Mayor claims conspiracy in Ches. City election
CHESAPEAKE CITY — In his last legislative session before his planned resignation, Mayor Dean Geracimos did not go quietly into the night Monday, once again defending his record and claiming that an opposition bloc of town council members conspired ahead of the Dec. 4 special election to keep their political advantage — an assertion they flatly denied.
After months of heated debate over future land use in the small town, the passage of a controversial parking law and a municipal election that saw a new wave of candidates voted in, Geracimos surprisingly announced that he would step down from his role by the end of the year, citing a growing vision for Chesapeake City that doesn’t fit his own.
On Monday, the mayor specifically claimed that Council Vice President Frank Vari, who has twice unsuccess- fully run for mayor in the last three elections as the only other mayoral candidate aside from Geracimos, chose not to run in the special election due to charter provisions that would have given his council seat given to former Town Councilwoman Trudy Carter, who was supportive of Geracimos and finished fourth in June’s election of three council seats, should Vari have won.
In order to maintain the voting bloc of Vari and town councilwomen Rebecca Mann and Carolyn Blevins, all of whom were elected in June amid a wave of opposition to Geracimos’ administration, the mayor maintained that they recruited former Town Councilman Rich Taylor III to run against current Councilman Harry Sampson, who also has been supportive of Geracimos.
Geracimos claimed that since Taylor would not confirm that he would seek reelection in the town’s regularly scheduled June election should he win next month, it further bears out that Vari or another would seek the mayor’s seat then, when additional council candidates could be recruited to retain the desired majority of three votes on the five-member council.
“This kind of politics is what scares me for the future,” Geracimos said in closing Monday’s meeting, saying it was misleading the public. “The town doesn’t deserve it … I’m saddened that I’m leaving on such a note.”
On Tuesday, Vari, Mann, Blevins and Taylor all denied conspiring in any way to have Taylor run as a stopgap to keep a political advantage.
“I have more self-respect than that,” Taylor said of being a political pawn. “Running for mayor was a decision that I came to on my own, although I had conversations with many people in town about running. I am going to be independent of any and all council members.”
Regarding his indecision about running in the June election should he be elected in the special election, Taylor said he simply didn’t want to make promises he couldn’t keep.
“My intention is to serve out that six months or so and, if nothing changes in my life or career, I would run again,” he said. “I’d rather be honest now and let the questions come up rather than say something I don’t feel I can promise.”
Vari, who endorsed Taylor in an interview with the Whig last week, said he was shocked by Geracimos’s “meltdown” and his decision to chastise his colleagues.
“Politics should not enter into a town meeting. A town meeting is for town business,” he said. “I think he owes the town an apology.”
Defending his decision not to run in the special election, Vari said that he felt that his time to run for mayor may have passed and reiterated that he considered not running for re-election to the council this year.
“In politics I’d never say never, but with my age — I’ll be 72 at the end of my term — and other things I don’t know if (running for mayor again) is in the cards,” he said. “I think people like Rich are the future of this town.”
Mann admitted Tuesday that she had spoken with Taylor and encouraged him to run, but flatly denied that she discussed that support or any kind of conspiracy with any of her fellow council members.
“I think he’s a strong candidate who would do an excellent job,” she said. “I think he would help achieve a more even balance on the council.”
Mann criticized Geracimos for voicing his claims during a town meeting, calling it “propaganda”, and attempting to smear a candidate ahead of the election.
On Monday, Geracimos said he too thought Taylor was qualified to be mayor, but questioned the reasons for his run. The mayor said that he would not endorse Sampson or Taylor ahead of the election as he previously said that he might.
In other comments, Geracimos warned the council about future actions that could leave them liable for lawsuits, particularly considering it is already fighting a circuit court appeal of the recently passed, controversial ordinance concerning parking.
“In planning and zoning, most of the conversations always go back to one property,” he said, referring to the Chesapeake Inn restaurant and marina, which was a the center of the controversy of the parking ordinance. “As a businessperson myself, I think this town is lining itself up for a major lawsuit.”
Geracimos said he was proud of the legacy he would leave after more than five years in office and, despite recent opposition, argued that he always had the interests of residents at heart. Specifically, he noted that water rates set in recent years are more favorable for residents than commercial businesses and projects like the canal trail helps the town obtain resources like sidewalks from the state.
“Overall, I feel we are leaving the town in a really good spot, a much better spot that it previously was,” he said.