Posted: June 18, 2012


By Celia Cohen
Grapevine Political Writer

Legislative Hall turned into a giant crime scene last week.

When the legislators got home Tuesday evening after their session in Dover, they found an anonymous letter in their mail. It was sordid.

"This letter is written to inform Delaware elected officials, elected by the people I might add, of the situation that began in 2010 and may still be ongoing today involving Sussex County Councilman Vance Phillips of the 5th District and an under aged girl," it began.

That certainly got everyone's attention.

The letter was two pages long. It accused Phillips, a Republican, of carrying on an improper relationship with a 17-year-old whom he met while both of them were working on the campaign for Glen Urquhart, the Republicans' congressional candidate two years ago.

"I place the ball in your court and request you ferret out your own bad apple. I suggest to you that if you fail to do the right thing with regard to Mr. Phillips, the situation will be made public through the regular media as well as social media. In addition, the public will be made aware that you were complicit," it said.

The letter was signed, "An Anonymous Sussex County Citizen."

All up and down the state, telephones were ringing. It was the talk of Delaware politics.

"This was one of the more bizarre things we have seen," said Patti Blevins, the Senate's Democratic majority leader.

Bizarre has become the new normal for Vance Phillips.

Amid the endless controversy over whether Jeff Christopher, the Sussex County Republican sheriff, has the right to policing powers, Phillips chucked a notepad at Christopher during a private meeting, it escalated into a fight, and the Attorney General's Office investigated without bringing charges. Phillips also crashed an ultra-light plane he was learning to fly and broke his back.

Maybe in an earlier day, a letter like this one, sent anonymously, would have been tossed in the trash, but not now, not after Earl Bradley with his tiny patients and Jerry Sandusky at Penn State and the pedophile priests.

The legislators did what politicians do best. They headed for cover.

The letter got bounced to other authorities. The Democrats and the Republicans in the House of Representatives wrote a joint letter under the signatures of Pete Schwartzkopf, the Democratic majority leader, and Greg Lavelle, the Republican minority leader, to the Attorney General's Office, the state police and Vivian Rapposelli, the secretary of the children's services department.

"I know exactly what my role is -- which is to turn it over," said Schwartzkopf, who used to be a state police captain.

The Senate Republicans referred the letter to a state division director, and the Senate Democrats were overtaken by events.

"The state police contacted us and asked to collect all the letters," Blevins said.

There is a genuine investigation going on, along with the requisite genuine statement saying nothing from the Attorney General's Office, as in, "The Attorney General's Office is in communication with the Delaware state police, which has opened an investigation. We cannot provide additional comment in an ongoing investigation."

Phillips got himself a lawyer. It is Joe Hurley, the noted defense attorney.

"My guess is the letter is from someone in the law enforcement community. It is threatening. Let the coward come out of the darkness into the light, and there will be a responsible accounting. It's a bullying, cowardly personality that wrote that," Hurley said.

"Vance will be cooperating completely."

With "An Anonymous Sussex County Citizen" talking about under-aged sex and with Hurley talking about defamation, the investigation could go anywhere.

This case is not a whodunit but a who-done-what.