Commissioner Dunn Targets Cecil County Ag Coordinator; Closed-Door Move Has Political Hint

August 2, 2011

A Cecil Times Special Report

Cecil County Commissioner Michael Dunn (R-3) proposed during a closed-door meeting of the County Commissioners last week to drop the current agriculture co-coordinator position in the county’s Department of Economic Development, according to multiple informed sources. Agriculture and farm-related business constitutes a major segment of the Cecil County economy.

The position is currently held by the wife of the campaign treasurer for a Circuit Court judge facing voters in the 2012 election, when Dunn’s former boss, Del. Michael Smigiel (R-36), is widely expected to run for a judgeship challenging the incumbent.

The move by Dunn came last Tuesday, at a closed-door meeting of the county commissioners, for which the board cited sections of the state’s Open Meetings Law only allowing secret discussions of “pending or potential litigation.” No personnel issues were cited.

Nevertheless, Dunn—who normally says almost nothing in public sessions of the commissioners– proposed getting rid of the ag coordinator, a position currently held by Joanne Richart Young, according to multiple sources who spoke to Cecil Times on condition of anonymity. Dunn claimed that the recent citizens’ budget advisory committee had made such a proposal, according to sources.

After Tuesday’s commissioners’ worksession, Board President James Mullin (R-1) claimed that the budget advisors had made such a suggestion in their final report, and “that’s why it got on our radar screen.”

However, the report submitted to the County Commissioners at their April 19, 2011 worksession, and testimony by the panel’s chairman, James Butkiewicz, at that meeting made no such suggestion. In fact, the citizens’ budget advisory panel noted that the county’s Economic Development Department had about the smallest increase in funding over the past ten years of any county department. The report stated that “the slowest growth [in county spending] has been in economic development, 1.79%” over a decade.

Moreover, the Fiscal 2012 budget adopted a few months ago by the Cecil County Commissioners cut the Economic Development Department significantly, down from the $1,040,685 budgeted in the Fiscal 2011 budget year to just $899,386—a 13.6 percent cut in one year, or $141,299 in cash.

So why might some commissioners want to cut the ag co-coordinator from the county Economic Development Department?

Joanne Richart Young is married to Ralph Young, an icon in the southern Cecil County community for his tireless service to local charities, such as the Cecilton Lions Club, and he was the longtime leader of the Fair Hill Nature Center. But Mr. Young, a Republican, has been a critic of the political machine led by Del. Smigiel and state Sen. E.J. Pipkin (R-36).

Mr. Young recently signed up to be the campaign treasurer for Keith Baynes, a Republican who got the surprise appointment from Democratic Governor Martin O’Malley for a vacant seat on the Cecil County Circuit Court. Baynes will have to run in the 2012 election to retain that seat.

Smigiel is widely expected to file his candidacy in that election for a judgeship.

Before getting elected as a county commissioner, Dunn worked as a legislative aide for Smigiel for several years and the Smigiel-Pipkin political machine financed Dunn’s campaign for commissioner. Mullin is firmly aligned with the Smipkin machine.

Ms. Richart Young enjoys especially strong support in the local horse community, which is an important segment of the county’s agricultural economy, especially in the southern area of the county. She has also been in charge of promoting local farmers’ markets, value-added agriculture such as local wineries and community-supported ag programs, and agriculture-related tourism in the county.

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4 Responses to Commissioner Dunn Targets Cecil County Ag Coordinator; Closed-Door Move Has Political Hint

  1. Ed Burke on August 3, 2011 at 8:17 am

    Why am I not shocked that a Smigiel puppet (Smuppet) would take such a blatently vicious political action? This has been the “3 Amigo’s” standard operating procedure throughout their short, dismal reign of terror. Just when I thought that the horrid treatment of former Delegate Sossi by the SMIPKIN was their low point, this comes along.
    Pipkin for County Exec.? What a nightmare.

  2. Al Reasin on August 3, 2011 at 12:18 pm

    I was at the public meeting when Jim Butkiewicz gave his report on 4/19/11. He also talked to the Cecil County Patriots at our June meeting and I have had two a private conversations with him. He never indicated a reduction in force was recommended, nor does the committee’s report (I have a copy), and he stated publicly that such a consideration should be a last resort.

    …[He said] recommendations on filled positions could be discussed in closed session, whatever that issue was. At no time did he talk about nor does the report indicate a reduction in force anywhere is proposed; only a freeze on hiring/not filling positions vacated.

    And the Economic Development information, as was reported by the Times, follows what is in the report and audio of the public session. So if any position was to be eliminated, it was recommended in closed session out of sight of the public.

    Thus Commissioner Mullin was incorrect, the Advisory Committee did not recommend this or any other elimination of a position in its report; the opposite is the general recommendation.

    If the elimination of a position was recommended by the Advisory Committee during a closed session, the applicable portion of the minutes should be released to the public to settle this issue.

    • ceciltimes on August 3, 2011 at 5:33 pm

      Thanks, Al, for your informed comments. There is no public record of a closed door meeting between the commissioners and the Budget Advisory Committee, so– unless the Commissioners were totally violating the state Open Meetings law and hiding a secret meeting– there was no such meeting at which a recommendation as suggested by Mullin and Dunn could have been made.

  3. TOO MUCH GOVERNMENT on August 3, 2011 at 1:16 pm

    Nothing ceases to amaze me about the Smuppet Dunn. Until such time as someone clever enough to beat the SMIPKIN puppets at their own game comes along, does anyone really think this is going to stop? I picture the SMIPKIN bullies sitting in the pulpit whipping the Smuppets.

    Real “Republicans” need to stand up and put them in their place. Is this ever going to happen? I certainly hope so. Can you imagine one of them in Circuit Court and the other as County Exec.? Oh my, we should all start packing and head south.

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