Former Commissioner Stan Mills is running for mayor of Rehoboth Beach based on his track record. Mills and his supporters are writing lots of letters to the press, posting on social media, and placing newspaper ads, all touting his “track record of integrity and transparency.” Integrity and transparency are hardly character traits I would attribute to Mills.
It is time for the voters to know the whole truth about Stan Mills, how he operates and uses his official role to enhance his personal interests and impose his personal prejudices. Some of us who have been around this town for some time know about his past but many new residents and property owners might just buy into the fake and misleading portrayal of Mills’ character.
Let’s talk about “integrity!” As far as I know, Mills is the only commissioner of Rehoboth Beach to be reprimanded and censured by the Delaware Public Integrity Commission (the PIC) for violating the Code of Ethics. As if Commissioner Mills’ “patio patrol” activities in 2010 described below largely targeting gay-owned and gay-operated restaurants was not bad enough, Mills then refused to recuse himself from participation in and voting on matters that “directly arose from his personal conduct” even after being asked to do so by his fellow commissioners.
In a 10+ page Advisory Opinion, dated Jan. 25, 2011, the PIC detailed Mills’ decision to engage in a “patio patrol” enforcement effort targeting restaurants with patios for alleged violations of the city’s restaurant patio ordinance. The PIC stated “beyond his on-going personal interest in his next door neighbor’s [the Blue Moon’s] activities,” during Labor Day Weekend 2010, “he expanded his personal interest from just..[the Blue Moon] to those like it –‘every restaurant that had a patio.’”
Noting that Mills was elected to perform duties of a City Commissioner, such as legislating, the PIC concluded that he nevertheless “allowed his personal or private interests to drive his decision to become an officer patrolling the ‘patio front,’ gathering ‘evidence’ and judging for himself” who was in violation of the city’s restaurant patio ordinance that required patrons to leave by 11 p.m. Based on his patio patrol “observations” and using his official position as an elected commissioner, he was able to meet immediately with Mayor Cooper and the city manager the day after completing his patio patrol and, then, get another meeting with city officials convened the following day at which time the city decided that “more comprehensive enforcement was needed.” A letter was immediately delivered to those restaurants identified by Mills notifying them that the patio ordinance would be enforced within a matter of days.
The following weekend, as a direct result of Mills’ self-anointed enforcer activities, the restaurants identified by Mills were targeted and police arrested and charged owners of the Aqua Grill and Mills’ neighbor, the Blue Moon – both of which were gay-owned and gay-operated restaurants that were “grandfathered.” In his zeal, however, Mills failed to differentiate between restaurants with patios that were “grandfathered” and not subject to the 11 p.m. patio closing time and those that were subject to it. Mills told the PIC he did not know which ones were grandfathered. The PIC noted, however, that Mills had served as a City Commissioner for three years during which time he claimed he got complaints about non-compliance with the ordinance from restaurants that were complying. The PIC continued: “[i]t is difficult to believe [Mills] had no inkling that some restaurants, including the one next door [the Blue Moon], were grandfathered. Yet he never weighed that factor.”
The PIC found that Mills “should have recused as suggested by his colleagues” and directed him “to recuse on those matters as they continue before the City Commissioners” and concluded “that Mr. Mills acted in a manner contrary to the Code [of Ethics] in pursuing a personal or private interest, which resulted in the use of public office for unwarranted privileges, or, at a minimum, appeared to do so.”
I highly recommend reading the tantalizing details in the PIC opinion, which you can find here at Appendix B – Advisory Op. No. 10-34.
Joe Maggio is a longtime resident and business owner in Rehoboth Beach, Del.