Cecil County Commissioners: Broomell, Hodge Take Road Trip; Ethics Code Redux
Was Willie Nelsonâ€™s song, â€śOn the Road Again,â€ť playing on the car radio when Cecil County Commissioner Robert Hodge (R-5) took Commissioner Diana Broomell (R-4) on a road trip Monday to see his properties in the county?
Broomell has raised questions about whether Hodgeâ€™s ownership of properties in the Route 40 area might be a conflict of interest with his official duties.
[A Cecil Times review of Hodgeâ€™s financial disclosures earlier this year showed he has more than complied with county ethics rules and detailed all his business and real estate interests even if they had no dealings with the county.]
So on Monday, Hodge took Broomell on a tour of all his properties, in response to her questions about whether he might benefit from the proposed Elkton West area extension of sewage services. Elkton West was to be serviced by the private Artesian Resources firm under a franchise from the county but a Broomell-led majority of the commissioners recently voted to â€śmutually terminateâ€ť that contract.
â€śI only have one property that falls into the Elkton West area in general, but the way the land slopes it had been decided that it would be more suitably serviced by a county-owned plant,â€ť Hodge told Cecil Times, adding that he had no vested interest in the Artesian contract.
Broomell agreed, telling Cecil Times that his statement about the one property in the area â€śis probably true.â€ť She also said she â€śappreciatedâ€ť his taking her on the tour, which was made at his suggestion.
But she was still less than fully satisfied, saying that during Hodgeâ€™s election campaign he was asked at a candidateâ€™s forum how many properties he owned in the Route 40 corridor and she said he replied, â€śso much I canâ€™t even tell you.â€ť Broomell said that â€śsent a red flag upâ€ť with her.
She said she was still concerned that some Hodge properties might benefit from â€śshovel readyâ€ť provisions for possible extensions of county infrastructure at some point in the future and if so, he should â€śrecuse himselfâ€ť from any county decisions.
Broomell has acknowledged that she has a conflict of interest of her own regarding state studies of a proposed widening and expansion of Route 222 in Perryville, since she lives along the road, but that has not stopped her from speaking out against it.
Meanwhile, the ink is barely dry on a revision of the county ethics codeâ€”required by a new state lawâ€”but Broomell wants to re-open the commissionersâ€™ decision, made just a week ago, in which she was on the losing side.
At Tuesdayâ€™s commissioners’ worksession, Broomell served notice that she wants a prompt re-opening of the ethics code discussion to re-visit changes that a majority of the commissioners rejected a week ago.
Broomell said she wants county department heads to have to file the same detailed financial disclosures of personal and spousal property and financial holdings that county commissioners must file under the new code. In addition, she wants volunteers who serve in unpaid advisory capacities on various boards and commissions to file more detailed disclosures.
She told Cecil Times that some of her constituents have expressed concerns that â€śsome department heads ” are “possibly profiting from certain decisions.â€ť However, she refused to specify who made such accusations and said â€śIâ€™m not saying whoâ€ť among department heads were the targets of such allegations.
The state law mandating tougher ethics standards for county and local governments did not require the provisions Broomell is seeking and a majority of the county commissioners rejected her demands a week ago. But she said she wants the discussion re-opened at the next commissionersâ€™ worksession and wants to get her proposals approved and put out to another public hearing in the next few weeks.