Gorman, Smigiel’s PAC-man, Picked by Smipkin GOP Committee for Charter Advisory Panel
No bad deed goes unrewarded, at least in Cecil County politics.
A few weeks ago, Robert Gorman was slinging mud at Circuit Court Judge Keith Baynes in the primary election contest in which Gorman’s longtime political pal, Del. Michael Smigiel, was running for a judicial seat. Smigiel lost overwhelmingly but now the Smipkin political machine wants to install Gorman on an advisory panel for the county’s transition to Charter government which Smigiel and Sen. E.J. Pipkin vehemently opposed.
Batten down the henhouse door—here comes the Smipkin fox.
(Commissioner Michael Dunn (R-3) led the Smipkin charge last year to ban Joyce Bowlsbey –who headed the citizens’ group that wrote the new county charter and convinced voters to approve it overwhelmingly—from sitting on the transition panel, saying it would be like ‘letting the fox into the henhouse.’)
Smigiel and Pipkin battled with Bowlsbey over the charter campaign and took out newspaper ads attacking the shift from the county commissioner form of government—under which the state legislative delegation has veto power over many local initiatives—to Charter which gives the county government broad powers that do not require the delegation’s support or state legislative approval.
The Charter advisory panel is drafting proposed regulations and rules for operations of the County Council and its interactions with the County Executive when the Charter form of government replaces the current County Commissioner form of government after the 2012 general election.
Meanwhile, shortly before the April primary election this year, Gorman created a Political Action Committee that sent out a slick multi-page mailer attacking Judge Baynes and claiming he was ‘soft’ on child molesters. The Gorman PAC mailer was sent out at the same time that the mother of a child victim wrote a letter to Cecil Times thanking Baynes for his forceful prosecution of the molester of her daughter. Smigiel represented the predator in that case post-conviction and has sought to have the criminal’s 35-year sentence reduced.
Gorman was also the featured voice in a recent political robo-call, paid for by the campaign committee of Sen. Pipkin, that attacked fellow Republicans, County Commissioners Tari Moore and Robert Hodge. Moore won the GOP primary for County Executive in a seven-candidate field and Hodge won his primary over a Smipkin-endorsed candidate for the 5th District seat on the new County Council.
Gorman, who works as a staff biostatistician for Siemens Healthcare Diagnostics in Delaware, is a regular financial contributor to Smigiel’s political campaigns.
As with all things Smipkin, the latest Charter advisory panel appointment comes with other controversy.
The appointment was not originally on the agenda for the Tuesday evening Commissioners meeting but at the morning worksession Commissioners were informed that the Cecil County Republican Central Committee had selected Gorman for the slot. The GOP committee is controlled by the Smipkin organization, holding seven out of nine seats.
However, after the meeting Cecil Times learned that Gorman himself had informed the county administration via email that he was the choice. “Chris Zeauskas [the Republican Central Committee chairman] told me that they had the Central Cmte. [sic] vote done and to give you my contact information. I look forward to working with the committee.”
County staff was directed by some commissioners to verify the GOP committee’s decision. The GOP committee meets infrequently and did not vote on the advisory panel seat at its April meeting, according to attendees at the meeting. [UPDATE: Sources said members of the Central Committee were phoned by Zeauskas late last week and asked to give their vote in support of Gorman. No other name was presented as an option.]
Meanwhile, the Charter advisory panel has had an empty seat since January, after Commissioners Tari Moore (R-2) and Diana Broomell (R-4) were advised they should resign from the committee because their announced candidacy for County Executive this year could be considered a conflict of interest.
The County Commissioners decided that the two vacated seats on the panel should be filled upon the recommendation of the county’s Democratic and Republican central committees, with each committee getting to name one member. The Democratic committee met promptly and voted unanimously to select Wyatt Wallace, who heads the local Democrat Club and is a volunteer member of the county Planning Commission.
In January, Zeauskas phoned county officials to inform them that he would be taking the GOP seat. [See previous Cecil Times report here:
But the fact that Zeauskas might be appointed to fill a County Council seat by the GOP committee if Commissioner Moore won the county executive post raised concerns about yet another potential conflict of interest issue. (Zeauskas lives in Moore’s district and ran unsuccessfully against her in the 2010 primary election.) So the commissioners sent the GOP committee back to the drawing board to come up with another candidate.
After months of silence, Gorman’s email arrived late last week, announcing his selection.
Commissioner Hodge told Cecil Times he would abstain from any vote confirming Gorman because he did not want to support “the cronyism” of the appointment.
[UPDATE: Despite not having been on the advance agenda, the appointment of Gorman was brought to a vote at Tuesday evening's Commissioner meeting and was approved with the usual Three Amigos vote-- Commissioners James Mullin, Diana Broomell and Dunn-- voting yes. Moore voted no and Hodge, as promised, abstained.
["Recent personal experience" shows that Gorman "does not do his research before he makes baseless and inaccurate accusations," Moore said in explaining her "no" vote.
["Unfortunately, I feel that this is another political appointment, another cronyism type of appointment," Hodge said. "We have over 20,000 registered Republicans in Cecil County and all we can find is someone that's buddy-buddy with people that are sitting on this board?" ]