Cecil County Commish Dunn, Broomell Launch Partisan Snipes at Colleague Candidates

March 7, 2012

In the run-up to the April 3 primary election, in which all but one of the Cecil County Commissioners is a candidate for one office or another, expect the unexpected. On Tuesday, the lone non-candidate– the perpetually silent Michael Dunn (R-3)– suddenly launched a scripted diatribe against Commissioners Tari Moore (R-2) and Robert Hodge (R-5) while Diana Broomell (R-4) piled on Hodge.

It was a stunning performance that highlighted Dunn’s narrow views of the First Amendment, concurrence with closed-door actions on expenditure of taxpayer funds, and his adherence to an “enemies’ list” perspective on the conduct of county government business. For Broomell’s part, it was yet another attempt to rescind previously approved actions with a verbal demand but no written proposal, as part of a slam against Hodge.

And for the county’s two print news publications—the Cecil Whig and the Cecil Guardian—it was a window on the competition for lucrative government advertising, and some politicians’ perception of the line between editorial independence and taxpayer-funded rewards or punishments for news coverage.

Moore and Broomell are competing for the Republican nomination for County Executive, while Hodge is a candidate for re-election, to what will be a County Council seat in District 5 under the new Charter form of government that will be installed after this year’s elections.

James Mullin (R-1), president of the current commissioners’ board and a candidate for re-election, sat by silently as Dunn and Broomell launched their attacks during the “commissioner comments” time at the end of Tuesday morning’s worksession, which is usually reserved for commendations for Boy Scouts and similar non-controversial matters. (Mullin, Dunn and Broomell have been a majority voting bloc, known as the “Three Amigos,” who have usually been at odds with Hodge and Moore.)

Dunn– who usually says nothing at worksessions and is generally absent from all meetings except the basic Tuesday worksession and biweekly evening Commissioner sessions– suddenly sprang into verbal action on Tuesday 3/6/12, reading from a prepared text, to accuse Moore and Hodge of impropriety over their campaign contributions.

Dunn’s wail Tuesday involved recent closed-door meetings at which commissioners discussed where to advertise the voluminous list of properties delinquent on county taxes. The Cecil Whig has had a lock on that profitable printing/publishing endeavor but the newcomer Cecil Guardian submitted a bid for the job that its publisher, Bill DeFreitas, wrote in an editorial last week was lower in cost. The Guardian has successfully jumped through hoops for over a year to qualify as a general circulation newspaper eligible under state law for county legal ads.

Nevertheless, a recent closed-door 3-2, “Three Amigos” vote by the county commissioners, gave the work to the Whig, according to the Guardian editorial, which railed against spending more taxpayer money for the advertising than the lower price that the Guardian proposed.

Enter Dunn: he declared Tuesday that he opposed placing county government advertising in The Guardian because he thought it had “crossed the line of decency and good taste in its editorials” and said he was “uncomfortable with having the county represented by a so-called newspaper that prints such blatant incendiary propaganda.”

Dunn’s statement also declared, “I will be damned before I let the taxpayers of Cecil County subsidize this garbage with their money.”

The Cecil Guardian did not endorse Dunn in his campaign for County Commissioner in 2010 and also editorialized against his former employer and mentor, Delegate Mike Smigiel, (R-36), in his re-election bid for delegate in 2010. Dunn and Mullin are firmly aligned with the Smipkin political machine tied to Smigiel and Sen. E.J. Pipkin (R-36) while Broomell usually but not always votes the Smipkin line.

The Whig also did not endorse Dunn or Smigiel but has generally taken a softer editorial tone on the Commissioners and never uses the terms “Smipkins” or “Three Amigos” to describe the current ruling alliance. (Since the Cecil Times is online-only and doesn’t have a print product in this ad fight, we’re only too happy to use those terms to call the alliance what it is.)

Because of the secret session vote, it was not revealed how much more taxpayers would have to pay because of the Dunn coalition’s decision to place ads with the Whig instead of the Guardian.)

Meanwhile, Dunn tried to attack Moore and Hodge for voting against him and his allies in the “Three Amigos” majority and claimed they were swayed to their positions by past campaign donations from the publisher of the Guardian.

However, a Cecil Times review of state Elections Board official records of donations and dates shows Dunn’s assertions are questionable.

Moore received just $300 in her 2010 campaign for county commissioner from a business, Graphics Ink, Inc., headed by Bill DeFreitas, the Cecil Guardian publisher. Hodge received $1,600 in donations from that business– at the time, just a printing concern that had not yet produced a print newspaper– in Hodge’s 2008 commissioner campaign, state records show.

In contrast, there were over $2,700 in donations to Dunn mostly linked to two Smipkin campaign entities financed by Smigiel, Pipkin and/or Mullin, that propelled Dunn into elected office. In addition Dunn benefited from campaign materials that included him on a “slate” of candidates tied to the Smipkin machine and financed [with $6,500] primarily by Pipkin and Mullin.

Dunn’s diatribe miffed Moore, who lambasted Mullin for allowing it to proceed at the meeting. “I’m appalled that you are allowing such a personal attack,” she told Mullin.

Moore said that Dunn’s attacks were “nothing more than an attempt to divert attention” from legitimate issues. “My vote is not up for sale, never has been, never will be,” an angry but controlled Moore said.

DeFreitas, the Guardian publisher, told Cecil Times he doubted that Dunn wrote his statement himself. “It is my right as an American citizen to donate to any candidate who I feel would do the best job as long as I do so within the federal and state campaign finance and election rules,” DeFreitas said.

“The Guardian gets comments every week from our readers how accurate our writers are about subject matter” in their articles,” the publisher said, adding, “maybe the Smipkins should change their ways and they won’t have a problem with the press.”

Meanwhile, just after Dunn’s attack, Broomell tried to slam Hodge by re-opening a long approved road work project, demanding– without written documentation or motions– an immediate Commissioners’ vote to cease work on a previously approved capital improvement road project.

She said she wanted to stop the project because of community concerns and claimed the roadwork would benefit a property owned by Hodge. County public works officials said engineering work on the project had already begun. Mullin said the commissioners could review the matter in the next few days as they begin discussions of the Fiscal 2013 capital improvement budget.

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10 Responses to Cecil County Commish Dunn, Broomell Launch Partisan Snipes at Colleague Candidates

  1. Natalie Ricci on March 7, 2012 at 8:28 am

    Where oh where to start with my response; so much to choose from! Mullin is truly abdicating his responsibilities as Commissioner President when he allows his two compadres to commandeer the meeting with their petty personal antics. For that reason alone, he is complicit and therefore should be replaced. Alan McCarthy may be a newcomer but I can guarantee he would never allow the meetings to digress into snipe-sessions. [CT note: McCarthy is challenging Mullin in the Republican primary for the District 1 seat.]

    As for Dunn, anyone has to wonder why he suddenly has a thought in his brain. Was he struck by recent lightning? More likely the lightning rod (or prod) of the Smipkin machine! And Broomell, ah Ms. Broomall: she just doesn’t get it. It’s sad, truly sad, that someone totally incompetent and unknowledgeable of simple meeting rules of order and proper conduct in the County approval process is allowed to remain.

    Those three have turned the rule of government here into a circus!

  2. Tom Kenny on March 7, 2012 at 8:57 am

    I hope this episode opens the eyes of the public to what has been happening for the past year, or more. Is there any wonder why Broomell and Mullin have not been endorsed by any group in the county? Both Commissioner Hodge and Commissioner Moore have been endorsed by the Republican Club and the Cecil Business Leaders.

    It is because of their lack of ethics, scruples and sometimes the ability to tell the truth, that Broomell and Mullin are seen by many as unfit to serve as Councilors or County Executive. Can you imagine the problems they would create for the citizens if they are allowed to continue with this charade?

    Wake up, Cecil County voters. Get informed as to what is happening in our government and cast your vote to stop the madness and give our government back to the citizens.

  3. Rick O'Shea on March 7, 2012 at 9:21 am

    Once upon a time, Smigiel criticized the Guardian for an article about a candidate criticizing Smigiel. On Smigiel’s blog he stated that the Guardian needed a course in Journalism 101. Typical Smigiel “attack the messenger” bully tactic. Now comes his former employee and official Smipkin Puppet, Commissioner Dunn, boldly showing that his vote to deny revenue to the Guardian is payback for unfriendly reportage on the Three Amigoes.

    Dunn and Smigiel should take a course on First Amendment 101 They should review the copy of the Constitution on which Smigiel plasters his Smigiel for Judge sticker. Broomell’s antics were her classic vendetta moves. These actions by Dunn and Broomell should be reviewed by the Ethics Board before it is fully packed with their allies.

    • Russ on March 7, 2012 at 11:48 am

      Does this surprise anyone? Let the taxpayers pay more for something that should be driven solely by price.
      Moore and Hodge should bring this up at the next open meeting: let us know the difference in price and demand a re-vote.

  4. Kay Serrah on March 7, 2012 at 10:08 am

    The suddenly loquacious Commissioner Dunn sounds a lot like the always voluble, and vicious, Delegate Smigiel. Since Dunn is capable of such brilliant research, he should know that various public records show that he filed as a commissioner candidate listing a vacant foreclosed house as his official residence. Fraud? Deserving of investigation? Come clean, Dunn!

    Commissioner Broomell has always had a bias against Commissioner Hodge and all other successful business owners. I ask her to cite any allegation regarding Hodge other than by her and her minions. In the matter of conflict of interest and personal benefit, she should recuse herself from any involvement in the proposed widening of Route 222 in Perryville because that project would reduce the value of her residence. As usual, she is a hypocrite.

  5. Janet P on March 7, 2012 at 12:46 pm

    Where is Commissioner Dunn’s outrage over the ethics of his old boss, Delegate Smigiel, who hasn’t obeyed the law to file campaign finance reports with the state? At least the commissioners Dunn attacks obeyed the law so he, and everyone else, could see for themselves who gave money.

    But Smigiel is keeping his money a big secret while he is running in the election to be a judge! Aren’t judges supposed to obey the law? Will Dunn ask for an ethics investigation of Smigiel?

  6. Kay Serrah on March 8, 2012 at 12:27 pm

    Smigiel previously stated that failure to file required campaign finance reports is, in the political world, the moral equivalent of a parking ticket. Sounds like a scofflaw to me. He is definitely not the type of Judge I would respect.

  7. Javier S. on April 1, 2012 at 3:43 pm

    Bravo, finally Mr. Dunn spoke and I wonder if it came from him– or from his mentor Smigiel. Besides the way Mr. Dunn attacked his fellow commissioners, it was degradable not to them, but for him.These Three Amigos and their compadre Smigiel are turning the politics in Cecil county into a circus.

    • Rick O'Shea on April 2, 2012 at 8:41 am

      Dunn’s blog sounds like classic Tedwater.

  8. Michelle Rice-Porter on May 5, 2012 at 2:25 pm

    Michael Dunn finally speaks up but has nothing productive to say-WHAT A SHOCK! Hopefully Mr. Dunn will draw a tough, worthwhile opponent in 2014 and we can get him off Council.

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