Cecil County Commissioners Name Yust to Planning Panel Amidst “Cronyism” Charges

September 21, 2011

Amidst charges of “cronyism,” the Cecil County Commissioners Tuesday voted, 3-2, to appoint Skip Yust, the former political campaign treasurer for Commissioner Michael Dunn (R-3), to a seat on the important planning commission. Dunn lashed out at critics of the appointment, accusing them of an “orchestrated effort” that was “shameful.”

Members of the Cecil County Patriots, the local ‘tea party’ organization, spoke out against the Yust appointment, as they had against’ Dunn’s previously hand-picked appointee, Owen Thorne. Thorne served a brief interim appointment on the planning panel but withdrew his name for a four-year term after the Patriots’ group highlighted his posts on Facebook, including “potty-mouthed” comments and references to a male body part.

Under county commissioner tradition, the available seat was Dunn’s to fill, with approval of fellow commissioners. After Thorne’s withdrawal, Dunn picked Yust, who served as campaign treasurer for Dunn’s 2010 campaign for county commissioner.. Yust is also a former Rising Sun town commissioner and political ally of Commissioner Diana Broomell (R-4) in local Republican and land use groups.

[SEE previous Cecil Times article here: http://ceciltimes.com/2011/09/cecil-county-planning-panel-controversial-thorne-out-commish-dunn-picks-his-campaign-godfather-for-panel-seat/ ]

Overlooked in the appointment process by Dunn was Clay McDowell, a retired physicist who has served as a non-voting alternate member of the planning commission since 2004 and who applied for a permanent seat.

Members of the Patriots testified Tuesday during the public comments section of the commissioners’ meeting that McDowell was by far the more qualified candidate but Dunn had not even responded to his application letter and resume with an interview.

Indeed, Yust’s resume had been requested repeatedly for several weeks by other county commissioners but they only received it the day before Tuesday’s vote.

Donna Caudell, a leader of the Patriots’ group, asked Dunn to recuse himself from the vote on Yust’s appointment, saying it reflected “cronyism” and that Dunn and other Yust-supporters were “looking for a yes-man.”

Ron Lobos, another Patriots’ leader, compared the process to the general manager of an NFL team, faced with the choice for quarterback of Peyton Manning or a high school player. “Look me in the eye,” he said, and say that Clay McDowell is “not the best choice…you can’t, without lying.”

In all, seven people spoke out against the Yust appointment and no citizens spoke in support of Yust.

But Commissioner Broomell defended Yust—and Thorne—and said that both men had been advocates of “responsible growth” in the county.

Commissioner Robert Hodge (R-5) said the Yust appointment created “a perception of cronyism and patronage” and the commissioners should instead appoint “the most qualified and committed applicants.”

The final vote to approve Yust came on the predictable three-vote bloc of Dunn, Broomell and Commissioner James Mullin (R-1). Hodge and Commissioner Tari Moore (R-2) voted no. Moore said that McDowell was “without a shadow of a doubt” the most qualified candidate.

[Disclosure: Cecil Times was not present in the meeting room for the evening vote and relied on official county government audio tapes and interviews with participants for this report, as well as our previous reporting on the planning board appointment process.]

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3 Responses to Cecil County Commissioners Name Yust to Planning Panel Amidst “Cronyism” Charges

  1. Millie LaCorte on September 21, 2011 at 7:50 pm

    It would have been more logical to have offered the Planning Commissioner position to Clay McDowell since he had served Cecil County as an Alternate Commissioner for 8 years and was thus familiar with all aspects of the job. Then the Alternate Commissioner position could have been offered to either Skip Yust or one of the other less experienced applicants, thus ensuring for succession planning with a person able to take full responsibility immediately, while a viable successor received on the job training as the alternate Planning Commission member.

    • Natalie Ricci on September 23, 2011 at 4:12 pm

      Of course, Millie, but your proposal requires common sense and rational thinking skills, both of which are in short supply among 3 of the 5 current County Commissioners.

  2. Alexis on September 21, 2011 at 9:45 pm

    I checked my trusty Webster’s Dictionary definitions. Crony: A close friend. Cronyism: favoritism shown to cronies regardless of their qualifications, as in filling political positions. Shame on you, Commissioner Dunn.

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