The Sheriff Referendum


“A retired Delaware Attorney General’s Office detective indicates   he’ll file this week to run for Sussex County sheriff.

  Robert Lee says he will primary current Sheriff Jeff Christopher in the Republican Party primary on Tuesday, September 9.

  Christopher has NOT yet filed for re-election but has said he will seek a second term.

  Lee meantime says he agrees with the Delaware Supreme Court ruling last year that the sheriff does NOT need arrest powers to do a good job.

  Lee retired from the AG’s Office in 2013. He also was a policeman in Seaford from 1977 until he retired from the Department in 2002.”

So this was the announcement that someone on the Republican side will primary the current Sussex County Sheriff, Jeff Christopher.

There is no doubt that this primary will be a referendum on the seemingly never-ending issue of whether or not the county sheriffs should have full law enforcement powers, including the power of arrest.

Anyone not living under a rock for the past five-plus years knows that Sheriff Christopher believes that the vague term within the Delaware state constitution, “conservator of the peace”,  empowers his with unlimited and undefined powers and authorities.

It would seem from the above announcement that Mr. Lee holds a different view, in that he states that he agrees with the state Supreme Court ruling that the Delaware Legislature has the right and the authority to define exactly what conservator of the peace means, and what powers and authority that office will hold.

I have heard some already question why, if Mr. Lee feels that the sheriff is not law enforcement, then why is he touting his law enforcement background?

In my view, while the office of sheriff is no longer defined as a law enforcement agency, in its role as court appointed server of papers, the sheriff and deputies will have a great deal of contact and interaction with both the courts and law enforcement agencies in their exercising of their newly defined duties.

Mr. Lee’s background of both a police officer, and someone who has worked in the A G’s office should serve him well if he is successful in not only defeating Mr. Christopher, but also in the general election should a Democrat come forward.

Now I know that supporters of the current sheriff will see this as a personal attack on Mr. Christopher, they will shout to the heaven about no primaries. I can’t wait to have that laugh, considering most of his supporters have been ardent, and vocal supporters of the primary. Many have made the statement that all incumbents should face a primary.  While I don’t hold that belief myself, I do believe in primaries when needed, When the current office holder is either corrupt or is not doing their job, or in this case, when the office holder has become a distraction.

I do not feel that Sheriff Christopher is corrupt, I have no reason to believe that he and his deputies are not doing their jobs, but clearly the idea of building the office into something other than its current defined role has become a distraction for Sheriff Christopher.
I don’t know the last time I heard an interview with him, or read an article about him that the issue of arrest powers wasn’t the topic. It has consumed him and the office of the sheriff. He travels the country giving speeches about it, he has tied up state courts and tax payer dollars with his law suit over it, it has become all that the office of sheriff is now, a distraction.

I believe that most citizens of Sussex are exhausted from five years of the constant talk and debate over this now settled issue. All that is left is to find a person to be sheriff that can work within the new defined role of the office, to make the office run efficient, and to no longer be a distraction.

Robert Lee may or may not be that person, but this statement , ” Lee meantime says he agrees with the Delaware Supreme Court ruling last year that the sheriff does NOT need arrest powers to do a good job.”,   gives us hope.

I don’t know Mr. Lee, have never even met him, so I can only hope that he has a thick skin and a strong will, because many of the supporters of Sheriff Christopher will call him names, they will attack him personally, and accuse him of all sorts of conspiracy idiocy.

Good luck Mr. Lee.

10 Comments on "The Sheriff Referendum"

  1. Rick says:

    Christopher believes that the vague term within the Delaware state constitution, “conservator of the peace”, empowers his with unlimited and undefined powers and authorities.

    This is an outright falsehood. Christopher believes what the framers of the Delaware constitution believed- that sheriffs, along with others, are “conservators of the peace.”

    Earlier, I provided a definition of “conserving the peace” according to Blackstone- the foremost authority of English common law, which was the foundation for Delaware law.

    If the Delaware legislature wanted to strip the sheriff(s) of power, they should have amended the constitution. Instead, we are told that “conservator of the peace” doesn’t mean anything. Sorry, but I can read and comprehend plain English.

    We are beating a dead horse. Let’s see how the primary shakes-out. My guess is that Sussex will side with the Delaware constitution- and Christopher.

  2. Frank Knotts says:

    Rick, it is not a false statement. Jeff Christopher and yourself feel that the vague term, conservator of the peace empowers that office with undefined powers and authorities.
    Others, myself included understand that if something is not in the constitution, then the legislature is free to define it.
    You have time and time again refused to answer this direct question, where did all of the authorities that were in Delaware code prior to last year come from?
    I’ll tell you, the legislature. So if they had the authority to enlarge the powers of the office, they also have the authority to decrease. You can’t have it both ways.
    You also may be underestimating the fact that the average non-fringe voters are simply worn out on this topic and the person who has been shoving it down their throats for the past five years.
    Time will tell.

  3. waterpirate says:

    Tis a banner day in sussex! We have a choice. Frank, your choice of title ” referendum ” is fitting and telling.

  4. Techsupporter says:

    Bob (Robert Lee is an awesome, highly respected person and overly qualified. He will make an excellent Sherriff and gets my vote!

  5. Jonathon Moseley says:

    I understand and support the opportunity for those who have a different point of view to run a campaign and compete for the voters’ support. Indeed the #1, #2, #3, etc. top reasons for supporting a local Sheriff is the opportunity for the voters to choose whom they want to e their Sheriff and if they like or don’t like continuing with the incumbent. So letting the voters choose is the most important thing.

    But what I don’t understand is why anyone would want the job if they don’t believe the Sheriff actually has anything to do of any significance.

    And if someone asks why are you running for Sheriff, is his response: “I want to do next to nothing for 4 years. I really hope to do as little as possible on the taxpayer’s dime.”

    If the Sheriff is only serving court papers, that can be “contracted out” to private companies, and the Sheriff’s office should be abolished completely.

    I can see arguing that I don’t agree with Sheriff Christopher’s ideas, approach, temperament, conduct, goals, whatever.

    But I don’t see arguing that I don’t think the office matters or has any substance to it, but I REALLY want that job.

  6. Frank Knotts says:

    Why does anyone run for any row office? John Brady once ran on the promise to do away with the office he was running for, and at the end of his term, that is what happened the office was absorbed into another row office.
    Maybe it is time to consider doing just that with the office of the sheriff.

  7. waterpirate says:

    You can run for a row office and perform the duties as of that office, OR you can try and change that office to make yourself more relavant, and pick up a big pile of silver along the way.

  8. Frank Knotts says:

    WP, in the coming days I will be examining the office before, during and since Jeff Christopher took office to see if he has executed any improvements beyond dragging the office through a losing court battle and a media circus.

  9. “Why I am not voting for Robert Lee for Sussex County Sheriff

    During his interview with Dan Gaffney on Delaware 105.9 He states that he a person of “Fairness, Big in Community Affairs, And is Team Orientated, You can make your own opinion after reading.

    Delaware is a small state and many of the residents have personal knowledge of candidates. I wanted to take a few minutes and explain why I will not vote for Robert Lee.
    Mr. Lee has boasted about his fairness, but I have had the displeasure of seeing just how he lacks fairness unless it’s to his direct benefit. I was employed at the Seaford Police as a dispatcher and worked with Mr.Lee for eight years, so we both were employeed at the same time. During my evaluation process I had the distinct displeasure of experiencing Mr. Lee’s fairness or lack there of. While employed in Seaford Mr. Lee was married, but had no trouble displaying affection to the relief dispatcher. This was abundantly clear when during my employment I often worked in support of Mr.Lee, who spoke to me at length about placing more information on the dispatchers cards for calls. However, he was so infatuated with the relief dispatcher that her cards held far less information yet she was never counseled. Keep in mind I had been filling these cards out the same way for eight years and now I needed counseling. I witnessed the differences between both sets of cards. Mr. Lee was fair ?
    He never denied a budding workplace relationship with this person, nor did he deny he was still married and went on to divorcing his wife to marry this woman. Who I might add is not his current wife at present time.
    Mr. Lee was instrumental in my desire to resign from the department because of his constant harassment, covert threatening conversations, and intimidating demeanor. Mr. Lee would often apply police like tactics in dealing with civilian employees including myself. Is this team oriented?

    At one point a woman had come into the Seaford Police Dept to make a complaint. Mr.Lee was assigned to take the Information. He apparently knew the plaintiff and defendant. As Lee walked away from the woman he mumbled, “if she stuck with her own color she wouldn’t have these problems”. Is this Lee’s ideal of fairness?

    I have also witnessed how a prisoner was treated in the holding cell after the toilet was overflowing due to the prisoner. Mr. Lee was the arresting officer of this black migrant worker in this matter. There were only 3 people in the building that night at this time. The prisoner, Mr. Lee, and myself. I couldn’t get the guy any help. Who was going to listen to me. You can figure what happened in the back room. Is this Mr.Lee’s ideal of fairness?

    In closing, I’m well aware of campaign slogans and a desire to help the community, however Mr. lee has demonstrated that he lacks the moral fiber to make good choices and act in fairness as a sworn law enforcement officer in a small town. What is the expectation for his performance in a larger capacity with even more authority?
    His idea of team orientation only pertains to people with the same mindset that he has. I’m sure his idea of Community Affairs pertains to the number of wives and potential wives and cronies he has.
    I can understand why he refused to debate on the Dan Gaffney show. The airwaves would have been filled with the skeletons from his past. Mr. Lee should withdraw from the race and quietly live out his life rather than bring discredit to the election process due to his lack of ethics and morals.

  10. Frank Knotts says:

    Ms. Shear, I heard your call into the Dan Gaffney Show following Mr. Lee’s segment. I notice you have left a few things out of your comment above that you stated on air. Like the fact that you receive unfavorable revues and that you were terminated, and it seems that you blame Mr. Lee, so one has to wonder if what you state above is someone trying to get the truth out to the people, or merely a disgruntled former employee trying to get revenge?
    As for the anecdotal evidence you gave above about supposed miss treatment of people, well again, without corroboration it is again just the accusations of someone with an ax to grind.

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