Cecil County Charter: Commissioners Diss Bowlsbey, Seek “New Face” on Charter Panel to be Run by Old Faces

March 22, 2011

The Cecil County Commissioners voted Tuesday to create a Charter Government Transition advisory panel including the three newest Commissioners, several county government senior staffers, and an unnamed “new face” from the Charter Board that drafted the county charter approved by voters last November.

But Commissioner Board President James Mullin (R-1) and Commissioner Diana Broomell (R-4) made it clear that they would not accept Joyce Bowlsbey– the chair of the charter board who first suggested a transition panel in January– as the lone representative of the group that wrote the document endorsed by voters, after multiple past efforts by other groups had been soundly rejected by the voters. Commissioner Michael Dunn (R-3) was largely silent during the Tuesday discussion, but last week he voiced opposition to Bowlsbey, likening her to a “fox in the hen house.”

Mullin demanded that there be a “new face” from the Charter Board for the one seat on the transition panel, but he did not disclose who that “face” might be and how that “face” would be selected or if the “face” would be selected in public or private deliberations. Mullin declared that he wanted “someone that wasn’t visible in the whole process.”

Under the plan initiated Tuesday by Mullin, a majority of the Commissioners decided that the advisory group should consist of the three newly elected commissioners—Broomell, Tari Moore (R-2) and Dunn—who will automatically become County Council members when charter government goes into effect after the 2012 election when a new County Executive will be elected. In addition, Mullin designated the county administrator, budget director, human resources director, and the county Treasurer. The budget director’s position and the county Treasurer’s position will be eliminated under the charter government plan.

Furthermore, the Mullin plan could sign a blank check for a Baltimore lawyer who is an expert on charter government issues to serve as a paid advisor to the transition panel. There was no stop-loss limit on fees that would have to be paid by taxpayers. However, sources said that the attorney suggested a limited time commitment for the job.

During the discussion of the charter transition advisory panel, Commissioner Robert Hodge (R-5) offered multiple alternative scenarios to ensure what he said should be a “conflict of interest” -free panel and one that would re-assure voters that the charter government they voted for was being implemented with fairness and transparency.

Initially, Hodge suggested that the panel should include one member of the Democratic Central Committee, one member of the Republican Central Committee, and the county administrator, budget director, Treasurer, and two members of the original Charter Board. Hodge worried, as he had at previous discussions of the matter, that overloading the panel with county employees could pose a “conflict of interest” among current county employees looking to safeguard their positions under charter government.

Hodge said that inclusion of representatives of the local political party committees was a real-world recognition that the transition to charter government—and the 2012 election of a county executive—was in essence a political process. “We need to have their buy-in,” he said of the local political organizations. He also questioned the Mullin plan’s inclusion of “too many insiders” that would lead the public to question whether their voices for “change” had been heard in the vote for charter government.

Hodge also questioned the blank check for the Baltimore attorney, saying that “his paycheck comes from the commissioners” and that, especially if there were three Commissioners on the panel, the attorney could tilt his advice toward the wishes of the Commissioners on the panel.

But Hodge’s concerns were rejected by a majority of the Board of Commissioners. His initial proposal, that would have omitted the three new commissioners, was killed 4-1.

Mullin crafted an enticing plan to put the three newest commissioners firmly in charge of the transition, saying they were the ones who would have “boots on the ground” under the shift from Commissioners to County Council members. That argument drew support from Moore, who often votes with Hodge but not in this case.

[UPDATE: The vote on final passage of the Mulln plan was 3-2, with Moore joining Hodge after Mullin refused to amend his motion to accomodate their requests to add a citizen or citizens to the panel.]
After the meeting, former Cecil County Superintendent of Schools Carl Roberts, who attended the Commissioners’ session while on a break from other meetings in Elkton, reacted with shock to the disrespect shown to Joyce Bowlsbey. “They should be down on their knees” asking her to help them with the Charter government transition, he said. Roberts lost his bid for County Commissioner to Broomell in November’s election.

Bowlsbey was in the audience at Tuesday’s commissioners’ session. Several attendees consoled her with joking support, saying that she was a “fox” and “foxy lady” even if Commissioner Dunn relegated her to a ‘fox in the henhouse.”

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7 Responses to Cecil County Charter: Commissioners Diss Bowlsbey, Seek “New Face” on Charter Panel to be Run by Old Faces

  1. John Ulrich on March 22, 2011 at 5:06 pm

    I applaud Robert Hodge on his plan, it actually seemed to be the best idea: at least one member of the charter commission should be on this charter panel.

    The attack on Joyce Bowlsbey, and it is an attack, is purely political. She is not the same kind of “Republican” that Dunn, Pipkin or Smigiel are. Make no mistakes, this is being orchestrated behind the scenes, not by our locally elected officials, but by some state officials attempting to take control of the entire range of Cecil County government.

    • RED 833 on March 22, 2011 at 7:50 pm

      There is a difference between Republican and SMIPKIN. Smigiel and Pipkin care only about their re-elections and punishing those who do not support their agenda 100%. I guess Broomell has forgotten that Smigiel fired her as Legislative Aide when she ran against Tome. Smigiel the “Pied Viper” strikes again. He always seems to find programmable supporters. Sad day for Cecil County.

  2. Ed Burke on March 22, 2011 at 5:18 pm

    The foxes in the hen house are Mullin, Dunn, and Broomell. Dunn and Mullin clearly follow the Smigiel line and Broomell has clearly shifted in that direction. A big question in mind is who will do the work. It won’t be Dunn and Broomell who seem unprepared on most business coming before the Board of Commissioners. A larger committee, including members of the Charter Board, would have allowed the use of sub-committes to share the workload and focus on specifics. I feel that SMIPKIN is deliberately driving capable, experienced people out of public service to be replaced by their less qualified yes-persons.

  3. Carl Roberts on March 23, 2011 at 5:51 am

    Commissioner Hodge’s point regarding “too many insiders” was interpreted and announced by Commissioner Mullin as “so you think the staff will deep six the Charter plan.” The president missed the point all together.

    The need to establish a transition team that is diverse is to avoid any question that staff, current commissioners or anyone would attempt to take advantage of influencing the transition to Charter Government for his/her own personal gain. Hodge had it right yesterday.

  4. Patrick Tuer on March 23, 2011 at 4:51 pm

    The games being played by the board are making me sick. Why the games?

  5. Alexis on March 24, 2011 at 8:34 am

    Mullin, Dunn, and Broomell are carrying out the Smigiel / Pipkin vendettas. Wait until the legislative session is over and SMIPKIN returns to give orders directly.

  6. Al Reasin on March 24, 2011 at 11:38 am

    The vote Tuesday certainly set up a less transparent team by preventing the appointment of citizens/outsiders, members that would have provided some oversight helping to reduce the potential for distrust of the process by the Cecil County citizenry. It is human nature to have a bias about protecting your power base and those of you friends in government. And it is the exceptional person that will go against his/her own self interest to promote the best for all.

    There obviously is a need for government personnel on the team since they should know the rules, codes and the keepers of such information. However, a strong willed citizen or two with a civil attitude toward those who may disagree would have the tendency to moderate any self interest being considered.

    It was said that citizens, because of open meeting laws, will be involved; but not if the meetings are held as are the commissioners’ working sessions; IMO, the commissioners’ working sessions need to be public, as they are, and need to restrict citizens’ direct involvement to allow issues to be debated with out interruption as they now do. If the transition meetings will be held in a townhall format, then citizens would have some input in the process and result in a more active participation of ordinary citizens.

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