Cecil County Commissioners: Quick Airport “Decision” but Procrastination on Charter Panel
The Cecil County Commissioners again postponed a decision on creating a charter government advisory panel Tuesday but the Board President moved quickly to kill an airport authority proposal that had not been voted on by the full board.
The perennially polite Commissioner Tari Moore (R-2) became angry at the attempt by Commissioner Board President James Mullin (R-1) to send a letter in the name of all the commissioners rejecting a request by the operator of the private Raintree airport that the county create an airport authority to oversee a county airport. The request was first briefly discussed in public at last week’s commissioners’ work session but no decision was reached or voted upon.
But Mullin presented a letter to the airport operator on Tuesday claiming that the full board agreed that the county would not support creation of an airport authority.
“If we’re going to be ‘transparent’,” Moore said, the president of the board should not be sending a letter purporting a position that has not been voted on by the full board. “I feel like three people made a decision” without consulting with all members of the five-member board and without a thorough review of the proposal, Moore said. Commissioners Diana Broomell(R-4) and Michael Dunn (R-3) said they thought everyone was in agreement with Mullin’s position.
But Moore and Commissioner Robert Hodge (R-5) said the point was that the commissioners had not conducted a thorough review of the issue and the pros, cons and possible costs of creating a county airport authority. They questioned the rush to judgment by Mullin without a formal vote by the board. Mullin then made a motion to send the letter anyway, and prevailed on a 3-2 vote, with Hodge and Moore voting no.
In contrast to that rush to judgment, a majority of the commissioners again postponed any action on creation of a volunteer charter government transition advisory panel, a proposal that has been pending before the board since early January.
In January, members of a volunteer group, headed by Joyce Bowlsbey, offered to help the county work out the multiple legal and practical details of the transition from the county commissioner form of government to a charter government system approved by the voters in November, 2010. Charter government will take effect after the election of a County Executive in November, 2012, but there are numerous legal and practical details that will have to be worked out to ease the transition.
The Commissioners received a detailed briefing on the issue in January (See Cecil Times report here: http://ceciltimes.com/2011/01/charter-government-cecil-county-commissioners-confused-but-looking-for-advice/
Bowlsbey also appeared before the Commissioners last week to jog their memory and ask for a decision on appointing an advisory panel. She was back again on Tuesday, but three commissioners indicated they didn’t want the outside advice.
Commissioner Dunn went so far as to assert that the “Friends of Charter” volunteer group that advocated voter approval of the charter plan was “suspect” and he had “questions” about its possible role in interpreting the charter document it drafted. “I don’t want to let the fox in the hen house,” Dunn declared.
In that view, he was echoing the position of his former employer, Del. Michael D. Smigiel (R-36), and Sen. E.J. Pipkin (R-36), who strenuously opposed charter government and purchased newspaper ads denouncing charter in last year’s election season.
Indeed, Smigiel and Pipkin appeared before the county commissioners last fall to challenge the pro-charter volunteer group and attacked Bowlsbey, who has been a longstanding volunteer in various civic causes and has worked with the Chamber of Commerce to promote the county to businesses and new residents coming to the area for the BRAC military relocation program at Aberdeen Proving Ground.
(See Cecil Times report on the Smipkin attack on Bowlsbey here:
Mullin put off any decision again on Tuesday, saying “we don’t have to settle this today.” But Mullin and Dunn indicated they would prefer to have county government staff work on the transition issues without outside volunteer guidance. Broomell said she would “like to have more of a say” on any advisory group that might consist of county employees as well as outside volunteers.
“I don’t get it,” Hodge said. “This is supposed to be a team effort…what’s the problem” with having some of the people who drafted the charter document help advise the board on its provisions. Hodge pointed out that there could be some conflicts of interest by involving some county employees, who face potential loss of their jobs under charter government, in the transition advisory process.