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A cancelled swearing in, a court hearing: drama over Wilmington City Council vacancy continues

Courtesy of Wilmington City Council
Council President-elect Trippi Congo was ousted from the 2nd District seat after admitting to the press he had moved from his district

The controversyover a Wilmington City Council vacancy has reached court. 

A Superior Court judge heard motions Tuesday in a case filed by Wilmington City Councilman Sam Guy against the City over a controversial council vacancy. The hearing came hours after a swearing in ceremony to fill the vacancy was abruptly cancelled.

Trippi Congo was ousted from the 2nd District seat after admitting to the press he had moved out of his district—breaking the rules under City Charter.

Out-going at-large Councilman Guy argues the process for certifying and filling a vacancy was not followed properly.  

“It’s totally out of control when you have folks trying to illegally put a person in a seat that has not even been declared vacant,” he said Tuesday. 

Specifically, Guy claims City Council President Hanifa Shabazz unilaterally removed Congo from Council by preventing him from accessing virtual meetings. Guy also objects to a Committee of the Whole voteby just five council members that kept Congo out of the 2nd District seat. There are 13 seats on Council. 

City Solicitor Robert Goff represented the City in a Superior Court hearing over competing motions to expedite and to dismiss the case Tuesday. Goff said the rules are vague on the process for removing a council member.

“It doesn’t say whether it should be at a Committee of the Whole or at a regular meeting,” said Goff. “Mr. Guy says that’s the way that Council usually operates, but there’s nothing really that tells the court why the court should say that this particular proceeding was inferm because that kind of forum was used.”

Superior Court Judge William Witham denied Guy’s motion to expedite the case — and promised to issue a written decision on whether to dismiss it. 

Congo was elected City Council President this fall.

Shané Darby was elected to the second district seat this fall — and will start her term in January. She declined to be sworn in to fill the seat until then. She said on social media she shouldn’t be drawn into the “controversy over whether or not the seat is legitimately vacant.”

Sophia Schmidt is a Delaware native. She comes to Delaware Public Media from NPR’s Weekend Edition in Washington, DC, where she produced arts, politics, science and culture interviews. She previously wrote about education and environment for The Berkshire Eagle in Pittsfield, MA. She graduated from Williams College, where she studied environmental policy and biology, and covered environmental events and local renewable energy for the college paper.
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