Oberly to succeed Ridgely as head of panel reviewing Vaughn hostage incident


Gov. John Carney on Friday announced his selection of former U.S. Attorney Charles M. Oberly III to join the Independent Review into the causes of the February 1 hostage incident at James T. Vaughn Correctional Center.

Oberly will replace former Delaware Supreme Court Justice Henry duPont Ridgely, who has recused himself from the review because of a potential conflict of interest.

The incident that led to the death of a corrections officer has resulted in the corrections officers union to level accusations of neglect and worse by previous administrations.


Ridgely cited a federal lawsuit related to the incident that names an inlaw who serves in a high position in state government as the reason for his recusal.

“I want to thank Justice Ridgely for his service, and I have full confidence that Charlie is the right person to step in and work with Judge Chapman on this important review,” said Carney.“A former U.S. Attorney and Attorney General of the State of Delaware, he has the experience and independence necessary to help produce a set of serious, actionable recommendations.”

Oberly served as the U.S. Attorney for the District of Delaware from December 2010 to this March. He was a founding member of the Wilmington law firm Oberly, Jennings and Rhodunda, and served as Delaware’s Attorney General from 1983 to 1995.

“I am honored that Governor Carney has asked meto take on this important role,” said Oberly. “The tragic events of February 1 must be thoroughly investigated to help ensure the future safety of Delaware correctional officers and properly identify the causes that gave rise to the incident.”

Oberly and retired Judge William L. Chapman, Jr. will continue to review the events surrounding the hostage incident and related security issues at the James T. Vaughn Correctional Center and make recommendations by June 1 to help assure the safety and security of employees and inmates at the facility. A final report is due to Governor Carney by August 15.

Carney launched the review in February.

Carney announced $340,800 for equipment that will help correctional officers respond to and prevent violent incidents, as well as an increased presence of specialized security teams at the facility.

Carney’s Fiscal Year 2018 budget proposal includes a plan to invest another $1.3 million in security equipment and training. The Governor’s financial plan also would add 50 correctional officers at James T. Vaughn Correctional Center, and the plan sets aside $4.5 million to increase hazardous duty pay for correctional officers.

Corrections officers say the moves are not enough and have demanded pay increases. The state has limited room to maneuver, due to a nearly $400 million budget shortfall.

At the same time, families of prisons have claimed that abuse in the state’s corrections system.

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