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Cecil County Council Hires Massey as Manager; Experienced Harford County Employee, Was Fired from Election Board Post

February 10, 2013
By Nancy Schwerzler

The Cecil County Council has hired James E. Massey, Jr., a former Harford County Council manager and ex-director of that county’s election board –who was fired after an inquiry into voter registration rolls– as the new Cecil County Council manager.

Massey has more than 35 years experience in local government, including more than two decades with the Harford County library system, four years as manager of the Council, and five years as the director of the Elections Board.

Cecil County Council President Robert Hodge (R-5), said that Massey fully explained the situation with the local elections board to Council members and a majority was satisfied that any snafu was unintentional. Hodge said Massey brought a wealth of government experience to help guide the new Cecil County Council in the transition to charter government.

Massey is a graduate of McDaniel College (formerly Western Maryland College) and holds a master’s degree in instructional technology from Towson University. He served for many years on the Harford County Board of Elections, whose volunteer members are appointed by the governor, and had decades-long knowledge of election procedures when he was tapped for the staff job of Director of Elections in 2006. He told Cecil Times that he had initiated community outreach to encourage voter registration and participation in the electoral process.

Massey told Cecil Times the problems at the Harford Election Board came as a result of efforts to reach out to members of the military, who constitute a significant segment of local voters due to the presence of the Aberdeen Proving Ground, and are often on deployments and not readily available to respond to postcard mailings used to designate “active” registered voters.

He said the board compiled email addresses and kept in contact with soldiers to keep them advised of election deadlines and provide related information, and did the same for “snowbirds”—seniors who lived in Florida for part of the year but retained a legal voting residence in the county.

In 2011, the state Board of Elections in Annapolis audited local voter rolls statewide and questioned the status of some 7,000 Harford voters that the state thought should be listed as “inactive” rather than “active” on the voter lists, Massey said. In practical terms, inactive status did not automatically disqualify a voter from casting a ballot and if such a voter cast a ballot in the next election they would then be listed on ‘active’ status. But the distinction mattered due to rules governing the number of early voting centers in the county.

In September 2011, the chair of the county elections board placed Massey and another employee on “administrative leave,” according to a Baltimore Sun report. Massey said his employment was subsequently terminated. [See Sun report here: http://articles.baltimoresun.com/2011-09-08/news/bs-md-ha-elections-board-investigation-20110908_1_active-voters-linda-h-lamone-active-rolls ]

State elections board officials in Annapolis questioned the designation of certain voters as “active’ when the state board believed they should have been listed as “inactive” because of failure to respond to verification postcards election officials periodically send out to determine if voters have moved. If two mailings cannot be delivered by the post office, voters are usually placed on the ‘inactive” list.

At issue in Harford County was whether the count of active voters met the 150,000-voter threshold to establish additional early voting center locations for the county’s primary and general election schedule. State election officials said publically at the time that they believed a tally by the local board showing 151,146 active voters was inaccurate and the count should be slightly less and as a result the county would only have one early voting center.

(By the time of last November’s general election, Harford County’s registered voter count was more than 169,000, qualifying for a total of three early voting centers.)

Massey said his staff was able to verify 3,000 “active” voters and entered them into the computer system. But that triggered a flag with the state Elections Board. State election officials asked the office of the State Prosecutor to investigate the matter, since that office is delegated by state law to conduct any and all inquiries involving election laws. No charges were ever filed; the Prosecutor’s office has a policy of refusing to comment on any investigations it conducts.

“I feel I did the right thing,” Massey said, in trying to safeguard voting rights especially for military service members. But, he said he felt he was “made an example of” by local election officials in response to the state board’s inquiries.

In fact, if the 150,000 vote threshold were crossed, it would have tripled the workload of the local elections board, by having to staff three early voting centers instead of one.

Massey said those issues are in the past and he is looking forward to serving Cecil County citizens and the new County Council.

“I think it’s an exciting time for Cecil County,” Massey said, adding that he is looking forward to his first day on the job in Elkton on 2/11/13. The transition to charter government will take some getting used to for local elected officials and citizens alike, but Massey said his experience as manager of the Harford County Council will serve him well here.

He said he hopes to assist the Cecil County Council on transitioning to new duties and roles, shifting to a legislative function rather than the combined administrative/legislative responsibilities under the Commissioners form of government.

He also said he looked forward to meeting the county’s town mayors and learning their concerns and local issues.

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16 Responses to Cecil County Council Hires Massey as Manager; Experienced Harford County Employee, Was Fired from Election Board Post

  1. Bill Harris on February 10, 2013 at 10:26 pm

    Shame there was not one person qualified in Cecil County for this position. A county resident may have spent part of the $71K salary here, but I’m sure Mr Massey was the very best.candidate. When you have the best great things can happen. The success of of council will determine how many of our council get reelected, if they run again. For our residents sake, I pray they are fruitful.

  2. Too Much Government on February 11, 2013 at 9:27 am

    With Hodge’s past history of appointments, I can’t help but wonder that there was not anyone in Cecil County who could have filled that position? Hodge’s decision making process and judgment is quite questionable at times. The animal control debacle is a perfect example of the kind of turmoil he is capable of creating and then loses control. Let’s hope that this is a better choice than some of his previous choices to task forces and commissions.

    • Rick O'Shea on February 12, 2013 at 1:03 pm

      Substitute Broomell for Hodge and I agree 100%.

      • Ron Lobos on February 14, 2013 at 6:27 am

        I agree with you Rick

  3. Someone cares on February 12, 2013 at 7:04 am

    There were several local people who applied for the job but I suppose that our elected people thought they may know too much about what is really happening so they decided to go outside. Easier to control someone who does not know how corrupt their boss is.

    The truth will come out about [libelous comment deleted] the new hire when the Harford County investigation is complete. I am not sure why our leaders would want to get in the middle of this situation.

    Good luck to the County.

  4. Rick O'Shea on February 12, 2013 at 1:07 pm

    Any examples of corruption, or are you reading the Broomell/Smipkin talking points?

  5. Al Reasin on February 12, 2013 at 3:13 pm

    Mr. Hodge didn’t make the appointment; the majority did.

  6. Joe C on February 13, 2013 at 12:08 am

    Good luck to him, but I will be watching the voter roles to insure Republicans do not “magically” become unaffliated like our county excec!

  7. Someone cares on February 13, 2013 at 11:06 am

    You are correct Hodge did not make the decision by himself. He had the other Hodge Moore cronies with him. I am surprised that a group that claims to be looking out for the benefit of all citizens would choose someone like this. We as citizens deserve better.

  8. Michael Burns on February 13, 2013 at 8:12 pm

    I’m getting confused. If he is manager what is Al Wein? Are all the positions filled now?

    Editor’s Note: Mike, Al Wein is the Director of Administration for Cecil County government, reporting to the County Executive. The new hire is “manager” for the County Council, reporting just to the Council. The Council wanted to have their own ‘go-to guy.’

    • Russ on February 14, 2013 at 11:10 am

      Michael,
      It’s called, spending more of your money– a lot more of your money!”

    • Michael Burns on February 16, 2013 at 12:29 pm

      Got it. If I may wax poetic,

      What Al Wein used to do
      Is now done by two

  9. MikeR on February 16, 2013 at 12:12 pm

    While businesses in this County are going under, the government
    of Cecil County keeps spending more and more money so they cover their butts and blame someone else down the chain of command. Extra attorneys, extra managers, this is costing us money, folks.

    Some of us can’t even pay our property taxes, but those bozos in the Taj Mahal in Elkton sure know how to spend what we don’t have. Watch those tax notices in March of individuals who just don’t have the money to pay their taxes and these [people] in Elkton will pull their property right from under them and then blame someone else. They sure found money to pay their cronies at Buddy for Life. Same old crap but different players.

  10. Bill De Freitas on February 16, 2013 at 3:13 pm

    I will say it and keep saying it: as you read through the comments on any social media site, only the people who don’t have constructive comments about our Council, elected officals or citizens in general never leave their full names, like Russ, Someone Cares, Joe C, Too Much Government., etc.

    If you feel so strongly and believe your information is right leave your full name. Go to the administration building and file Ethics complaints against these people, but I guess then you would have to sign your name.

    But I totally agree that government has gotten too large!

    • Topcat on February 17, 2013 at 3:00 pm

      There is a good reason on some of these articles to not leave a full name, especially regarding the animal control fiasco. It has been taken over by Animal Rights Zealots, who have no problem in drumming up false charges against people to try to ruin them. I have seen it first hand and been involved in helping someone get cleared over the lies they spew.

      So yes, sometimes leaving my name out is for the protection of my animals and family, if not for myself. I can take the abuse but not at the expense of having to fight to keep my pets. It does happen and has happened to people I know on Face Book also. PETA trolls those sites looking for pictures of multiple animals and then they call your local animal control agency to report so-called “horrendous conditions” …

      Another reason to make government smaller so they can’t run roughshod over our rights.

  11. Joe C> on February 16, 2013 at 7:49 pm

    Yes, but charter was supposed to be cheaper! Remember all the briefings we were given by Friends of Charter… if you repeat a lie long enough it becomes the truth? Trouble is it is now a grim reality for Cecil County taxpayers!

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