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Sticky: BREAKING & UPDATED: Sheriff’s legislation, HB 290, stricken

UPDATE – 11pm:  Legislation that would define the sheriff’s powers was stricken yesterday before the House Administration Committee meeting even began.   Representative Pete Schwartzkopf, who was out of the chamber when HB 290 sponsor Representative Danny Short struck the bill, tells WGMD he did listen to Short’s comments after the fact…

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However Schwartzkopf says the issue isn’t dead…

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The County Council did support the bill with a unanimous vote.  Schwartzkopf says that those who are opposed to the bill have been using intimidation to get sponsors to drop off the measure…

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He adds that while House Bill 290 is gone – it will likely be resurrected and come back with a new number and name.  Representative Danny Short is now planning to introduce a House Concurrent Resolution which will ask the State Supreme Court to determine if the sheriffs have the authority to make arrests under the state Constitution.

CLICK HERE FOR The Sussex County Report-HB290


NEWS RELEASE:  Controversial Bill Clarifying the Powers of Delaware’s County Sheriffs Stricken

Citing apparent political gamesmanship over a bill that has been at the center of controversy for several weeks, State Representative Daniel B. Short (R-Seaford) today announced that he is striking House Bill 290, which is intended to clarify the duties of Delaware’s county sheriffs and their deputies.

Rep. D. Short – prime sponsor of the bill – informed the Speaker of the House and Chief Clerk at the start of today’s session that he was striking House Bill 290.

Rep. D. Short stated, “Before the Legislature recessed a few weeks ago, I believe we had a path forward. As the prime sponsor of House Bill 290, I requested that the House Administration Committee table the legislation then. Prior to the bill being tabled, I said during that committee hearing that the sponsors of the bill and I have agreed on the next steps in this
process. We were planning to make a formal request of the Delaware Supreme Court to determine whether the sheriffs and their deputies have the authority to arrest under any provision in the State Constitution.”

Rep. D. Short further stated, “The plan changed once I noticed that House Bill 290 was again placed on the House Administration Committee’s agenda for today – not at my request. This issue is too important to allow it to be used as a pawn in an apparent game of politics. Given the latest turn of events, I feel I had no other choice but to strike the bill.”

Rep. D. Short has been working on a House Concurrent Resolution that would make a formal request of the State Supreme Court to determine if the sheriffs have the authority to make arrests under Delaware’s Constitution. The resolution has not yet been introduced, as it is still being circulated for sponsorship.

According to Rep. D. Short, “There is a longstanding tradition in the General Assembly that if the sponsor of a bill has requested his or her legislation to be tabled in committee, the committee chairman yields to the sponsor’s request. That was not the case with House Bill 290. It is my opinion that there was an attempt to take control of this issue from me, as the prime sponsor of the bill, by having it placed on the committee agenda. The only right course of action was to strike the bill and prevent any further political stunts from happening.”

Rep. D. Short introduced House Bill 290 with bi-partisan support last month after the Attorney General’s Office, in response to an inquiry on the issue, opined that the State Legislature should pass legislation to codify what is believed to be the intent of the Delaware Code and explicitly prohibit the sheriff from carrying out police powers.

In the February 23rd opinion, State Solicitor Lawrence Lewis wrote, “After consideration of the Delaware Constitution, statutes, and case decisions, we conclude that the Sheriff and his deputies do not have authority to arrest.”

House Bill 290 was filed on behalf of Sussex County Council, which unanimously requested the measure. Sussex County officials recently provided a 64-page report to the members of the General Assembly, outlining the need for House Bill 290.

“Sussex County continues to support any measure that would help clarify the issues surrounding Delaware sheriffs and their authority,” Sussex County Administrator Todd F. Lawson said. “The issue over the role of the sheriff and his deputies remains in limbo, and it will continue to put our citizens and the taxpayers at risk for liability as long as it remains unresolved. That is why we remain hopeful the legislature will come back to this very important matter and settle the debate once and for all.”

Rep. D. Short, acknowledging that clarity on this issue is still needed, is planning to introduce the House Concurrent Resolution within the next several days.


UPDATED 4:25pm:  There were a handful of people in the House Chamber gallery waiting to find out the fate of House Bill 290 which would stipulate that any Sheriff and his deputies in Delaware do not have the authority to arrest.  The bill was stricken during the House Administration committee this afternoon. The legislation, sponsored by Representative Danny Short of Seaford, was unanimously supported by the Sussex County Council.  WGMD’s Andrew Koch has more…..

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Category: Local News


19 Responses

  1. M.Opaliski says:

    Good things from Dover on both counts, color me shocked.

  2. Guest says:

    I hope everyone reads the document that is linked from Sussex County. It spells out all the potential liability for the county, and all the agencies opposed to the sheriff expanding his powers.

    How can anyone support a potential 379% tax increase? And for what. Have municipal and DSP in Sussex and a crime rate that dropped last year. Not to mention insurance increases.

    I have and idea let’s have a signup sheet, anyone that wants the sheriff to get what he wants can pay for it. Bodie, Ayotte, Witzke, and anyone else can foot the bill. Let the rest of us keep our taxes low and they can pay for the entire operation if they choose.

  3. joe says:

    Seems like Mr. Christopher is alot like John Adkins……Remove them both from office to get rid of the headache and heartache!!!

  4. waterpirate says:

    @ guest

    What you are proposeing is a referendum. IMHO that would be a great solution to this whole affair. No more political or monetary influence being applied or grabbed by anyone. Simply give the people what they want or do not want by way of a county wide vote. Problem solved.

  5. Rob says:

    The Sheriff acts as a buffer b/w the citizens and the government. I am a little concerned when a government official is trying to take that power away.

  6. Rob says:

    The sheriff acts as a buffer b/w the government and the people. I have concerns when a government administrator is trying to stop that.

  7. sparkyscousin says:

    All around our hometowns
    They’re trying to tax us down
    All of a sudden I see Sheriff come ’round
    Aiming to shoot me down
    So we shot HB 290 down

  8. Guest says:

    I assume it wasn’t going to go as planned so he/they pulled it and back to the drawing board. It’s amazing what these politicians will do to get their way.

  9. Anon says:


    What did you use to draw your conclusion that the sheriff of Sussex county or any Delaware sheriff “acts as a buffer between the government and the people”?

    What law did you read? Please fill us in I would like to read it.

  10. anon. says:

    Rep. Short is a weak link!

  11. guesst says:

    Hey Guest…you are a moron. The legislature could codify any and all arrest powers that the Sheriff has and then some. They could make him a cerftified and bonafide POLICE OFFICER and the taxes won’t go up one red cent UNLESS THE COUNTY COUNCIL INCREASES THEM. There are a half dozen deputies and even if there was no controversy and they had lights and sirens and could stop cars…THERE WOULD STILL BE ONLY THAT MANY DEPUTIES….where on earth do you get that the 379% tax increase.

  12. guest reply says:

    I had thought that with the entire county council asking for this (and 4 of the 5 are Republicans) that Rep Short would have had the cohones to do the right thing. He started off ok by introducing the bill but apparently he started shivering along the way. He tried to play both ends to save himself. Introduce the bill and then table it forever. Well, he got out maneuvered on that and had to feign indignation that it was put on the agenda forcing him to stike the bill.

    When he first introduced the bill I sent him a message congratulating him for manning up and doing the right thing. What’s worse is the cast of characters who stole his eggs! He had a chance to be something other than a toady but but apparently the will was just too weak and he couldn’t and he couldn’t escape.

    Well, at least he made it clear who he is.

  13. Anon says:

    @guesst -I am assuming you didn’t read the county report. They gave the figures to how they came up with a 379% increase. Are you saying that 6 deputies could adequately provide coverage to the entire county as police officers while working 9-5 Monday – Friday, while still serving papers? Or are they just going to be police officers when they chose to be. I don’t think that is how it works. And don’t forget the fact that not all the deputies are certified to be police in Delaware, and state code does not allow them to attend the academy.
    Also in the report you will see that they insurance will not cover them to be police officers. So according to you the taxes wouldn’t increase by changing insurance to cover them as police.

  14. guest reply says:

    “They could make him a cerftified and bonafide POLICE OFFICER and the taxes won’t go up one red cent”

    Well it’s pretty obvious at least one person has not read the report. I wonder if “guesst” has ever done his homework before telling folks what’s what. You know like finding out what’s what first?

    I wonder what the requirements are for a “bonafide” police officer?

  15. Sussex Tax Payer says:


    If the Sheriff gets the arrest powers he wants, it will require:

    – upgraded insurance coverage
    – weapons training
    – police training
    – an upgraded dispatch system
    – NEW police cars, with lights, sirens, partitions between the back and front seats, back seats that can accommodate handcuffed perps, on board computer systems, upgraded radios
    – more administrative staff to handle paperwork
    – additional deputies so court papers will still be served in a timely manner and sheriff sales can continue uninterrupted.
    – appropriate weaponry

    All of that will be required for the Sheriff to have the ability to arrest people. If you don’t think that will cost Sussex taxpayers more money you have a fabulous future waiting for you in the Obama Administration.

  16. Lt. Jim Dangle says:

    I don’t see how the sheriffs department is going to stop anything, if the governement, God forbid, completely turns against the people. That argument is garbage.

    Also you don’t just turn a 6 man department into a full 24 hour police force with a signature on a piece of paper. You are talking big money…..Insurance, training, equipment, manpower…For what?
    The idea of having someone ‘as a buffer between me and the government’ sounds good, but it doesn’t add up. I don’t trust the government, but why should I trust the sheriff either and even if I did, what is the county sheriff gonna do that, my neighbors and friends can do?

  17. Anon says:

    Everyone should read this article as well. Seems Christopher doesn’t think much of his supporters when he is talking to national media.


    And to guesst- do you really think the county council could get insurance for the sheriffs office if they wanted it. The sheriff is not a police department so no one would insure them as such.

  18. Wolf says:


    By all means, read the above article. It is a classing lesson in distortion, disinformation and Orwellian Inversion. None of the complex constitutional and legal points of the Sheriff’s powers and duties was considered. Instead, it reeked of inuendo and character assassination and grossly mischaracterized the Sheriff and his supporterd as “anti-government extremists”.

    Nothing could be further from the truth — and one of the more outlandish comments came from a clown in Florida, whose Facebook photo showed him in a Castro uniform, smoking a fat cigar.

    I wish that the constitutionally illiterate County Council would get its facts straight. The money that they throw away in the discretionary fund and Grants-in-Aid could be redirected to the SCSO without a property tax increase, but they would much rather continue to use public funds as their private slush fund to buy votes and get their faces in the local newspapers.

    VOTE THEM ALL OUT in 2012 and 2014…

  19. guest says:

    Yes, vote them all out in 2014, starting with the Sheriff.

    The dirty little secret about Sheriff Christopher is that he did not publicly run for office on his desire to have arrest powers. In fact, when the Sussex Republicans interviewed he was pointedly asked if he wanted arrest powers and he said “no.”

    When he campaigned outside of Tea Party meetings he spoke about educating children and seniors about safety. He never shared his goal of having arrest powers outside of the Tea Party and small groups of Republicans. In short, his entire campaign was a lie meant to fool the people in the county into voting for him.

    The only “tyranny” that needs to be stopped is the tyranny of the Sussex County Sheriff, who has proven himself a liar and untrustworthy over and over again.

    – He gives national interviews where he claims he didn’t know that the SCSO had no arrest powers when he ran for office, yet he worked under Bob Reed.

    – He lied to the SCGOP and the citizens of Sussex who were not part of the Tea Party while campaigning.

    – He claims that Beau Biden “stripped” him of his arrest powers when his arrest powers were stripped by the state decades ago.

    – He lied about the altercation between himself and Vance Phillips.

    – He lied about his deputies, his posse and his intentions.

    The Delaware Constitution declares him a “conservator of the peace” along with the AG and Judges, but I don’t see Judges in Delaware pulling people over and showing up at police calls. The TRUTH is that the Delaware Constitution doesn’t outline his duties or give him arrest powers, it just pins him with the generic tag “conservator of the peace.”

    I, for one, do not want Jeff Christopher to have arrest powers. I wish I could take my vote for him back, and I’m not alone. Sussex County has more registered Democrats than Republicans. Sussex County voted for Joe Biden, Tom Carper and Jack Markell. Jeff Christopher’s days are numbered as Sheriff, he will be voted out in 2014.

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