Cecil County Commissioners Name Yust to Planning Panel Amidst “Cronyism” Charges
Amidst charges of âcronyism,â 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 âorchestrated effortâ that was âshameful.â
Members of the Cecil County Patriots, the local âtea partyâ organization, spoke out against the Yust appointment, as they had againstâ Dunnâs 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 Patriotsâ group highlighted his posts on Facebook, including âpotty-mouthedâ comments and references to a male body part.
Under county commissioner tradition, the available seat was Dunnâs to fill, with approval of fellow commissioners. After Thorneâs withdrawal, Dunn picked Yust, who served as campaign treasurer for Dunnâs 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 commissionersâ 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, Yustâs resume had been requested repeatedly for several weeks by other county commissioners but they only received it the day before Tuesdayâs vote.
Donna Caudell, a leader of the Patriotsâ group, asked Dunn to recuse himself from the vote on Yustâs appointment, saying it reflected âcronyismâ and that Dunn and other Yust-supporters were âlooking for a yes-man.â
Ron Lobos, another Patriotsâ 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. âLook me in the eye,â he said, and say that Clay McDowell is ânot the best choiceâŚyou canât, without lying.â
In all, seven people spoke out against the Yust appointment and no citizens spoke in support of Yust.
But Commissioner Broomell defended Yustâand Thorneâand said that both men had been advocates of âresponsible growthâ in the county.
Commissioner Robert Hodge (R-5) said the Yust appointment created âa perception of cronyism and patronageâ and the commissioners should instead appoint âthe most qualified and committed applicants.â
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 âwithout a shadow of a doubtâ 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.]