Sparks fly be­tween Ches. City’s mayor, coun­cil­man

Cecil Whig - - LOCAL - By JA­COB OWENS

jowens@ce­cil­whig.com

— At the first town coun­cil meet­ing fol­low­ing Coun­cil­man Frank Vari’s an­nounce­ment of his may­oral cam­paign, a vis­i­bly up­set Mayor Dean Geraci­mos re­sponded to the crit­i­cisms levied at him by his col­league.

In an in­ter­view with the Whig last week, Vari said he was dis­ap­pointed in Geraci­mos’ State of the Town ad­dress ear­lier this month, say­ing it did not give proper ac­knowl­edge­ment to the work of those out­side the mayor and his ad­min­is­tra­tion. Vari also said he be­lieved the town’s mayor should be more avail­able for in-per­son in­ter­ac­tion with res­i­dents.

On Mon­day night, Geraci­mos — who has not yet an­nounced whether he will seek re-elec­tion in the June 6 elec­tion — fired back in a pre­pared speech at the end of the town coun­cil meet­ing.

“I am ap­palled and deeply dis­turbed by Fri­day’s ar­ti­cle in the Ce­cil Whig in which Coun­cilper­son Frank Vari com­pletely mis­rep­re­sented the State of the Town pre­sen­ta­tion,” the mayor said. “By and large, the theme of

CH­E­SA­PEAKE CITY

the evening was that the suc­cesses that have oc­curred dur­ing the past four years are the re­sult of a team ef­fort. We — the mayor, all of town coun­cil and town staff — are a team. That is what I stressed on April 5 and it’s what I’m say­ing now.”

Geraci­mos was also up­set at Vari’s claim that he used the word “I” more than “we” dur­ing the an­nual ad­dress, say­ing he watched the video of the pre­sen­ta­tion twice over the week­end to check the facts him­self. He said he counted seven us­ages of the word “I” or re­lated words and 78 us­ages of “we” or re­lated words — although those fig­ures have not been in­de­pen­dently ver­i­fied by the Whig.

“This isn’t my nor­mal style (to read a statement in a meet­ing), but I am pas­sion­ate about this town and what we’ve ac­com­plished as a team and I will not tol­er­ate this type of mis­rep­re­sen­ta­tion and false ac­cu­sa­tions by a cur­rent team mem­ber,” Geraci­mos said. “Coun­cilper­son Vari should not have at­tacked the State of the Town pre­sen­ta­tion for po­lit­i­cal gain — that’s an at­tack on the team and the town.”

Af­ter the meet­ing, Vari said he was sur­prised that Geraci­mos chose to make his re­but­tal dur­ing a public town meet­ing.

“I don’t think that was the time or the place to make those re­marks,” he said, not­ing an in­ter­view with me­dia would have been more ap­pro­pri­ate.

Vari said he stood be­hind his re­marks on the State of the Town ad­dress, say­ing he be­lieves Geraci­mos did not give enough credit for pre­vi­ous ef­forts that ben­e­fit­ted the town, in­clud­ing the 5K races and sal­vage­able met­als pro­gram, which Vari spear­headed and now pay for Ch­e­sa­peake City’s sin­gle-stream re­cy­cling pro­gram.

“Those pro­grams have raised $120,000, and re­cy­cling isn’t free,” he said. “To say I’m mis­rep­re­sent­ing the town by crit­i­ciz­ing isn’t true. I’m crit­i­ciz­ing be­cause he didn’t rec­og­nize the coun­cil as much as he should have on each of the projects. I be­lieve the coun­cil should have been up there con­tribut­ing to the (State of the Town) pre­sen­ta­tion.”

While Geraci­mos said he was still dis­cussing with his fam­ily whether he will seek a third term, he said the sup­port from res­i­dents fol­low­ing Vari’s an­nounce­ment has been en­cour­ag­ing. The mayor said he re­ceived nu­mer­ous phone calls of sup­port and a group of res­i­dents even drove down to Ocean City, where he was over the week­end, to meet with him.

“Frank’s an­nounce­ment has ruf­fled so many feath­ers that peo­ple have been com­ing to me, and that’s what has most af­fected my think­ing about an­other run,” he said.

While Geraci­mos said that he would not seek a third term shortly af­ter win­ning re-elec­tion in 2014, he said he was not con­cerned about that re­mark. He added that many res­i­dents have told him they would sup­port a re-elec­tion cam­paign and he still has projects on the books that he would like to see com­pleted.

“If it takes work­ing with peo­ple like Trudy (Carter), Harry (Samp­son), Bill (Min­ers) and Tommy (Mor­ris) for a cou­ple more years, I wouldn’t mind do­ing it,” he said. “It’s my per­son­al­ity; I’m hun­gry to make things bet­ter.”

This year’s mu­nic­i­pal elec­tion may be the most heated and di­vided since the 2012 race, in which Geraci­mos bested Vari by 15 votes. Geraci­mos faced no op­po­si­tion to his re-elec­tion bid in 2014, but Vari is once again op­pos­ing the mayor — and it seems some in town are ready for a change.

Dur­ing Geraci­mos pre­pared statement Mon­day night, for­mer Coun­cil­woman Re­becca Mann walked out, say­ing, “I can’t lis­ten to this.” Geraci­mos has also ad­dressed con­cerns from some res­i­dents who re­turned town sur­veys crit­i­ciz­ing him for be­ing an “ab­sen­tee mayor,” or not hold­ing reg­u­lar of­fice hours at town hall for in-per­son in­ter­ac­tion, in re­cent weeks.

Geraci­mos re­it­er­ated Mon­day that he did not be­lieve a mayor needed to hold reg­u­lar of­fice hours to be suc­cess­ful in to­day’s times, adding that his cell­phone num­ber is eas­ily found on the town’s web­site for con­cerned cit­i­zens. He be­lieves that those who want to see a mayor hold reg­u­lar of­fice hours are in the mi­nor­ity.

On Tues­day, Vari said he re­spects Geraci­mos and be­lieves they have ac­com­plished a lot in their ten­ure to­gether — leav­ing the town in the best shape ever — but the two men also have dif­fer­ing ideas on what role the mayor should fill.

“Ul­ti­mately, we’ll just have to leave it up to vot­ers to de­cide which style they pre­fer,” he said.

CE­CIL WHIG PHOTO BY JA­COB OWENS

Ch­e­sa­peake City Mayor Dean Geraci­mos, left, re­sponds to a cit­i­zen dur­ing Mon­day’s town work ses­sion as Coun­cil­man Frank Vari, who has an­nounced a may­oral bid in the June town elec­tion, looks on.

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