By Mike Hellgren

SOUTH BETHANY, Del. (WJZ) –The picture of gubernatorial candidate Attorney General Doug Gansler at a senior week party in South Bethany is putting a resort town in the spotlight.

Now, as Mike Hellgren reports from the Eastern Shore, the Delaware town is issuing a warning about students and underage drinking.

Leaders of South Bethany felt compelled to speak out because of all the attention the photo has gotten. They say some parents believe a little underage drinking is OK, but they wanted to make sure it never is.

Maryland Attorney General Gansler is taking the heat from a picture showing him at a packed teen party, where witnesses say there was underage drinking.

Now the town of South Bethany, Del., where it happened, is feeling the fire.

The town government issued a frank statement, saying “Many of the incidents that occur are the result of poor or absent supervision by parents. Parents often rent the homes and then disappear from the scene, leaving teenagers to fend for themselves.” To read the entire statement, click here.

Don Henretty, a former high school teacher who rents his home, says he knows things can get out of control and believes some parents turn a blind eye.

“It’s Senior Week. They’d rather not know, and they kind of figure in another couple of months they’ll be off to college and won’t have any influence or control of what they’re doing,” Henretty said.

Gansler, who is Maryland’s top law official, has spoken out against underage drinking. He and the parents of several teens rented a home in June after his son’s high school graduation.

South Bethany police say they are not investigating whether adults illegally watched as minors consumed alcohol. They say too much time has passed to prove anything. They’ve also consulted with Delaware State Police.

Those living nearby say South Bethany is right for cracking down.

“Every parent should be aware of what their children are doing at all times. I don’t care whether they’re 12 or they’re 19,” said Dolores Melnick, homeowner.

And while the picture has been a blow to Gansler’s campaign for governor, what happened at the now quiet beach town has sparked a nationwide conversation on parental responsibility.

Gansler later said that he made a mistake, that he should have investigated whether there was any underage drinking going on while he was at that party.

South Bethany had eight complaints regarding wild June celebrations last year. That’s down from 30 in 2009.

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