By Stefanie Jackson — In the aftermath of the bombshell dropped in Cape Charles in May with the sudden resignation of interim town manager Bob Panek and the surrounding turmoil, the town has been striving to recover and improve the overall quality of its leadership.
At the June 21 town council meeting, the first since the controversial May 31 executive session from which personal, confidential information about Panek was leaked to a local blog, a letter from Sue Panek, Bob Panek’s spouse, was read into the public record.
“Initially, it was my sincere hope that those of you who leaked information from that meeting … and then allowed it to be spun and published … would admit it publicly, correct the untruths, and have the decency, honor, and integrity to issue an apology and resign,” she wrote.
“Given the time that has passed, I sadly see that my hope was fruitless.”
Sue Panek congratulated the new mayor, Smitty Dize, and new council members, Paul Grossman and Tammy Holloway. (Cela Burge joined the town council in March, meaning half the council has been replaced in about three months.)
Bob Panek resigned as acting town manager but works for Cape Charles as a project manager on a contractual basis.
Though no apology or resignation was issued, both new and old council members attended a work session on July 26 with a presentation by Michael Sterling and Chris Ambrosio of the law firm, Vandeventer Black, on topics such as the town code of ethics and personnel policies.
The town council was briefed on a variety of ethics issues, including avoiding conflicts of interests and bribes offered in exchange for performance of public duties, getting an individual a government job, appointment, or promotion, or obtaining contracts.
Another work session will be held on Sept. 6, when the Vandeventer Black firm will brief the council on the town’s annexation agreement with Brown & Root Inc. that made the area now known as Bay Creek part of Cape Charles.
At the Aug. 17 council meeting, new councilwoman, Tammy Holloway, voiced concern for the council’s effectiveness in replying to and resolving citizen concerns.
“People are taking their time to share their ideas with us,” and the council should follow up on those issues, Holloway said.
She was particularly concerned about how to respond to an email from a citizen to the council as a whole. “I’ve been on that side of things, going a month and a half, two months, without any even acknowledgment of it when I sent it to the council as a group. So now I see how that happens,” Holloway said.
“It’s innocent, it’s not anyone’s fault, but I want to make sure that we have a process” to close the communication gap, she continued.
Dize offered a simple solution. He committed himself and interim town manager, Larry DiRe, to collaborate on each citizen concern addressed to the whole council and “circle back” with council members to let them know that action had been taken.
“Done,” Holloway replied.
The council is in the last stages of selecting a new town manager from the final three candidates and a decision should be made soon. “We’re still in the search, still negotiating,” Dize said.
Offshore Drilling Resolution
Council members voted unanimously to pass a resolution opposing offshore drilling and seismic blasting, the method by which oil is detected below the ocean floor using loud sound waves that can be heard below the surface from miles away.
Terra Pascarosa, of Oceana, visited the council twice recently to warn council members of the risks posed by offshore drilling as well as the dangers of seismic blasting to the health of marine life.
Northampton County and the town of Exmore have passed similar resolutions.