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Cecil County Council: Prayer, Politics, Politeness; Paging Dr. Phil?

May 15, 2013
By Nancy Schwerzler

The Cecil County Council could have used an intervention in Elkton Tuesday—perhaps by Dr. Phil rather than the Almighty—when they argued about praying before meetings and how polite they should be to one another during meetings.

Ultimately, a 3-2 majority decided on a moment of silence rather than spoken prayers before meetings and by another 3-2 vote decreed that Councilors should refrain from personal attacks on each other during debates. But not before Councilor Diana Broomell (R-4) made personal attacks on Council President Robert Hodge (R-5), Councilor Joyce Bowlsbey (R-2) and County Executive Tari Moore.

Broomell also took offense when Councilor Alan McCarthy (R-1) referred to her as a “lady.”

At issue is a handbook of policies and procedures for the new County Council, which the panel has been laboring over since shortly after the Council came into existence under Charter government last December. After multiple drafts and meetings to discuss the outlines, the Council was trying to put the finishing touches on the document.

Broomell had previously proposed inserting language to have Council members lead a spoken prayer to open the panel’s formal evening legislative meetings, held twice a month. The Council debated the issue in detail a week ago [SEE Cecil Times report here: http://ceciltimes.com/2013/05/cecil-county-council-prayer-politics-and-websites/ ] so the outcome was not really in doubt and Tuesday’s debate was relatively brief.

Bowlsbey said, as she had previously, that she was concerned that a Councilor’s prayer could be “used as a bully pulpit” from which to advance a member’s position on legislative issues. “I’m very worried about us praying with a formal prayer.”

“A moment of silence would be more than enough for me,” said McCarthy.

“I’m not interested,” Hodge said, in having Council members “pray or preach to me or the audience” at meetings. “I just don’t want to hear it.”

“It’s disappointing to me, that here is a great opportunity to interject something that is positive,” said Broomell. “I believe in the power of prayer.”

The Council then voted 3-2 to reject Broomell’s prayer motion, with Hodge, McCarthy and Bowlsbey voting against and Broomell and Councilor Michael Dunn (R-3) voting for it. Then the Council voted 3-2 to allow a “moment of silent prayer” before meetings, with the same alignment—Hodge, McCarthy and Bowlsbey—voting yes and Broomell and Dunn voting no.

More than a few moments of silence might have been in order when the Council then turned to proposed rules of “decorum” for Council members’ behavior at meetings. Instead, the debate got rowdy as Broomell attacked Hodge with broad allegations accusing him of working to “consolidate power” on behalf of “special interests” and she suggested there was a political conspiracy involving Hodge, Moore and Bowlsbey, aimed at silencing her objections on policy matters.

(During discussion of an unrelated issue earlier in the meeting, Broomell said, “I’m a little paranoid.”)

The Council considered a proposal to adopt “decorum” rules that mirrored policies of the Caroline County Commissioners, providing that Council members “value the diverse perspectives of the members and will endeavor to keep debates focused and productive. They will not resort to personal attacks in the heat of disagreement.” The members will also “not speak disrespectfully or dismissively of each other.”

But Broomell said she was “not happy” with the proposal because Hodge, as the Council president, would be able to decide if she was complying with the decorum rules. “There’s a bias when I’m talking,” she said, and “You gavel me.” She claimed that the decorum rules were “an attempt, I believe, to censor comments you don’t want to hear” under the “guise” of “civility.”

She launched a personal attack on Hodge, saying he had waged a long campaign aimed at “consolidating power, and you’ve been very effective.” Broomell went on to accuse Hodge of being a pawn of “special interests” who contributed to his election campaigns, had co-opted the local Patriots tea-party group for his own political agenda, and accused him and Moore of orchestrating the appointment of Bowlsbey to fill Moore’s Council seat as part of a plan to have the council “walking in lockstep” with Moore as County Executive.

Hodge sought to bring the discussion back to the wording of the legislative proposal, to which Broomell declared, “You’re cutting me off.” Hodge sounded a conciliatory note, saying “We all, all five of us…over the last six months have gone overboard and crossed the line” in debates.

Broomell tried, several times with varying wording, to formulate a motion providing that “the Council President will not censor members if he doesn’t like where the conversation is going,” and then re-wording her motion to state that a Council member would not be “gaveled or censored if the President doesn’t like” a member’s comments, and then she offered yet another variation of the language, stating that “as long as a Council member stays on point the Council President cannot censor the member.”

Hodge pointed out that if he, as president, exceeded his authority, a majority vote of the Council could over-rule him in gaveling a Councilor for improper comments under the decorum rules.

After Broomell launched an attack on Bowlsbey, and the circumstances of her appointment by Moore to fill her vacant Council seat, Hodge—for the first time in the long discussion—hit his gavel, and said, “That’s exactly what we’re talking about.” He said the attack on Bowlsbey was “totally inappropriate” and “demeaning” to Bowlsbey. He urged Broomell to take a “time out” and “leave it off the table, forever.”

“Nope,” responded a defiant Broomell.

McCarthy said Broomell was engaging in “exactly” the kind of behavior that the decorum rules were designed to stop. “It’s a personal attack, lady.”

“You didn’t have to put the lady on the end there,” Broomell shot back.

“You’re not a lady? Excuse me, I thought I was basically holding you to a higher standard,” McCarthy retorted.

As the rhetorical temperature in the room escalated, the Council eventually voted, 3-2, to reject Broomell’s variously worded proposals and decided on another 3-2 vote to adopt the decorum provisions. (Hodge, McCarthy and Bowlsbey voted together while Broomell and Dunn stuck together. As usual, nary a word was heard from Dunn during the discussions.)

The decorum rules did not provide for any outside advisors to review discussions for potential inappropriate statements. However, Bowlsbey recently told the Council that she had completed coursework for certification as a mental health intervention counselor.

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12 Responses to Cecil County Council: Prayer, Politics, Politeness; Paging Dr. Phil?

  1. Mike R on May 15, 2013 at 4:59 pm

    Oh how embarrasing! Elections of 2014 can’t come soon enough. Lady Broomell now realizes that she has lost control – different story when the three-some is reversed and her childish temper tantrums are ignored.

    Finally, Hodge had enough ***** to stand up to her which is something he has not had for the last four years. Hopefully they will revisit some of the decisions that the three amigos made in the last year and reverse some of the idiocy starting, with the three year contract and the excess funding of the dog catchers of 2.2 million dollars.

  2. Janet H on May 15, 2013 at 5:15 pm

    I am a new follower of the Cecil Times and must commend you for all the time and reporting on the real issues of this county. I have lived in many areas of the USA and I must admit, this county government is like no other I have ever seen. When other Marylanders ask where I live and I tell them Cecil County, they laugh and comment about the county government as a three ring circus.

    It absolutely blows my mind that the citizens of Cecil County have not risen up and demanded that these council people do the right things for the taxpayers of this county. They quickly forget that they were elected by the people, for the people and not themselves. There were many decisions made since I moved here that were so obvious of the politicians’ vindictiveness and self-preservation. Inappropriate and costly decisions were made that really should be turned back.

  3. Praying Hanna on May 15, 2013 at 6:00 pm

    Judging from some of the outbursts from Broomell and uncontrollable tirades in which she engages, I think maybe Ms. Bowlsbey certification in the field of mental health might soon be needed.

  4. BobbyG on May 15, 2013 at 6:52 pm

    Who in this county would actually vote for the “no lady” commish. I have yet to hear of anything Lady B. has brought to the table except for problems. And how did Mr. Dunn actually find time to attend a meeting to vote?

    Lets hear from the Lady B. supporters to find out where we have gone wrong. Prayers for all of us to put up with this crap.

  5. Rick O'Shea on May 16, 2013 at 8:29 am

    I believe that the Council should establish the position of Gaveler, whose sole purpose would be to determine when a Council member should be “gavelled”. This would be a volunteer position. Prior employment as a Middle School Vice Principal would top my list of qualifying experience.

  6. Ron on May 16, 2013 at 10:16 am

    Prayers before, during, after will not solve this councils problems.

  7. Michael Burns on May 16, 2013 at 6:14 pm

    Yes, the damage to our county’s image is immeasurable, but she was put there by a majority of the voters, so are we really that much better than Ms. Broomell & her sidekick, Dunn? I assume all you criticizing voted for Dr. Roberts three years ago.

    Education isn’t everything, but Dr. Roberts had a stellar record of leadership and experience; a PhD vs. Ms. Broomell’s h.s. diploma and fundamental religious beliefs, which, in my opinion, are often grounded in ignorance, lack of curiosity, and inability or unwillingness to examine life in detail.

    People who are insecure about their ability to maintain an informed, cogent argument often reassure themselves by their certainty that God is on their side. Witness our previous president, whom she seems to emulate. Thank goodness the wars Broomell starts are confined to the county chambers.

    • Dr. Fill on May 17, 2013 at 7:03 am

      “Voter remorse” is a common problem when an elected official fails to meet our expectations. Voters often fall prey to “bait and switch” schemes. Witness our current “Hope and Change” President. Formal education is not necessarily predictive of wise leadership. Witness our current scandal plagued President. Both Broomell and Obama will end their terms in disgrace and move on, hopefully to political pasture.

  8. ConcernedInCecilCounty on May 17, 2013 at 5:43 am

    Michael Burns on May 16, 2013 at 6:14 pm – “People who are insecure about their ability to maintain an informed, cogent argument often reassure themselves by their certainty that God is on their side. Witness our previous president, whom she seems to emulate.”

    This is a first. Someone has finally blamed President Bush for the county’s problems. And how many scandals does President Obama have brewing now – perhaps 4 or more? You are getting personal with your attack here on Councilwoman Broomell. And someone forgot to tell Bill Gates that he will not achieve anything without a college degree, along with many others.

    There are a lot of issues that I do not agree with that Councilwoman Broomell supports but I do respect her determination and for not being afraid to show her faith. So I guess in your eyes, anyone having a faith in God is ignorant.

    • Dubious on May 18, 2013 at 10:02 am

      Michael Burns on May 16, 2013 at 6:14 pm – “People who are insecure about their ability to maintain an informed, cogent argument often reassure themselves by their certainty that God is on their side. Witness our previous president, whom she seems to emulate.’

      I am in total agreement with Michael Burns’ quote. As far as Bill Gates is concerned, he has endorsed education as a form of opportunity with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. I would like to hear him say that you don’t need an education to improve the quality of life. This does not mean that you don’t believe in God.

      We are talking about the politics in Cecil County, not religion. Read a quote from our fore father:“Religious institutions that use government power in support of themselves and force their views on persons of other faiths, or of no faith, undermine all our civil rights. Moreover, state support of an established religion tends to make the clergy unresponsive to their own people, and leads to corruption within religion itself. Erecting the ‘wall of separation between church and state,’ therefore, is absolutely essential in a free society.”
      ― Thomas Jefferson

    • Michael Burns on May 18, 2013 at 3:33 pm

      These are not fair assessments of what I wrote. I respect all faiths, and people of faith, but I draw the line at fundamentalists, those who do not accept evolution (my error in not saying “fundamentalist.”) It shows a basic ignorance of science; knowledge required of any h.s. graduate.

      They (creationists) of course can believe what they want but it is so far out there and contrary to what we know in numerous fields of science (microbiology, archaeology, anthropology, genetics, biochemistry, etc.), I am very uncomfortable with such people crossing the line between church and state.

      Bill Gates is a fine example of a self-motivated, self-educated man. President Bush’s ignoring of facts and his lack of curiosity and world knowledge helped lead us into a decade of stagnation and unnecessary war. It’s a knowledge-based world; political office is one of the few professions left where we don’t “compare resumes.”

      I believe Ms. Broomell’s analytical capacity is skewed by bias and a lack of trust or regard for anyone’s views that differ from her own, as reflected in her fundamentalist religious beliefs. As long as we continue to elect such people (her, Bush) at any level of political office we risk bad choices and policy. I realize you don’t like Obama but his measured, analytical approach has resulted in few if any policy blunders, unlike his predecessor.

  9. Jackie Gregory on May 19, 2013 at 11:26 pm

    “I realize you don’t like Obama but his measured, analytical approach has resulted in few if any policy blunders, unlike his predecessor.”

    Mr. Burns,
    You might want to check your cable, internet, and any other connections that you have which would connect you with the real world. You seem to have limited channel and site viewing capabilities. I take it you never heard of “Fast and Furious,” Benghazi, propping up Islamic fundamentalists during the Arab Spring, and the IRS illegally targeting non-profits?

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IT'S BEEN AN HONOR TO SERVE CECIL COUNTY

My sincere thanks to all who voted for me and supported our campaign to continue serving all of Cecil County

*While there was more I wished to do, I now look forward to spending more time with my family

*I cherish the friends who have reached out to me and share in the pride of what we have accomplished for Cecil County.

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