New Castle County Ethics Commission receives an additional $150,000 in funding
The New Castle County Council voted Tuesday to approve an additional $150,000 in funding for the county Ethics Commission.
The unanimous approval comes in response to a surge of investigations well beyond the commission's typical workload.
Ethics Commission attorney Julie Sebring says that 20 complaints were filed in 2015. The normal caseload is 3-5.
The $150,000 addition takes the commission's total budget to $365,924 despite having only one contract investigator - retired from the FBI - that Sebring says bills monthly.
“This fiscal year there are some of his invoices outstanding - so it’s to cover some that are already pending and hopefully it will take us through at least June 30,” Sebring said.
Sebring says the new funds will not be used to hire additional contract investigators, but solely to help clear out the current backlog.
She says there are currently 4-5 complaints in the pipeline that may be filed any day, and about 9 inquiries that aren’t into full-scale “investigations” yet.
No comment was made regarding current allegations – as the issues being discussed are confidential.
Councilman Bob Weiner stressed the importance of the Ethics Commission and making sure it's properly funded.
“Funding requested by New Castle County Ethics Commission is a small price to pay to ensure honesty and integrity in New Castle County both for our government and our citizens," Weiner said.
Councilman George Smiley described the situation as an anomaly that he hopes doesn’t become a trend.
Over the past five years, the county got nearly 264 thousand dollars ($263,654.92) back from the Ethics commission – ranging from just over 38 thousand dollars ($38,122.15) in 2015 to a little more than 62 thousand ($62,172.23) in 2011.
Given those numbers, Smiley is concerned the current surge in cases amounts to a misuse of taxpayer dollars.
“There’s no doubt: they are incurring expenses because they are being used - the Ethics Commission - by people for their own personal gain, personal attack, there are phony charges being thrown out there to smear people’s reputations," Smiley said.
The current fiscal year ends in June 30. Smiley says the ethics commission will likely ask for additional funding in the next fiscal year as well.