WDEL Exclusive: Wilmington website lists councilman as owing $15K in utility bills, he says he was unaware

Councilman Ernest 'Trippi' Congo. 

Councilman Trippi Congo admitted to WDEL, in an interview about his run for council president, that he recently moved to the 8th District.

He currently represents the 2nd District, and Section 2.103 of the Wilmington City Code requires council persons to live in the district in which they represent.

"He shall remain a resident of the councilmanic district from which he was elected during his term of office. If a councilman shall cease to possess any of these qualifications, including in the case of a councilman elected from a councilmanic district, residence in the district from which he was elected, or if he shall violate any expressed prohibition of this Charter, or if he be convicted of a crime involving moral turpitude, his office shall immediately be forfeited and become vacant."

When WDEL brought the code to Congo's attention and asked whether he had to resign his seat, he said:

"I don’t think so. But I’m not sure...I have to look into that. I’m glad you brought that to my attention."

When pressed further, Congo said he had no intention of resigning or vacating his seat in District 2, and said, if required he'd simply move back into the apartments above the Congo Funeral Home, which is in District 2.

"I'll just move back into the 2nd District...I'll live in the funeral home," he said.

"You have living quarters in the funeral home?" WDEL asked.

"There's apartments upstairs," Congo said.

Congo owns a number of properties in the city.

Prior to his run for council president, announced on deadline day July 17, 2020, he had been running for an at large seat. Those elected to council president or at large seats can live anywhere in the city. To run for council president, Congo has to give up his District 2 seat. But during his interview with WDEL, on July 23, Congo said, he moved to the 8th District two weeks ago:

WDEL: "Are you planning moving if elected?" 

Congo replied: "Yes."

WDEL:  "What district to?"

Congo: "To the 8th District, I live there now; I live in the 8th District now. I just moved."

WDEL: "So can you live in the 8th District but represent the 2nd?"

Congo: "I just moved like a week ago, and I just filed for council president...I moved like two weeks ago," he said.

The Delaware Department of Election's Commissioner Anthony Albence said city council has authority over what happens next.   

"After a member is sworn into a legislative body (in this case, Wilmington City Council), the body determines the eligibility of sitting members to serve," he said.

Congo faces incumbent council president Hanifa Shabazz in the September primary.