BULLETIN: Analysis/ Mullin-Dunn Diss Budget Advisory Panel
The ink was barely dry on the Cecil County Commissionersâ€™ appointment of a citizen budget advisory panel when two Commissioners firmly aligned with the Pipkin-Smigiel political machine released on Thursday afternoon a duo-lateral edict for the countyâ€™s budget process, with a proposal that settles several political scores for their mentors.
The full five-member Cecil County Board of Commissioners agreed on Tuesday to appoint a citizensâ€™ advisory panel to review budget proposals and make recommendations on the upcoming Fiscal 2012 budget. Commissioners each named one person to the panel. Most of the appointees have credible resumes and expertise in fiscal matters and Cecil County public service.
But on Thursday, Commissioner Board President James Mullin (R-1) and newcomer Commissioner Michael Dunn (R-3) revealed a proposal to cut $10 million from the countyâ€™s upcoming budgetâ€”even before departments have submitted and presented detailed budget proposals to the Commissioners at upcoming budget workshops.
The duo chose to reveal their proposals via a political website operated by their â€śYoung Republicanâ€ť allies associated with state Sen. E.J. Pipkin (R-36) and Del. Michael D. Smigiel, Sr. (R-36).
Foremost among the duoâ€™s proposals are initiatives that would settle old political scores of their Smipkin mentors.
Mullin/Dunn propose decimating the countyâ€™s Department of Economic Development, which is headed by Vernon Thompson. Thompson opposed the Smipkins several years ago on legislation that he and the then-commissioners board sought to allow the county to create â€śspecial taxingâ€ť or impact fee districts in which developers would have to contribute to the public services and infrastructure costs of their projects. The Smipkins vehemently opposed the legislation, but the state General Assembly over-ruled them and approved the legislation. The Smipkins have never forgotten the embarrassing legislative defeat they suffered in Annapolis.
Mullin/Dunn want to cut $1 million from the Department of Economic Development and leave only a small program to promote tourism, a political sop to fellow Commissioner Diana Broomell (R-4), who is an ardent believer in the potential of tourism to boost the countyâ€™s economy.
In a major bow-down to Del. Smigiel, Mullin/Dunnâ€™s proposal would eliminate animal control services, as currently provided by the Cecil County SPCA, cutting $500,000 for animal control, rabies testing and public health services for stray or owner-surrendered animals. Instead, the duo proposes providing just $148,000 for an unspecified program to be operated by the county sheriffâ€™s Department with no mention of how or where stray animals would be housed.
Smigiel has been at war against the local SPCA since 2002, when he was the lawyer for a pet shop that was raided by State Police and the SPCA for dead, ill and abused animals. Smigiel also created a phony â€śCecil County SPCAâ€ť that was ruled by a Circuit Court judge as an improper usurpation of the real SPCAâ€™s name and reputation. An injunction was issued against Smigiel. [Disclosure: the editor of Cecil Times is a former unpaid, volunteer Board member of the SPCA and was present in the courtroom when Judge Lidums excoriated Smigiel for what the judge ruled was the illegal taking of the SPCAâ€™s identity.]
On Tuesday, Mullin jokingly approached Sheriff Barry Janney during a break of a county Commissionersâ€™ work session, saying, â€śHere you are, the new dog-catcher.â€ť A shocked-faced Janney said, â€śwhat?â€ť Mullin replied with a big grin, â€śIâ€™m not kidding; youâ€™re going to be the new dog-catcher.â€ť
Sources tell Cecil Times that Commissioner Broomell approached the sheriff and demanded that he take over animal control duties. Sources say that a surprised Janney responded that he had enough problems trying to fight crime and assure public safety in a difficult budget climate and he had no interest in taking over animal control duties, especially with reduced resources.
In their new budget proposal, the Mullin-Dunn duo also proposes cutting public safety funding by $3.2 million. They achieved that figure by an across-the-board 10 percent cut but do not specify which parts of the county should face reduced Sheriffâ€™s patrols or emergency/fire/ambulance services.
Cecil Times will follow up on these and other budget issues in upcoming days.