Quid Pro Quo in Seaford? Councilman blasts Mayor after state files lawsuit over abortion ordinance

Seaford City Councilman James King (left) – Seaford City Mayor David Genshaw

Seaford Councilman James King is speaking out, blasting Mayor David Genshaw and questioning if there’s a quid pro quo after the Attorney General’s Office announced it was suing the city over a controversial abortion-rights ordinance that Councilman King claims the Mayor spearheaded as a result of his own personal agenda.

Speaking to TV Delmarva News exclusively Wednesday morning, Councilman King, who voted no on the ordinance, expressed grave concerns over the potential ramifications of the lawsuit, including over $10,000 of taxpayer money that King says has already gone towards funding the ordinance as of Dec. 14, 2021.

“This, in my opinion, is more of a personal agenda, and it’s unfortunate we’re using the people of Seaford, and the resources, to drive this agenda and it’s very unfortunate,” King said. “As of December 14, we had over $10,000 tied up in this ordinance, and people may say ‘oh, well ya know that’s not a lot of money’ well, I can tell you that $10,000 that the city has funded up to that point, the city has paid our City Solicitor, that’s taxpayer dollars that’s been funding this.”

Councilman King stressed that the funds that have already been used to push the ordinance are the result of an un-budgeted expense and a waste of taxpayer dollars and valuable resources.

“It’s very sad when your AG’s office has to step in, again, and sue one of their own cities,” King stated. “We’re using taxpayer dollars and resources to fund this, and at the end of that what does that look like? Dave [Mayor Genshaw] has a history of this, with right-to-work we’ve seen it, spending money and passing an ordinance and then the state stepping in and saying ‘those behaviors are illegal’ we can’t do that. We’ve seen this before, it’s dangerous behavior.”

Following the passage of the ordinance and the announcement of the lawsuit, concerns have grown within the city over the potential cost of fighting such a lawsuit and, according to Councilman King, the Attorney General’s Office has already requested the city reimburse them for legal expenses.

“It puts everybody at risk, and the Attorney General Kathleen Jennings, in the briefing they put out yesterday, they are asking for the reimbursement of legal fees,” King stressed. “My conversation, early on, with my peers and our City Solicitor, is what that looks like.”

Mayor Genshaw has continuously defended the ordinance and touted the possibility of a private donor funding the legal expenses for the city to fight for the lawsuit. Councilman King took issue and questioned the legality of such a notion that an anonymous individual could provide funding for a municipality to cover legal expenses related to such a controversial issue.

“Dave [Mayor Genshaw] is saying ‘hey, you know what, we’ve got this magical donor that’s willing to pick up all the expense, and that whole conversation didn’t feel right, so I’m like ‘who is this person, is it a quid-pro-quo? What are they trying to get out of this?’ And he’s like, look I’ll tell you this information, but you got to be sworn to silence, secrecy, and I’m like, man, that’s not what we’re elected for, I’ve got constituents, people in the community that are asking who this person is, and if you’re going to tell me and you’re asking me to be silent with that information, then don’t tell me.”

Councilman King continued to question the reasoning behind even considering to allow a private citizen to anonymously fund such an effort, raising several questions, including how much money the person is considering funding and why they would need to be kept anonymous in the first place.

“Everybody has a right to know who that is, why are they funding it, and what’s the endgame for them, and then of course how much they’re willing to fund,” King stressed. “You’ve got the AG’s office suing, asking for our fees reimbursed, so what are you going to deplete resources, reserves, for legal fees that aren’t going to amount to anything.”

TV Delmarva News was provided the following email that shows Mayor Genshaw was willing to provide the identity of the donor on the condition that his colleagues keep the individual’s identity anonymous.

“This is a humble person and has asked that I not share their name publicly,” Mayor Genshaw’s email read. “If you need to know, I am happy to share it with you privately and will ask you honor this person’s request to remain anonymous.”

TV Delmarva News has reached out to Mayor Genshaw for comment and is awaiting a response.

After twice warning the City of Seaford that it was considering an ‘anti-choice ordinance’ that state insists is contrary to law, Attorney General Kathy Jennings moved forward with the lawsuit Tuesday. The ordinance, passed on December 14 and scheduled to become effective on January 22, would force anyone who has a surgical abortion at an “abortion facility” or a miscarriage at a “health care facility” to have the fetal tissue interred or cremated at their own expense, despite potential hardships that the state says patients would face and the preemption under state law.

“It brings me no joy to sue one of our own cities,” said Attorney General Jennings, “but three councilmen backed by dark, outside money have left me with no choice. The law is clear: Seaford’s ordinance is precluded by State law. This ordinance is part of a national wave of anti-abortion policies funded by extremists who would have our country dragged fifty years into the past. Left unchecked, it threatens serious, irreparable, and unconstitutional harm. And at the end of the day, it will amount to little more than an expensive publicity stunt.”

On August 24, Planned Parenthood of Delaware confirmed that it was opening a new clinic in Seaford, the first such clinic in Sussex County since a Rehoboth Beach location closed in September 2011, and only the second clinic on the Delmarva Peninsula south of Dover. Protests were already taking place regularly at the Seaford site when, on September 28, Seaford City Council reviewed a draft of the anti-abortion ordinance. City Council scheduled a vote on the ordinance on October 12, but delayed that vote after the Attorney General and the ACLU of Delaware raised concerns about its constitutionality.

On December 14, council passed the ordinance with a promise that an anonymous outside donor would fund the defense against the State’s coming lawsuit. AG Jennings and the ACLU of Delaware immediately issued statements that they intended to file litigation. Later that same month, councilmembers voted to “stay enforcement” of the ordinance, but not the ordinance’s effectiveness. Unlike a judicial stay, the AG’s office says council can lift its own self-imposed “stay” at any time, with minimal notice, and enforce the ordinance immediately.

The Department of Justice argues that Seaford’s ordinance is thoroughly preempted by state law, not only under specific laws (including state regulation of the treatment and disposition of human remains and pathological waste, including fetal tissue), but also under laws pertaining to healthcare facilities generally and on reporting spontaneous fetal death and induced termination.

The lawsuit seeks a declaration that the ordinance is invalid and a preliminary and permanent injunction prohibiting the lifting of the Seaford’s temporary stay of the enforcement of the ordinance, or prohibiting the ordinance’s effectiveness and enforcement. An accompanying Motion for Expedited Proceedings requests that the Court schedule a hearing on the State’s Motion for Preliminary Injunction within the next 90 days.

While we are still awaiting an official response from Mayor Genshaw, the City of Seaford did issue the following press release Wednesday afternoon responding to the announcement of the lawsuit:

City Solicitor Dan Griffith stated “there are at least 13 states that require fetal remains to be cremated
or buried; and the US Supreme Court has upheld the constitutionality of these laws, saying that the
government has a legitimate interest in the disposal of fetal remains.”
Seaford’s uses the same language as these laws cited above. The City of Seaford has always recognized
it cannot enact any Ordinance which is contrary to State law and has repeatedly invited the State to
participate in the process, with no success.
Seaford has done everything possible to avoid litigation. The City Council, by majority vote, tabled the
Ordinance when the State requested it. In addition, the City Solicitor provided the legal basis for its
authority to enact the Ordinance when the State requested it. It should also be noted, most recently,
the City stayed enforcement of the Ordinance, when the House Majority Leader announced she was
working with the AG on legislation which would address this.
The City desires not to litigate over an ordinance, whose enforcement has been stayed pending action
by the General Assembly.
Solicitor Griffith stated “We anticipate that the lawsuit will be dismissed as moot (because the
Ordinance has been stayed) so that the General Assembly can address this issue. It is disappointing that
the AG is using our overcrowded court system and taxpayer money to pit governments against each
other.”

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