Cecil County “Amigos” Rush Vote on Clinic Ordinance; No Notice to Other Commish, Public

January 4, 2012

The “Three Amigos” faction of the Cecil County Commissioners rushed a vote Tuesday night to approve a controversial zoning ordinance provision aimed at limiting drug treatment clinics, without advance notice to two other commissioners or the general public.

The handling of the matter raises questions anew about possible violations of the state’s open meetings act and private communications among some of the current commissioners.

The zoning measure was not listed as an “action” item on the Commissioners’ agenda and the prime advocate of the change, Commissioner Diana Broomell (R-4) did not publicly disclose to fellow commissioners, during an earlier in the day worksession, an apparent plan to push for immediate action moments after the conclusion of a public hearing Tuesday evening. (At the hearing, about 15 people supported the zoning law change and 2 opposed it, with most speakers condemning location of a proposed methadone-dispensing drug treatment clinic on Route 40 at the old Rose’s Diner property.)

Commissioners Board President James Mullin (R-1) laid the groundwork for Broomell to push for an immediate vote. He suddenly declared at the end of the public hearing that “The Board of County Commissioners has been asked to look out for the best interests of the community” and “the Board is being asked to act.”

He then asked “what are our options here” under county rules requiring legislative matters to be introduced at one meeting but not voted upon until another meeting. After concluding that an earlier version of the proposal had been introduced by Broomell in June, (it was later withdrawn but a revised version was proposed in October) Mullin then announced: “I’ll entertain a motion to vote on the ordinance tonight.”

Broomell then immediately made that motion, which was promptly seconded by Commissioner Michael Dunn (R-3). Broomell, Mullin and Dunn have become a controlling voting bloc, dubbed the “Three Amigos,” on the county board.

Commissioners Robert Hodge (R-5) and Tari Moore (R-3) were caught by surprise, after they had raised questions about the proposal earlier in the day and had been led to believe by Mullin that the evening hearing was just to “Let’s hear what everyone has to say.”

[SEE detailed Cecil Times report on Tuesday morning’s discussion of the clinic measure, possible legal consequences, and health officials’ objections, here: http://ceciltimes.com/2012/01/paging-dr-broomell-cecil-county-commissioners-differ-on-diagnosis-of-drug-clinics-law-litigation/ ]

“We need to do it right, and not fast,” Hodge said, noting the objections of doctors and medical professionals, including Union Hospital, that an overly broad application of the term “clinic” could drive away primary care doctors, dentists and other medical professionals from the county. The county Planning Commission recommended 12/19/11 that the Commissioners work with “stakeholders” to re-define the term clinic before moving ahead.

“Are you ignoring the Planning Commission recommendation,” Moore asked Broomell

Broomell said ‘legitimate’ medical offices could pay a fee and seek a variance from the Board of Appeals if their facilities fell within the ‘buffer’ areas created by the ordinance to ban clinics from areas near schools, churches, day care centers or residential areas.

“I see no need for further delay,” said Dunn, who had not uttered a word on the issue at the earlier worksession. “It’s a good ordinance that will hold up in court.”

Although the proposal does not specify any particular clinic by name or location, the measure, and the speed of its adoption, is clearly aimed at the Rose’s Diner location which has initial, but not final, permits to open a drug treatment clinic. It is unclear what legal implications could occur if the county tries to apply the new ordinance to a project that is already underway and whose owners have invested significant money into renovating the property.

Hodge said it was clear to him that the Commissioners’ sudden action “will come back to bite us…this will not survive a legal challenge.”

Patrick Conway, the county’s director of permits and inspections, told Cecil Times Wednesday that the Rose’s Diner property has had rough-in inspections of framing and major mechanical systems, such as electrical, heating and plumbing. But final inspections have not yet been made and there still must be sign-off inspections by other agencies, including the Health Department, Department of Public Works, the state Fire Marshall and the county’s Planning and Zoning office. He said the construction work appeared to be “close” to completion, with interior drywall and a handicapped access ramp finished.

Cecil Times contacted Acorn Investments, the property owner, and was told that a principal of the firm was out of town and not immediately available for comment on the Commissioners’ action, possible impact on the property and potential legal challenges.

One local lawyer, who does not do work for the county, said that in any civil case, the court looks at evidence of intent by the parties. The suddenness of the commissioners’ vote, the lack of advance public notice, and the open references by some Commissioners and the public to the Rose’s Diner property could all be considered factors indicating an improper singling-out of one project rather than a broader policy goal, said the lawyer, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

But regardless of the possible legal consequences, and potential costs to taxpayers in attorney fees, some citizens made it clear that there were political consequences if commissioners did not act to block the Route 40 clinic and other possible facilities to treat substance abuse in the county.

Ann Connor, an adjoining property owner, noted that some of the commissioners have filed for re-election and “my family will remember how you voted.”

Moore addressed Connor’s warning directly, saying that while she understood neighbors’ concerns, “I still have to do what I think is right for all the citizens in Cecil County.” She said the way in which the matter was handled by the commissioners “bypasses the process that protects all of us.” (Moore has filed as a candidate for County Executive.)

Then Mullin called the vote and, as usual, it was 3-2, with the Amigos voting to adopt the clinic rules and Hodge and Moore vote against adoption.

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27 Responses to Cecil County “Amigos” Rush Vote on Clinic Ordinance; No Notice to Other Commish, Public

  1. Natalie Ricci on January 4, 2012 at 5:52 pm

    It seems quite apparent that anything the 3 Amigos think won’t hold up to sustained scrutiny comes up for immediate vote and puts the citizenry in general jeopardy, not only of having to fight legal battles in court (which cost the taxpayers money) but also of appearing to be out of touch with the normal ways in which the world operates. As usual, these 3 appear as children, dressed up and playing “pretend Commissioners,” or perhaps more aptly, “the Kings and Queen of Cecil County”.

    One can only assume that Dunn had been visited by The Ghost of Courtroom Future when making his singular utterance, since he obviously was repeating what he had been told by a Smipkin!

    I say as I have said many times before, why in the world would a business want to locate here? Our governing body (meaning the 3-person voting block) comes off as a bunch of fools every time. There is not a single consistent consideration given to the greater good of the majority of the citizenry, nor of potential consequences to their actions or pitfalls to overcome in the future. It seems that the 3-person majority are operating in their own little world, oblivious to the real needs, real considerations, and real futures of the very, very real people of Cecil County!

    • Ron Lobos on January 5, 2012 at 9:47 am

      Is anyone really surprised at this most recent dictatorial action by the 3 Amigos? The way that these three conduct their business is not only discraceful and arrogant, but it is a pure abuse of power. A person would have to be deaf, dumb and blind not to notice that this was a blatant disregard of the open meetings act.

      You would think that the ethics committee would be jumping all over this, but then again, didn’t Broomell just appoint her best friend to this committee?

      It’s easy for people to comment on this article, but it’s going to take more than a comment to get these 3 … commissioners neutralized. Everyone who frequents this site must make themselves (not their money) available during this coming election year. It’s going to take boots on the ground this year to get the right people elected.

      Take the time and join the “Cecil County Patriots” this year. Or if you are a business owner, join the “Cecil County Business Leaders for Better Government.” If we don’t make it happen this year, we’re stuck for an additional 2 years with this embarassment of 3.

  2. Tidewater on January 6, 2012 at 11:10 am

    Maybe Natalie and Ron would like the “clinic” next door to their home if not why not the hospital?

  3. Ron Lobos on January 7, 2012 at 12:07 am

    Tidewater, is this you again, Ms. Broomell? You’re such a kidder. I just wish you had the guts to use your real name. I have noticed that all of the Smikins use an alias.

    • Tidewater on January 7, 2012 at 11:53 am

      I wish you had the brains to address an issue instead of wanting my name so you can intimidate me, my family and friends with your good ole boys.

      Stop your name calling and tell me why you want this clinic next door to someone else s home and not yours or shut up.

      • Alexis on January 9, 2012 at 8:23 am

        Tidewater: You are a great example of a RINO. You want no growth in the growth corridor and toothless illegal ordinances that will only cost the county and legitimate businesses. For a Ron Paul/ Campaign for Liberty libertarian you sure love government interference. I wait in fear as the filing season ends and the Smipkins emerge from the shadows.

        • Tidewater on January 9, 2012 at 12:02 pm

          Libertarians don’t give a hoot what someone does with their property as long as they don’t hurt any one else. You want to open a business, have at it.

          I’m just saying that this activity should be done at the hospital if these “patients” need temporary supervision. If not, allow them to pick up their medicine at the pharmacy, gas station or liquor store.

          We don’t need no more stinkin “growth” to provide society with this service. There are plenty of businesses that if the government got out of the way could deliver this product without any more “growth”

          • Alexis on January 9, 2012 at 3:07 pm

            Are you the same Tidewater who opposes development along Rte. 40? Isn’t that the growth corridor?” Wouldn’t a true Libertarian allow the marketplace to determine growth? Don’t be such a hypocrite.

          • Tidewater on January 10, 2012 at 8:10 am

            Alexis,… The market place didn’t invent the “growth” corridor, the government did. Economic development will grow wherever the market takes it, unless some well-heeled politicians want to abuse their power and direct it into their supporters’ arms.

            Pushing development into a certain area is nothing but crony capitalism not free market capitalism. The market for this product is in North East, but the government there doesn’t want to be reminded daily that the war on drugs has failed in their town. Why make Elkton suffer even more than they are? Why does Elkton have to be confronted with the failure of their own efforts and North East’s?

          • Alexis on January 10, 2012 at 11:32 pm

            Tidewater: The proposed methadone clinic you refer to (the old Rose’s Diner) is an existing structure and no “development” or “growth” is involved. seems as though you are caught up in a fantasy conspiracy theory. The issue is enacting a valid enforceable ordnance versus playing to the crowd for votes with an ambiguous unenforceable one.

      • Ron Lobos on January 10, 2012 at 11:37 pm

        Hey Tidewater (Ted Patterson), I have an answer to your issue. Install 2 two new drug clinics. One next to the sheriffs office and one next to the Elkton Police station. This gives our law enforcement the opportunity to neutralize the crime that may be created by these patients. Require an in state drivers lisence for I D to keep out of staters from coming to Cecil County. Finally, give the clinic a one year deadline to wean each patient off of their drug. And finally, require all patients to use their real name when applying to the clinic (not an alias like tidewater or huggy bear). That way we know that they have the guts to be taken seriously.

  4. Donna Caudell on January 7, 2012 at 10:59 am

    Tidewater and those that use fictitious names are called cowards and cannot be taken seriously. I think we all can agree that none of us want a methadone clinic in our neighborhood. Most of us don’t want another methadone clinic in the county. I am 100% against another clinic! More drugs/legalized drugs are not the answer to a drug epidemic that we have in the county. Its heartbreaking.

    That being said, we need to find a solution to the problem that doesn’t open us up to lawsuits and this amendment could do just that. Hodge and Moore are working to find a solution to protect us from that. It’s irresponsible for the 3 Amigos to pass an ordinance knowing full well we could be sued. If they want to take the money out of their own pockets and pay the consequences, have at it. This is the 2nd time Broomell has been reckless in exposing the citizens of the county to a lawsuit. Anyone see a pattern?

    • Tidewater on January 8, 2012 at 11:33 am

      How do I know who you really are? You can put up any name you want. If I were to call you a name it would be naive.[Unsubstantiated allegation deleted by CT]… Ever wonder why we have secret ballots when we vote?

      Why should anyone take you seriously when you can’t address an issue without name calling? I guess it makes you feel superior for your inability to be objective. If you really did think about this issue, as you claim, you wouldn’t assume that we all can agree on anything.

      I still don’t get why this “clinic” isn’t at the hospital. It’s not a WAWA. Not having this clinic at the hospital makes about as much sense as the Governors medical marijuana committee suggesting that medical marijuana should be dispensed at “clinics” on college campuses.

      If you really think about it, like Jackie apparently has, it would be greatly appreciated.

      • RocketGirl on January 10, 2012 at 11:41 pm

        Funny, never heard any other solutions to this problem. Instead, 2 commissioners are setting the county up by inviting lawsuits and have put our way of life at risk because this is their idea of economic development. We must look like idiots in Cecil County that these clinics think they can come here and set up shop. Moore and Hodge need to be proactive to protect the citizens of Cecil County and stop sidestepping the hard decisions that are necessary when you are elected as commissioner. Every time a vote doesn’t benefit your cronies it’s a conspiracy – guess you weren’t paying attention to any of the voters who took the time to bring these issues to you…

        • Alexis on January 11, 2012 at 11:16 am


          You have the correct facts but directed at the wrong targets. The Three Amigos are setting up the county for lawsuits by passing a vague, unenforceable law rather than perfecting one. Please cite any record of the other two supporting methadone clinics as economic development– they said just the opposite.

          Don’t rely on Broomell’s accusations that she makes and then can’t support. Which “cronies” have benefitted from Moore and Hodge votes? Look at the list of competent people who have been pushed aside in favor of Three Amigo cronies. Time to stop the SMIPKIN “War on Cecil County” by voting against their puppets.

  5. Jackie on January 7, 2012 at 3:57 pm

    Unfortunately, this issue has once again been misrepresented by Broomell for her own political gain. The issue here is not that I or anyone else wants methadone clinics opening in our back yards, but rather, what are the unintended consequences that a poorly written ordinance could have on other clinics that we do want in our back yards, such as family doctors, counselors, and dentists?

    The argument that other clinics can always ask for a variance is certainly not one a conservative would make. Do we want to pass more costly regulations for certain businesses to opt out of? That certainly doesn’t seem like a position that is good for the economy. At the same time, methadone clinics, without a doubt will be a negative for current businesses on RT 40 that are near the clinics, whether by false perceptions or reality. In life, perception is reality, and there is certainly enough angst out there in regard to these clinics to create a problem for surrounding businesses, and that is certainly not what we need.

    Moore and Hodge both recognized this. It should have taken an additional two weeks to write a more specific code defining “clinic” so that other facilities we want residents to have easy access to would not be negatively impacted.

  6. Al Reasin on January 9, 2012 at 4:39 pm

    I found it interesting that Commissioner Broomell impugned the other commissioners word when they said they had done research. Commissioner Broomell has volunteers doing research for her on different issues and apparently takes credit for it.

    When it was brought to the attention of the commissioners by Commissioner Moore about my research on the Baltimore County ordinance and the court test, Commissioner Broomell didn’t see it as a model to define clinics. The Baltimore County attorney office, in an E-mail to me, offered their assistance in developing an ordinance for Cecil County. Cecil County’s lawyer, Mr. Wilson, was provided that information and I addressed it when speaking to the commissioners. That would have fit the Planning Commission’s suggestion.

    When Commissioner Broomell questioned me, one on one, about the information I had provided based on my research, it did not appear to me that she was aware at that time of the federal Court of Appeals judgement. She also seemed to think that since she had proposed an ordinance some time ago, just that was sufficient to start the county’s clock on restricting the clinic. But, hey, what do I know since she has publicly classified me as one who ‘misrepresents the truth.’

    During the public comment time, I question why our state has taken the route of methadone clinics rather than doctors at their offices dispensing the maintenance program. I have researched this in the past and in the UK that is how it is done. That would alleviate most of the problems that are caused by clinics serving, as one witness estimated, 500 patients in one location. We would not have many out of state people flooding Elkton if doctor’s offices were the points of distribution. But the UK has a primary single payer medical system, so most doctors are in effect government workers and not subject to refusing to participate.

    As Commissioner Moore said, this is a complicated issue. Indeed.

    • Ed Burke on January 10, 2012 at 11:08 am

      Mr. Reasin, you are obviously a well -educated, articulate man who enjoys researching issues and finding solutions to problems. Commissioner Broomell, on the other hand, is interested only in advancing her agenda and relies on spouting her version of the facts. She knows that since she controls Mullin and Dunn, she wins by default. Thank you placing the facts in the record and educating the voters.

  7. Zsa Zsa on January 12, 2012 at 6:40 am

    I congratulate the commissioners who worked to put an ordinance in place and at least try to deal with the methadone clinic rampage into Cecil County. The ordinance may not be perfect but saying it is a basis for law suits is premature. Has anyone applied for a variance and been denied?

    It’s just like saying that buying a car means you’ll be in a car accident and be sued.

    • Alexis on January 12, 2012 at 11:18 am

      Zsa Zsa,

      Why should someone be forced to apply for a variance in order to operate a legal business at a location zoned for business use?

      It’s really just like denying a car “dealer” a business license because he or she is a “dealer”.

  8. Jackie on January 18, 2012 at 1:14 am

    Tedwater: How did the government create the growth corridor? Although the gov’t is responsible for creating Route 40 and certainly has zoning regulations which limit business/commercial development to certain areas, there are plenty of places in the county where businesses can locate. Route 40 is a prime location for business development because of its connection to both Harford County and Delaware, and the fact that it is a well-traveled road.

    If a business owner plans to locate in Cecil County, what area of the county do you think he/she will consider prime for visibility and easy access to potential customers? If you are talking about business growth in the growth corridor, I would argue that commercial growth is largely market-driven, although lack of access to water and sewer may depress business growth in that area. The meth clinic owners would certainly view RT. 40 as a prime location from their standpoint; that has nothing to do with the gov’t….

    You imply that government meddling in the marketplace has caused these clinics to pop up. Please explain that. Then you argue in favor of this ordinance, which is gov’t intervention. Your positions/arguments seem very inconsistent.

    Why didn’t the commissioners take the time to study the Baltimore County ordinance which only limits certain kinds of clinics, and specifically excludes doctors offices, dentists, etc.? That ordinance has already been upheld in court. If they had used it as a model, they may have come up with a better ordinance that would not create a whole new layer of bureaucracy for primary care providers.

    • Tidewater on January 18, 2012 at 4:04 pm

      Not all businesses want to locate in the “growth corridor” and even if they did, government regulations as you say prohibit that possibility.

      I was opposed to this clinic going to Elkton because Rose’s is too close to residential areas, 197 feet, not the required 200.

      The market for this kind of “business” is in North East, but the government there said no thanks.

      On top of it all the Federal government is providing taxpayer money to fund the start up of this operation.

      You don’t see how the government is meddling. hummm

      • Rick O'Shea on January 19, 2012 at 9:02 am


        Which government regulations prohibit the possibility of locating in the growth corridor? Didn’t the comprehensive plan encourage locating in the growth corridor?

        It’s no coincidence that Rose’s Diner didn’t meet the distance requirement for clinics because the ordinance was written to exclude that specific location– after they had begun work and received other permits. I see a lawsuit on the horizon.

        Please name the Federal program that provided any money. I see government meddling by Broomell and her lackeys, Mullin and Dunn.

        If distance from residences is a criterion, methadone clinics should be located in Colora and Fair Hill. Lots of buffer space there.

      • Jackie on January 19, 2012 at 3:40 pm

        The gov’t in North East didn’t say “no thanks”– the citizens did, and the operator withdrew her lease application because of the negative publicity, as reported by The Whig on 5/26/11. Check your info.

        Both the proposed NE location as well as the Elkton location are in the growth corridor. Obviously not all businesses want to locate in the “growth corridor” nor do I believe that they should. I only suggested that the label “growth corridor” is merely a natural consequence of creating major highways that connect towns and neighboring states, not a government imposed phenomena (at least at this point). Your friends whom you support would like to inhibit growth, whether commercial or residential.

        The 200 ft. regulation requirement was passed after the Rose’s Diner clinic received its permits to locate there. I don’t believe that these clinics are good for our county, but I also believe that it sets a bad precedent to pass laws and apply them retroactively, don’t you? I don’t doubt that this clinic could possibly be receiving federal money to start up, but I haven’t heard that before in regards to this clinic. Please share your source for that information.

        Those whom you support, Mr. Tedwater, meddle quite frequently in the free market. I fail to see any consistency in your statements. You seem to support free market principles only when they are expedient.

  9. Elaine Barclay on January 21, 2012 at 12:47 am

    The only good to come out of this ordinance is that it opens up some sort of discussion about drug treatment. I am amazed at the amount of misinformation that is mistaken for fact.

  10. Tidewater on January 15, 2012 at 8:31 am

    Hey Ron Lobos(Karl Marx Jr),

    The market is demanding a “clinic” in North East to meet the demand from that backwater drug infested swamp, so why don’t you want a “clinic” next to the Police station there?

    Haven’t we suffered enough from the unintended consequences of government meddling in the market place?

  11. Rick O'Shea on January 19, 2012 at 9:16 am

    The Three Amigos meddled in the market place and we are going to suffer from the INTENDED CONSEQUENCES of their killing the Artesian wastewater contract. Broomell fights every detail of everything she opposes, so she would have fought to enforce the contract if she so desired. Unfortunately, she represents CLUA and ARCA to the detriment of the county. The county is left to pay for upgrades and maintain old plants. She can do as she pleases because she has complete control over Mullin and Dunn.

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