Cecil County Council: Let Them Eat Cake; Broomell Melts as McCarthy Slices her ‘Venomous’ Icing; Hodge’s Double-Dip Dare
Perhaps Cecil County Councilor Diana Broomell (R-4) had indigestion or was feeling wounded by the pointed fork jabs she had just received from fellow Councilor Alan McCarthy (R-1) when she hurried out of a Council worksession Tuesday, and refused to eat a slice of the cake that had been brought in to celebrate the recent birthday of Councilor Joyce Bowlsbey (R-2).
“You are a very low person,” McCarthy told Broomell. “Your selfish, venomous desires” to attack other members of the Council, he told her, were in fact harming the county as a whole and would prevent “successful” people from ever wanting to run for office or serve as volunteers on county advisory boards.
And, he added, Broomell’s frequent claims that she is an advocate of “transparency” were false: “This is not a transparent woman, nor is she an honest woman.” In addition, McCarthy said, Broomell “does not play fair; you hit them below the belt.”
For the first time in recent memory, Broomell’s rhetorical candles were blown out. Other Council members had clearly reached a flashpoint of anger over her repeated attacks and unsubstantiated accusations of ethical failures against her fellow Council members. The firestorm erupted after Broomell recently posted on her website copies of financial disclosure statements filed by other Council members. Such forms are required by county ethics law.
Protocol and county law provide that someone seeking the financial reports go to the county Ethics Commission and fill out a written request form, with their name and address, to obtain the reports. Officials then have the right to know who is seeking their information. Those rules also apply to members of the press seeking to obtain the reports.
But Broomell short-circuited the process and posted on her website the copious sheets of data on businessmen Hodge and McCarthy and the much less detailed information of Bowlsbey, a retired Gore employee. At first, Broomell did not publish any information on her political ally, Councilor Michael Dunn (R-5), but after questions were raised about the omission she subsequently posted his miniscule financial data. The perpetually silent at Council meetings Dunn reports no employment other than the $25,000 a year Councilor salary and no owned property.
County Attorney Jason Allison was concerned with Broomell’s Internet evasion of the legally prescribed process, but he told Cecil Times that in practical terms there appeared to be little recourse to deal with Broomell’s actions.
So that left the Council itself to address the issue, and that is exactly what McCarthy did in unusually strong terms.
“Three of the five Council people are quite employable,” McCarthy declared. (McCarthy is a licensed veterinarian, businessman and real estate investor who has also donated his financial expertise as a volunteer to assist Cecil College in managing its investment portfolio. Hodge is a successful businessman and property owner while Bowlsbey traveled the world as a Gore executive before her retirement.)
Broomell previously worked as a legal secretary and legislative aide to Del. Michael Smigiel (R-36) and took care of elderly veterans while operating a home care facility.
But Broomell’s recent actions would discourage “successful” people from running for political office or even volunteering for unpaid seats on various county advisory panels, McCarthy said. (Members of volunteer panels have to file ethics disclosures but they are less detailed than those forms required of elected officials.)
Hodge said that Broomell’s cyber-aggression would deter local public service by professionals and highly skilled people who would not want their financial “stuff” posted in cyberspace, where it could be re-posted and archived for whatever purposes online lurkers might choose. As a result, the most educated and accomplished people in Cecil County would be afraid to volunteer for local advisory boards and commissions and the county would suffer from the loss of such expertise, Hodge said.
McCarthy brought the room into gales of laughter, when he challenged Broomell on her demands for personal information, with a litany of his personal measurements from his hat size to his shoe size. “If there is anything else you want to know,” he said, just put the question in writing and he’d be happy to answer.
Broomell tried to interrupt McCarthy several times but he would not yield. And Hodge, trying to gavel McCarthy into silence, was out-shouted by McCarthy. Then, Hodge, apparently bolstered by McCarthy’s bold stance, interjected his own objections to Broomell’s recent verbal attacks.
“Some of the most qualified candidates for office,” Hodge said, would be deterred by tactics such as Broomell’s rogue Internet postings of their most personal financial information. So “special interest” advocates, or minimally qualified persons with no other job alternatives, would end up as the talent pool for local elective office or advisory volunteer boards and commissions, Hodge added.
Warming to the topic and unleashing months of repressed responses to Broomell’s relentless personal attacks on him, Hodge said that her pattern of “going negative” against fellow Councilors and her “innuendo and accusations” was detrimental to the county’s image and the potential for positive actions by the Council to address the real problems facing Cecil County.
“You continue to make these same accusations,” Hodge told Broomell, even though she filed an unsubstantiated ethics claim against him that was summarily dismissed by the Ethics panel (which at the time nevertheless included several members who were appointed by and loyal to Broomell.) He said her continued allegations that had been dismissed by the appropriate review panel were a disservice to the community and fellow Council members.
So Hodge did a double-dip dare, challenging Broomell that if she still thought he or other Council members had done something wrong or unethical, she should file yet another complaint against him with the ethics panel, despite the previous finding of no wrong-doing.
Throughout the Council members’ exchange, Broomell sputtered and interjected, but for the first time in recent memory she was called out into silence by McCarthy and Hodge and they refused to play their usual gentlemanly gesture of yielding to the female speaker. Council President Hodge repeatedly gaveled her as ‘out of order’ when she began to interrupt and speak out against another Council member who had the floor at the time—a step he has been reluctant to do in other previous meetings.
The Council session was yet another moment of Cecil County Council theater—but one of the few recent dramatic performances at which some of the other actors stood up to the diva who has commandeered center stage for so long.