The following letter was sent by Vance Phillips as a statement in response to the email from the Sussex County Sheriff Jeff Christopher.
My name is Vance Phillips and I have served on the Sussex County Council for more than a decade. I am a sixth-generation Sussex Countian whose ancestors helped build a strong county, strong state, and a strong America.
My roots in County government were established when overzealous politicians sought to establish unconstitutional laws that would have invaded our privacy and created extreme regulations on our homes through Owner Occupied Housing Codes. I stood shoulder to shoulder with freedom-loving citizens on the steps of the Sussex County Courthouse in 1997 to denounce government intrusiveness and I have been fighting the battle ever since.
Recently, the newly elected Sussex County Sheriff, Jeffrey Christopher, wrote in your newsletter inflammatory rhetoric which ignored certain basic facts, a fundamental requirement for any civil discourse. I wanted to take a moment to offer some perspective in hopes of setting the record straight so a healthy and productive discussion about our County and the role of our sheriff can occur.
Sheriff Christopher claims the County Council has “blocked all efforts I have made to improve the office”. This is simply not true. Sheriff Christopher fails to mention he has yet to make a public presentation or request to the County Council for these supposed improvements. This is understandable, since the sheriff only took office eight weeks ago.
The Sheriff goes on to claim the County Council has “stooped so low as to draft and attempt to introduce a bill to diminish and or abolish your Sheriff and your right to vote for your Sheriff.” I cannot speak for the General Assembly or efforts on the part of others, but no such bill has been brought to the County Council for consideration since the new Sheriff has taken office. To the contrary, I and the County Council fought passionately for our local elected officials when Governor Markell proposed transferring authority of some row offices to the State. Mr. Christopher’s accusation appears to be without merit, and in the absence of facts, is reckless and unbecoming of a public servant, in my opinion.
On another note, Sheriff Christopher claims that the Delaware State Police support him. But the County Council has not received any indication of DSP support of the sheriff’s yet-to-be defined agenda.
I have had several conversations with the new Sussex County sheriff and made clear to him that I respect his authority as an elected official of the people and want him to succeed in executing the platform on which he was elected. But I also have reminded the sheriff that the Sussex County Council is responsible for the prudent expenditure of taxpayer dollars and our deliberative body must give thoughtful consideration to each row officer’s budget.
Sheriff Christopher has yet to submit his very first budget, so his claims of denial by the County Council are, to say the least, exaggerated. In a manner of speaking, we’re putting the cart before the horse.
I personally suggested that the Sheriff appear publicly before the County Council and scheduled him for the March 15th meeting. I, too, would like to extend the invitation for you to join us as we begin the public discussion on the role of the County Sheriff’s office.
Patriots are first and foremost thoughtful and responsible, so I trust you will weigh all the evidence in these discussions. I welcome your valuable insights.
There is a reason why Sussex County Council is the only government at the State or County level that has not had to raise taxes. [In fact, the County plans to cut its capitation tax this year.] There is a reason why Sussex County has actually reduced the size of its government in the last two years to meet the financial crisis our society faces and has no general fund debt. There is a reason why Sussex County has the lowest unemployment rates and highest quality of life in the state of Delaware.
It is because our government is respectful of the Constitution, adheres to conservative principles and is mindful of the needs of its citizens. Our philosophy promotes personal responsibility, free enterprise and a fear of God.
I look forward to seeing you on March 15. If you are unable to attend, please join us on the Internet at www.sussexcountyde.gov.