OCEAN CITY — A whirlwind of events took place at City Hall last Thursday and Friday, culminating ultimately in City Manager Dennis Dare tendering his resignation pending an accord on conditions and terms.
Here’s a timeline of events:
Thursday, Sept. 8
4 p.m.: Without City Solicitor Guy Ayres or City Manager Dennis Dare in attendance, Mayor and Council meet in council chambers and vote to convene in closed session “to discuss the appointment, employment, assignment, removal or resignation of appointees, employees or officials over whom it has jurisdiction; or any other personnel matter that affects one or more specific individuals.”
“At 4:06 yesterday afternoon, he opened the meeting with its time to make a change and ask Dennis for his resignation. A good thing to do, we need a new direction,” Councilman Doug Cymek said of Jim Hall’s meeting comments later. “Later when asked for justification repeatedly, one time Jimmy said he had amassed a list of about 15 things but when questioned specifically about what they were he refused to comment.”
4:30 p.m.: Dare speaks to reporter waiting outside the closed meeting. He had just previously spoken with Police Chief Bernadette DiPino about conditions at the Inlet that ultimately led to the parking lot there being closed due to flooding and high wave action, a result of Hurricane Katia spinning offshore.
5 p.m.: Closed session ends, none of the officials are willing to comment on nature of talks, although none dispute it involved Dare’s future with the city.
Councilwoman Mary Knight said, “I can’t talk but at the appropriate time I sure will. I will be more than willing later, we will talk.”
Councilmen Brent Ashley and Joe Hall are observed for 30 minutes talking and laughing next to their vehicles. The nature of those talks was unknown.
Immediately after the meeting when approached, Ashley indicated he did not know what was happening at that time, and Joe Hall said, “I can’t talk to you about it, we can talk about anything else though.”
5:10: Council President Jim Hall, who called the closed session meeting, leaves City Hall. Before getting into his vehicle, when asked whether the content of the meeting would be made public or if these talks were going to remain private, Jim Hall said, “don’t know yet, just working on it.”
5:15 p.m.: Jim Hall left the City Hall parking lot.
5:25 p.m.: Ayres pulled into his parking spot at City Hall followed immediately by Jim Hall.
Jim Hall and Ayres were in City Hall for about 10 minutes before returning to their vehicles and leaving.
Multiple sources confirmed Jim Hall and Ayres reportedly went directly into Dare’s office, shut the door and left quickly thereafter. Jim Hall immediately exited the City Hall parking lot, while Ayres spoke briefly with Ashley.
5:45 p.m.: Meehan returned to City Hall, again citing he was unable to comment.
6 p.m.: Dare remains at City Hall with a couple council members and Meehan.
8:15 p.m.: Reached on his cell phone, Dare said he could not comment on current matters, but promised a discussion would take place in the future regarding what happened yesterday and what will be taking place down the road.
Friday, Sept. 9
10 a.m.: With about 75 residents in attendance, Mayor and Council meet briefly in public session and convened again in closed session to resume personnel talks from day before. Due to City Solicitor Guy Ayres not being in attendance, Council members Doug Cymek and Knight refuse to meet in closed session as does Meehan. Council Secretary Lloyd Martin, documenting the meeting in his secretary role, convened with Jim Hall, Ashley, Joe Hall and Councilwoman Margaret Pillas.
10:45 a.m.: Council returns with private meeting, announcing results of the two meetings.
According to Jim Hall, on Thursday, the council voted 4-3 — Ashley, Joe Hall, Pillas and Jim Hall in favor and Cymek, Knight and Martin opposed — to ask for Dare’s resignation by the end of business Friday.
On Friday morning, during another private session, the council voted in the same 4-3 fashion to terminate Dare’s employment if he does not resign by the end of business Friday.
According to Jim Hall, the council offered Dare a severance package that includes his salary through Dec. 31, give him his full 30-year retirement (he’s been with the city 29 years), a “100% recommendation” and all the required health and pension benefits.
“This was a tough decision, one made by the majority of the council, to change the management direction of the town,” Jim Hall said. “Dennis has done a wonderful, wonderful job for us, but we wanted to take the town in a different direction.”
Tuesday, Sept. 13
3 p.m.: Dare confirms he has submitted resignation “conditionally subject to agreement of conditions and terms.”
During the work session at City Hall, residents were in attendance with plans to address the removal of Dare, but citizens are not permitted to speak at work sessions, only the nightly meetings on Mondays.
However, Meehan, who is now acting city manager while the city begins the task of replacing Dare, said, “As part of my new duties I will have a meeting with all the department heads to make sure that everybody understands its business as usual. Everything is operating just how it has in the past, everything is moving full speed ahead, we are not going to have any blips, and we are going to keep moving. We have excellent personnel in place, we have good policies in place, everybody is prepared to step up and meet the challenges that we face moving forward.”