workarounds – including rather than the 5 forms signed by the County Council members – she could request the over 2000 vendors the county uses to have their people sign the forms – or Councilwoman Green could recuse herself from funding votes that include federal monies. However this would leave 2nd District constituents without a vote or voice in many important County funding matters.

Image courtesy Sussex County Government

Jennings tells the Talk of Delmarva, “The County does spend tax dollars and state funds on other projects, but they are typically small projects and don’t require Council approval, so long as there is funding in the Council-approved budget. The large projects that do come to Council for a separate vote – outside of the yearly budget process – typically have some type of federal funding in them. These projects involve the airport, sewer and water, community development, and EOC. Examples of County-only funded projects that require a Council vote are the new Paramedic Training Complex and any other paramedic stations the County may build in the future. Also, if the County is buying land for open space, we typically don’t use federal funds for those purchases either.”

Council President Mike Vincent told Green that there was no need for an ordinance for a document that says there is no Conflict of Interest. And Councilman John Rieley said that at the beginning of the conversation it was established that the authority exists through the State for the need for this document which gives the Finance Director the authority to have the Conflict of Interest forms signed and on file – there is no need for a County ordinance.

Councilwoman Green is one of two County officials who have not signed the Conflict of Interest form. BOA member Jordan Warfel has actually signed the form, but replied to none of the 6 yes/no questions on the form, but did state in writing that he had nothing to report to the form and to read his attached letter (below). Warfel was appointed to the Board of Adjustment by Councilwoman Green.

This discussion has not ended and will appear on a future County Council agenda.

In other Council action:

Image courtesy Sussex County Government

County Finance Director Jennings updated the Council on the Pension Committee meeting earlier this month. She did make one request changing the OPEB (Other Pension Employee Benefit) funding policy for determining the actuarial value of assets. The Council approved the request with a 5 to 0 vote.

The Council heard from County Economic Development Director, Bill Pfaff, on the Kitchen Incubator project. This program has been in the works for some time, however the FY 2023 annual operating budget needs to be amended to incorporate new fees and expenses for the Kitchen Incubator. This is a program that will create a collaborative community, providing shared kitchen space combined with business assistance to help aspiring and existing entrepreneurs build great food companies, create jobs, improve healthy food access, and strengthen our regional food economy. The actual kitchen is located at Delaware Tech in Georgetown. The Council introduced the ordinance which will be scheduled for a public hearing.

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