Cecil County Businesses Rate Commissioners: Broomell Worst, Moore Best, for Business

November 8, 2011

A new Cecil County Chamber of Commerce survey of its members found that County Commissioner Diana Broomell (R-4) was deemed the most “‘unsatisfactory” commissioner while Commissioner Tari Moore (R-2) had the highest “excellent” ranking.

There were 129 respondents to the Chamber survey—an admittedly small sample of the county’s many business operators. But Chamber members tend to be more active and informed on county and state issues. In addition to rankings of the current five-member county Board of Commissioners, the survey also solicited comments on what problems local businesses face in dealing with county government.

The strongest negative reaction in the survey came on the question, “Do you think the Cecil County Commissioners, as a group, are supportive of the Office of Economic Development?” That drew a 74.4 percent “NO” response, with comments such as, “I guess this is a prank question” and “They got rid of the head of economic development; Vernon (Thompson) did an excellent job.”

A three-member majority of the current Commissioners’ board forced the ouster of Thompson in late August. [SEE previous Cecil Times report here: http://ceciltimes.com/2011/08/cecil-county-commissioners-oust-vernon-thompson-economic-development-chief-smipkins-get-even-for-political-independence/ ]

Thompson, a former deputy Secretary of the state Department of Economic Development, ran afoul of the county’s state legislative delegation led by Sen. E.J. Pipkin and Del. Michael Smigiel, both R-36, when he backed previous Commissioners’ successful initiatives in Annapolis—which the Smipkins strongly opposed– to require developers to pay fees to offset some of the public infrastructure costs of their projects. The “Three Amigos” faction of the current county commissioners is largely aligned with the Smipkin political machine.

In the recent Chamber survey, Broomell was rated “unsatisfactory” by 69.7 percent of the respondents and “fair” by 12.4 percent, for a total negative score of 82.1 percent. Only 1 person gave her an “excellent” ranking and 7 people scored her as “good.”

Next on the negative scale was newcomer Commissioner Michael Dunn (R-3), who usually says nothing at commissioner voting sessions and is a frequent absentee from commissioner issue meetings. The Chamber survey rated him as 65.1 percent “unsatisfactory” and 14.7 percent “fair,” for a total negative rating of 79.8 percent.

Commissioners’ Board President James Mullin (R-1) was next in the negative ratings, although with a decidedly more mixed review from business leaders. They ranked him at 50.3 percent “unsatisfactory” and 26.3 percent “fair,” for a total negative rating of 76.6 percent. Two people rated Mullin as “excellent” and 13 people pegged his job performance as “good.”

Broomell, Dunn and Mullin constitute what has been dubbed the “Three Amigos” faction that has controlled the county commissioners board this year.

Commissioner Robert Hodge (R-5) received a 71.2 percent overall positive rating, including 44.1 percent ranking his job performance as “good” and 27.1 percent giving him an “excellent” rating. His negatives totaled 17 percent, with 11.6 percent giving him a “fair” rating and 5.4 percent finding him “unsatisfactory.”

Moore was at the top of the positive list, tallying 43.4 percent “excellent” and 31 percent “good,” for a total positive rating of 74.4 percent. (Moore is a former executive director of the local Chamber, so some members might have based their ratings on personal dealings with her during her tenure at the Chamber.)

In other findings of the Chamber survey, business leaders said that regulatory burdens, especially permit and inspection requirements, were major obstacles to their operations. Respondents to the survey also said that redevelopment of the Bainbridge property near Port Deposit was a high economic development priority for the county.

The comments supplied by survey participants provided an insight into the concerns of local business leaders and a steady stream of negative views of the current Commissioners’ board majority.

“Too many permits and inspections,” wrote one respondent. “Our clients don’t want to develop in Cecil County due to the excessive amount of inspectors and red tape involved in the permitting/entitlement process,” wrote another.

On the Commissioners, one businessperson wrote, “I feel that the commissioners are always divided; they forget that they are working for the taxpayers.” And “the commissioners are not listening to the public…the Three Amigos have their own agenda,” another wrote.

During Tuesday’s commissioners’ worksession, Moore and Hodge noted they had seen a draft version of the Chamber survey and suggested that the Commissioners should have a “summit” meeting with local business leaders to listen to their concerns.

Hodge said the Commissioners needed to “change that perception” that county government is not ‘business-friendly” and Moore said the commissioners and business leaders should work together to overcome “barriers” to economic development.

Meanwhile, an advisory panel is scheduled to review ten candidates to replace Thompson as county economic development director. Donna Nichols, the county’s director of human resources, told the commissioners there were 50 applicants for the job, of whom 10 were considered appropriately qualified for the “initial cut” of people to be interviewed by a panel of local business leaders. That group is expected to narrow the field further before the commissioners conduct their own interviews and review of applicants.

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4 Responses to Cecil County Businesses Rate Commissioners: Broomell Worst, Moore Best, for Business

  1. Alexis on November 9, 2011 at 9:33 am

    These results track, generally, the opinions of the public. the “3 Amigos” have an obvious anti-growth agenda and play crony politics, appointing their fellow Smipkins to boards while ignoring better qualified applicants. The loss of Vernon Thompson is a monument to the vendetta based politics of Smigiel and Pipkin’s “War on Cecil County”.

  2. Al Reasin on November 9, 2011 at 3:37 pm

    I don’t disagree with the main points of the survey, but the State of MD is the cause of many of the problems. PlanMD is an example of the state government’s attitude that it knows best for the counties and how they should operate. No one I have asked knows the actual unfunded mandates that the state and federal government place on county government.

    Obama’s Rural Council does to the states what O’Malley’s PlanMD is doing to MD’s local government.

  3. Patrick Tuer on November 11, 2011 at 8:00 am

    I agree 100% with this ranking. That’s how I would have scored them as well.

  4. Ron Lobos on November 11, 2011 at 8:06 am

    God help Cecil County if commissioner Broomell ever decides to run for County Executive. If she won, it would take years to remedy the damage that would be done by her anti-business moves.

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