Posted: March 27, 2015


By Celia Cohen
Grapevine Political Writer

In the dark of night Dana Long did what he did.

Rid the highways and byways of Middletown of Republican campaign signs, lest the voters go against his wife Bethany Hall-Long, a Democratic state senator up for re-election last year.

The signs disappeared on a first night. They disappeared on a second night. On the third night, Republican operatives fed up with the disappearing signs set up a stakeout with a video camera and caught Long on tape.

It was a stupid campaign trick that came with great cost.

Delaware politics and the press went wild. Long was arrested on a theft charge. Hall-Long nearly lost her seat. After winning legislative elections with ease since 2002, this time she barely escaped with her political life with 51 percent of the vote.

What happened then in the dark of night has now been replaced by the dark of justice.

The theft charge has gone away. Officials from the Republican Party, considered to be the victim, agreed to let the matter be submitted to mediation, as allowed by state law.

It came to pass through the magic of mediation that the case was somehow resolved, and the Attorney General's Office had it dropped on March 10.

How the case was resolved, however, is an official secret. What happens in mediation stays in mediation. It is for the participants to know and nobody else to find out. Not even the Attorney General's Office is allowed to know.

"Per state law, the details on cases resolved between parties in mediation are confidential," Carl Kanefsky, the public information officer for the Attorney General's Office, said Friday in a statement.

Mum was also the word from the Republican Party. "The terms of the agreement dictate that it will not be discussed," said John Fluharty, the party's executive director.

Hall-Long was no more forthcoming, although she did manage to put in a political plug for herself.

"The matter has been resolved in a mediated agreement. My focus remains on the significant quality of life issues confronting families within my district and the state, including jobs, schools and health care," Hall-Long said in a statement.

It figures. First the dark of night, then the dark of justice, and now the dark of dissembling.

It does not sound right. This most public of a theft charge, involving the most public of experiences, namely an election, gets private treatment.

Give Long credit, though. He might not have been much good at making campaign signs disappear, but legal troubles? Like a champ.

Still, this is Delaware, and nothing in a state this small can be kept entirely secret.

The terms of the mediation were said to require Long to acknowledge his wrongdoing and to perform community service, although it could not be learned what he did or how long it lasted.

It would be nice to think his community service was to go with the state Transportation Department to remove campaign signs abandoned along the roadside after the election.

After all, Long already had experience.