Cecil County Commissioners Pick Ed Cole for Last Seat on Charter Transition Panel

March 29, 2011

The Cecil County Commissioners Tuesday selected Ed Cole, a former county commissioner and current Orphans’ Court judge, to a seat on the new Charter government advisory panel. His selection came on a unanimous vote, after past contentious discussions on who should help guide the county’s transition to Charter government in the next two years.

The Commissioners decided a week ago to create an advisory group including the three newly-elected Commissioners—Diana Broomell (R-4), Michael Dunn (R-3) and Tari Moore (R-2)—who will automatically become members of the new County Council after a county executive is elected for the first time in the 2012 election. In addition, the panel will include the county administrator, budget director, human resources director, and county Treasurer.

But the Commissioners deferred a decision on who would hold the lone seat on the panel to represent the Charter Board that drafted the charter document approved overwhelmingly by voters in the November 2010 election. A three-member majority—Broomell, Dunn and Commissioners President James Mullin (R-1)—made it clear they would not accept Joyce Bowlsbey, who chaired the charter board and worked hard to educate voters about the Charter document.

(See previous Cecil Times report here: http://ceciltimes.com/2011/03/cecil-county-charter-commissioners-diss-bowlsbey-seek-new-face-on-charter-panel-to-be-run-by-old-faces/

Cole served as a one-term county Commissioner from 1990-94 before being defeated in the 1994 election. He disappeared from local politics until last year, when he re-surfaced as a candidate for the county Orphans Court. He was the only Democrat elected to the court in November. Orphans Court judges work a few hours a week and are paid $5,500 annually.

Cole was a relative latecomer to the Charter Board, named in May, 2009 to replace another member who resigned several months after the Board began its work on drafting the Charter document. At the time of his selection, he told the Cecil Whig that he thought the county was “ready” for a Charter form of government.

But Broomell said part of the reason she supported Cole was that he told her a few days ago that when he was put on the panel, he was not sure whether he supported the switch to the Charter form of government. She also emphasized that Cole was not a member of the “Friends of Charter” ballot issue group that raised funds for ads and outreach to voters to work for passage of the Charter ballot initiative in the last election.

Dunn echoed that view, saying Cole won his support because “he was not part of the Friends of Charter” group.

State Sen. E.J. Pipkin (R-36) and Del. Michael Smigiel (R-36) vociferously opposed the Charter government referendum question and placed newspaper ads opposing it. They also appeared before the county Commissioners to protest fundraising by the Friends of Charter group and criticized Bowlsbey, who headed the original Charter Board and was actively involved in Friends of Charter.

Dunn recently resigned his job as a legislative aide to Smigiel. Broomell is also a former legislative aide to Smigiel but has sought to distance herself from him politically in the past few years.

The Cole selection was initiated by Mullin, who said Tuesday that he thought Cole’s background and experience would make him “a good bridge, a good transition.” Mullin had previously said he wanted a “new face” from the Charter Board to help guide the transition to Charter government in the county.

But Commissioner Robert Hodge (R-5) again raised the question of insiders on the current county payroll guiding the transition and no independent citizens involved in the process. “I personally don’t have a problem with Ed Cole,” Hodge said. But it is “interesting” that all members of the panel are “getting a check from the county,” he said, while simultaneously guiding how the county will transition to the new form of government.

“We represent the citizens,” Hodge said. But on the transition to Charter government, “the citizens are not part of the team,” he said, and “that’s the problem.”

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One Response to Cecil County Commissioners Pick Ed Cole for Last Seat on Charter Transition Panel

  1. Patrick Tuer on March 30, 2011 at 9:40 am

    Ed Cole is a solid pick. I’ve known him since I was a small child. Also, he may have disappeared from politics on a media/public level, but he has always been involved in some fashion. He’s extremely intelligent and very savvy.

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