Kevin Dillard, Councilman for Wildwood's 3rd Ward has been talking a lot about the evils of political action committees (PACs) lately, but it appears he has experience in running one himself.
On Monday Dillard stirred controversy by voting against the nomination of Michael Garrett to replace recently-deceased Ray Manton for the open 2nd Ward seat.
Garrett has served for over 20 years as a volunteer for the City and currently serves as chair of the Board of Adjustment. At Monday's meeting there was a steady stream of residents who spoke in favor of Mr. Garrett's nomination during public comment. No one spoke in opposition. Council Member Lauren Edens who also represents Ward 2, had asked the Mayor to appoint Mr. Garrett in part because Mr. Manton had suggested to Edens that Garrett would be his preferred choice for a replacement if needed.
Garrett was voted down by a group of anti-mayor obstructionists. They have killed approximately 75% of nominees since 2017, and the defeat of such a qualified and well known nominee was highly criticized by many in Wildwood. Those who voted against the candidate were pressed during and after the vote for their reasons.
Councilman Kevin Dillard made the argument that Garrett's association with a political action committee was reason to reject the nomination.
(Photo: Kevin Dillard for Dillard's Facebook Page)
As reported by West Newsmagazine, Dillard claimed, “My biggest concern is that he was involved with the Progress for Wildwood PAC, which in my opinion was one of the most divisive, damaging and destructive forces in Wildwood’s history."
Dillard was referring to the much-maligned Progress for Wildwood Political Action Committee (PAC) that was active in the 2018 municipal election. Although legal and constitutionally protected, a group of anti-mayor antagonists have filed numerous failed ethics complaints related to the PAC that has cost the city thousands of dollars.
Garrett told Wildwood Matters that he had donated no money to the PAC and was involved with the group for only two weeks at the beginning of the election cycle. Garrett contended that it was a Constitutional right to be politically active as a resident, and that he should not have to fear retaliation from city officials during consideration of his nomination.
The 2018 Progress for Wildwood PAC has been the subject of expensive, frivolous complaints filed by political allies of Dillard, but the PAC has never been found to have violated any federal, state, or city laws.
The Constitutional right to political speech, including the use of PACs, should be well-known to council member Dillard.
The American Association of Orthodontists Political Action Committee (AAOPAC) lists Mr. Dillard as its treasurer on its website.
(Screenshot: From PAC Website)
In his attack, Kevin Dillard had expressed a concern that the PAC that Garrett had minimal involvement in was intended to get around election laws. Given what was written on his own PAC's page, Mr. Dillard may be projecting somewhat when it comes to such matters.
(Screenshot: From PAC Website)
Mr. Dillard has every right to be involved with a PAC, and his doing so clearly did not disqualify him from serving on the Wildwood City Council. It does show however, that his "biggest concern" lacks merit and underscores the anti-mayor faction's unfair treatment of Mr. Garrett.
Let's hope for the city's sake that it will soon be "game-over" for this type of political retaliation against the fine resident volunteers of Wildwood.