Harrington City Council members question purchases

HARRINGTON — Although budget season is over for many munic-ipalities, the city of Harrington’s expenses have been under scrutiny thanks to opposition to what some have considered to be “questionable purchases.”

According to council member Eric Marquis, the issue begins with purchases of flowers by city departments, often given to city employees who have either had a baby or are grieving lost family members.

“It goes beyond flowers,” though he insisted during the recent Harrington City Council workshop. “It’s anything that is not directly pertaining to the operation of this city should not be used or bought with taxpayer’s funds. Period. And that’s why I brought it up.”

He quoted a statute from the state of Delaware which disallows similar purchases by state employees: 29 Del. 6505.

“So, the state is telling state employees that no money is [to be used by] taxpayer’s money and shall only be used for the function of the department,” he added. “I think we need to get over the flower thing and go over the use of funds.”

Council member Micah Parker said he believed the purchases in question may have been appropriate.

“I’m a firm believer that we have to take care of our employees. We have to make sure they’re cared. Because an employee that is cherished and feels that their employer cares about them are hardworking employees,” he told the council.

Several suggestions were brought up during the discussion to help mitigate the problem, such as creating a fund supplied by employee or council member donations.

Currently, funds for such purchases come from a fund for community events, according to City Manager Terry Tieman.

Mr. Marquis, still in disagreement, argued, “Where does that come from? It comes from taxes.”

Harrington Mayor Anthony Moyer said he agreed with much of what Mr. Marguis was saying, but added the morale of city employees is “more important than the few dollars that are being spent.”

He added, “We’re talking about $1,000 over a few years. Morale is the biggest reason anybody sticks around. When morale goes bad, people start leaving.”

Council members also questioned how far a new rule would go. Mr. Marquis said he envisioned a rule on spending to not include town-wide activities such as National Night Out and planned parades because such activities directly affect the community.

“I don’t think that’s part of the picture. I think you’re out of focus,” he said. “We’re talking apples and oranges. We’re talking an event for the community and we’re talking something for the employee or past employee.

“It’s a federal law that you can’t use taxpayer’s money for this. It’s a state law, but it doesn’t apply to us. We don’t have an ordinance against this and that’s a problem. It’s called ethics.”

As the council cannot vote on any issue during a workshop, the discussion was added to the agenda for the next regularly scheduled city council meeting.

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