Georgetown Mayor voids check for historical society over confederate flag controversy

GEORGETOWN, Del. – Controversy over a confederate flag that flies at a local museum in Georgetown has been ignited after funding that was approved by the town’s council has been halted over fears that they could be sued.

Georgetown Mayor Bill West says the $24,000 in funding that was approved last month for the Georgetown Historical Society (GHS) has now been halted after a letter was sent by the Southern Alliance for Racial Justice stating the town did not follow their own rules in forming a committee prior to allocating the funding.

“Yesterday morning, I received an email from an individual who is associated with the Southern Justice, Racial Justice, and the letter stated that we had not done things properly according to the GREAT fund standards, and that they had to be in by April 1 of each year, and that a committee was supposed to be formed, and the committee would decide which units would get the money,” Mayor West said. “So, with that, I turned it over to the Town Solicitor and the Town Manager and they looked at it also and they thought that it would be best to send this out to all of the council members and say ‘we better not do this right now, because we’re subject to being sued.”

Georgetown Town Council voted in late July to provide the historical society, which owns and operates the Marvel Museum where the confederate flag flies, with $24,000 to pay for several repairs at the museum. That funding was approved, but not without controversy, as several residents showed up in opposition demanding that no public funding be provided to the society unless they agree to take down the flag.

Along with approving the funding, it was also agreed upon by council that Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) would be signed to ensure a committee would be formed to help resolve the issue, and come up with a more culturally sensitive place for it to be placed in an effort to resolve the issue moving forward. That was all but squashed after the Georgetown Historical Society issued a statement last week stating that they stand by the Delaware Grays’ Sons of Confederate Veterans and had no intention of taking down the confederate flag.

“The GHS intends to keep its word to SCV, particularly on the choice of flags to adorn the Memorial, and call on all citizens of good character and good faith to commit to the environment of unity, pluralism, and tolerance demonstrated at the unveiling on May 12, 2007, allowing those who chose to honor their dead to do so with respect for their election, all in furtherance of the advancement of education and history that defines the noble object of GHS.”

That statement was ultimately what led Mayor West to void the check that he was supposed to deliver to the society where the MOU was to be signed.

“I was supposed to deliver the check and get the MOU but why do an MOU now because Jim has already put out, Jim Bowden from the Historical Society, that he’s backing the Grays, so with that there’s no need to do an MOU that says that he’s going to form a committee and look into resolving the flag issue,” Mayor West stated. “I just said let’s hold onto the check and find out what happened here, and we come to a conclusion that the council members have replied with emails that they still want the Historical Society to get the checks.”

Repeated requests by 47 ABC News to reach leadership with the Georgetown Historical Society, specifically Jim Bowden, for an interview have been unsuccessful.

Despite the Town Solicitor stating explicitly that providing the funding at this point could result in a lawsuit, Mayor West says some council members are still pushing for the check to be delivered.

“That check was voided and another check has been drafted up for them three to sign and deliver, and try to get the MOU signed, but there again I don’t see, the MOU is just a piece of paper, it’s not going to result in anything, so that’s where we are at this time,” Mayor West said. “They said they made a motion and voted on it and the Historical Society gets the check, so they want the check, and they’re going against the solicitors, the lawyers chain of thought saying we shouldn’t be doing this, but they still want to do it, and they’re just going to get the towns people in Georgetown sued, and that’s not a good thing, and it’s putting a black eye on the Town of Georgetown.”

This is a developing story and 47 ABC will bring you additional details as soon as more information is made available.

Categories: Delaware, Local News, Local Politics