Broomell Does Limbo Rock for $100K Cecil County Auditor but Lands Flat on 4-1 Vote
It was just a few months ago when the Cecil County Commissioners danced the Charter Cha Cha, swaying back and forth before deciding to allow no money for the transition to Charter government later this year. But on Tuesday, Commissioner Diana Broomell (R-4) did a solo version of the Limbo Rock, bending over backwards to demand $100,000 for an “auditor” to serve the new County Council.
No matter that in June she led the charge to cut funds proposed for charter transition and suggested a token sum of about $15,000 for possible consultation with a lawyer on charter government issues. After a few turns around the legislative dance floor, she and the other members of the Three Amigos faction—James Mullin (R-1) and Michael Dunn (R-3)—decided on a zero figure. [SEE Cecil Times report here: http://ceciltimes.com/2012/06/cecil-county-commish-do-charter-cha-cha-on-funds-for-transition-to-new-form-of-government/ ]
But in recent weeks Broomell has been talking about what she sees as a need for a full- time auditor, reporting only to the new County Council and tasked to investigate financial and policy issues, to “balance the government out.” Broomell lost her bid to become County Executive in the Republican primary to fellow Commissioner Tari Moore (R-2).
On Tuesday, Broomell demanded a vote on a proposal to spend $100,000 on the auditor post, taken from the county’s “fund balance,” or reserve funds designed to cover unforeseen contingencies.
Claiming she had received “emails” from constituents on the issue, Broomell asserted “the public does feel this is part of the checks and balances.” She said the future Council, on which she will sit for the next two years before her term expires in 2014, “can make this as big as we want it to be.”
Moore objected to the proposal, saying it pre-supposes a war between the County Executive and the County Council. “If I’m the County Executive or if I’m on the County Council, in no way do I anticipate a contentious relationship,” Moore said. Moore is facing Democrat Pam Howard, the former county Treasurer, in the November election for County Executive. Moore’s commissioner/council term has two more years to run.
“You should recuse yourself from voting” on the auditor proposal, Broomell told Moore.
“I will not recuse myself,” Moore responded. “I have a right to give my opinion.”
Commissioner Robert Hodge (R-5) said he would not support Broomell’s plan for an auditor but said he would support setting aside a fund for the council to seek a wide array of outside expert advice, ranging from engineers to lawyers to accountants or other specialized professionals who might assist the council in decision-making as consultants on an “as-needed” basis. He said it was “premature” to assume the council would need a full-time, new government employee on the county payroll.
Mullin and Dunn voiced support for Broomell’s auditor plan but questioned how to pay for it. Mullin said he wanted to see “cuts” in other spending to pay the costs and Dunn agreed. The commissioners should “use an eraser to sharpen the numbers,” Mullin said, cryptically.
“I’m not in favor of cutting services for our citizens so we can grow government and employ more people,” Hodge said.
Despite the obvious reluctance of the other commissioners to join her unconditionally, Broomell stepped up to the limbo bar and called for the music: a vote. “Now let’s do the limbo rock…” She was alone on dance floor, as the vote tally was 4-1 against her proposal.
Yet, as always, Broomell will be back again with her plan, but with some unspecified off-setting spending cuts to pay for it.
However, making money available for the auditor post is not the same as actually filling it. Since the Council will not exist until after the election, the outcome of contests for two Council seats as well as the County Executive race could determine whether the new Council decides to hire anyone for the proposed slot.