Cecil County Commissioners: Got a Minute? Let’s Re-Write History

March 15, 2011

The Cecil County Board of Commissioners voted Tuesday to revise history, deleting or rewriting from the minutes of previous meetings statements that were made in public but some commissioners did not want in the printed record of their work sessions.

The Commissioners have been arguing for weeks over the minutes of public and closed work sessions dating back to late January. After extensive revisions, mostly proposed by Commissioner Diana Broomell (R-4), a majority of Commissioners eventually approved minutes that were revised again at the last minute on Tuesday.

But the most startling revision of the minutes was proposed by Commissioner Michael Dunn (R-3), who wanted to delete from the minutes of a February work session a potentially libelous attack he made on the Cecil County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Inc. The attack was witnessed, and reported upon, by three separate news organizations.

[See report on that meeting and Dunn’s outburst here:

At the Tuesday 3/15/11 work session, Dunn declared that he wanted to delete from the minutes his comments “talking about my good friends at the SPCA.”

But Commissioner Tari Moore (R-2) said, “I do remember your using the phrase ‘culture of corruption’ ” against the SPCA. Commissioner Robert Hodge (R-5), added, “I remember the same phrase.”

Dunn responded, “I said a lot of things.”

Then, Commissioners Moore and Broomell got into a largely private exchange of revisions to other minutes, dealing with discussions involving Penn National Gaming, operator of the Hollywood Casino in Perryville. They eventually worked out mutually acceptable language on the minutes that were not discussed at the public work session Tuesday.

By way of background, at the Commissioners’ 3/8/11 work session, the commissioners devoted about a half hour to discussion of the minutes of weekly open work sessions and closed work sessions dating back to January 25. At last week’s meeting, Commissioner Broomell tried to extensively revise minutes dealing with discussions of the Local Development Council and a letter sent by the president of the previous board of Commissioners to Penn National gaming, operator of the Perryville slots parlor.

(After Tuesday’s meeting, Moore told Cecil Times that her revisions of Broomell’s revisions were designed to more accurately reflect what was actually said at the sessions.)

At last week’s work session, Commissioner Hodge responded to Broomell, “You can’t take things out because you don’t like them,” and said the minutes are supposed to reflect what was actually said at a work session. Broomell then tried to modify the report of comments made at another session’s discussion of the Transfer of Development Rights program, to “clarify” the “intent” of the speakers. Hodge again challenged Broomell’s attempt, saying that the minutes must reflect “what happened” and commissioners should “not [be] adding clarifications after the fact.”

Commissioners Board President James Mullin (R-1) intervened in the dispute, saying that with the new move of work sessions to the Board meeting room with audio taping capacity, disputes over future minutes will be “taken out of the equation.” He postponed approval of the minutes last week, setting up Tuesday’s renewed debate over the minutes and attempts by some commissioners to re-write history.

At Tuesday’s meeting, the Commissioners got bogged down in what they were actually voting on and there was a prolonged silence and sub-rosa buzz as county attorney Norman Wilson waded into the parliamentary thicket to determine what motion was actually on the table for a vote.

Eventually, the Commissioners voted to approve the multiply-revised minutes on a 4-1 vote, with Hodge voting ‘no’ on the adoption of the revisionist history minutes. The adopted minutes delete the Dunn attack on the SPCA that was clearly uttered by him in public.

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6 Responses to Cecil County Commissioners: Got a Minute? Let’s Re-Write History

  1. Tina Sharp on March 15, 2011 at 6:10 pm

    Thank You, Robert Hodge, for being honest. In the upcoming election, you will have this vote and any I can bring with me.

  2. Alexis on March 16, 2011 at 8:32 am

    Shame on so-called Commissioner Dunn. His Puppet Master Smigiel must have had a legal reason for altering the minutes. That does not mean that the remarks were not made. Let’s see if he tryies to delete his “fox in the henhouse” remark regarding the Friends of Charter. I think the reason Dunn is only seen at official commission meetings and never out in the community is that he lives in a puppet suitcase in Smigiel’s office and only appears after being programmed by Smigiel.

  3. Cecil Times on March 17, 2011 at 6:00 am

    Cecil Times was physically present at both of the commissioners’ meetings cited in this article. There are nuances of tone of speech and body language that are evident in such a meeting if one is actually in the room. It is misleading for others to write about officials who “huddled in whispered tones and flipped through papers” if their only knowledge of the event comes from listening to an audiotape days later. Huddling and flipping seem to be activities one must see.

  4. Larry on March 19, 2011 at 12:10 pm

    So Someone Noticed pretends to be there but isn’t? Sounds like a lack of “transparency” to me. He should give himself a slap on the transparent wrist. It seems that he thinks it is OK for Dunn to take the scissors and cut out what everybody heard Dunn say. Not one word of criticism there.

  5. Michael W. Dawson on March 20, 2011 at 10:49 am

    Minutes or transcription? Seems to me that is the question. While I find Dunn’s comments not surprising and further revealing, I can see where a precedent of selective quoting could, in the course of time and with subsequent Boards (Councils), be used inappropriately by a rogue majority.

    In the interest of an accurate reflection of the discussion, perhaps a recounting of the diatribe, or redaction of a potentially actionable statement, would best serve the public interest and, at the same time, protect the otherwise good reputation of an elected leader.

    • Ed Burke on March 21, 2011 at 7:46 am

      A room full of people heard the statement. The minutes should not have been approved with the deletion.

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