Cecil County Council: Let Them Eat Cake; Broomell Melts as McCarthy Slices her ‘Venomous’ Icing; Hodge’s Double-Dip Dare

September 4, 2013

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.

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28 Responses to Cecil County Council: Let Them Eat Cake; Broomell Melts as McCarthy Slices her ‘Venomous’ Icing; Hodge’s Double-Dip Dare

  1. Robert D. Gatchel on September 4, 2013 at 6:49 pm

    MAN! And I missed this one! BUMMER! Way to go, guys!

    QUESTION : I applaud the concept of people wanting financial information going through the process to get this data. To safeguard in some degree [from] some nut job using this for potential “social engineering” and potential “identity theft” because one KNOWS who is getting the data.

    But (and I’m speaking out of lack of all the facts on the process) could this posting of the information on the internet be construed as a violation of any form of PRIVACY POLICY? I’m an internet consultant and marketing strategist and I know for a fact that information posted online falls into different categories and “legal bounds.” I mean this mass posting COULD have potentially put the members whose information was posted at risk of ID theft etc. Maybe? No? Are we SURE about that?

    I know there are no remedies if someone takes the data and transmits it but what IS the authority of the use of the data and how / where it is to be used and published. THIS is an interesting concept.

    BUT in the end, it does show “Broomie’s” duplicitous nature of claiming to be a champion of the legal process, and of the rule of law, the Charter and procedures , and how she hammers on everyone else for ALLEGED violations (in her mind) of those things.

    Yet she goes out and knowingly violates a rule involving this material! Guess the old double standard does apply– and this proves that she is not worthy of maintaining office. That and the fact her shenannigans cost the county some $70 million dollars in various projects. THANKS BROOMIE!

  2. Natalie ricci on September 4, 2013 at 8:35 pm

    Hallelujah!! Finally the Diva gets her just desserts!!! Just one word comes to mind: KARMA

  3. Rick O'Shea on September 4, 2013 at 8:38 pm

    I’m sure that if the financial disclosure statements contained any evidence of wrongdoing it would have been loudly announced by Broomell. I must conclude that her silence gives them a clean bill of health. Ironic.

  4. Betty on September 5, 2013 at 7:05 am

    I think some are missing the point here. If these people were in kindergarden, all would be in “time out”. This is not the way for ANY OF THE COUNCIL MEMBERS to act!

    It is not “okay” for Hodge to join in the attack with McCarthy just because he agrees with him. In my opinion, McCarthy just got down on Broomell’s level. Hodge needs better control of the meetings. I would like to ask, how one person can control a meeting of five?

    All of these ADULTS need to act like ADULTS and work. Cecil County has much work to do. Think about this on election day. Maybe a clean board is needed.

    • Ron on September 5, 2013 at 8:14 am

      Betty, you are so wrong. The other three council people have taken attacks from Broomell for some time now, hoping that she would eventually tire. That has not been the case. They are finally and rightfully standing up to her and calling her out… Much like Obama, Broomell has a history of blaming anything negative on others and trying to take credit for all good.

      Betty, if you want to see first hand the bad behavior of Broomell, as opposed to Hodge, McCarthy and Bowlsby, you should try attending a Council meeting and then you will understand where I come from. And Betty, here is one last reality check, these people are not in kindergarten. This is serious business and should be treated as such.

      • Betty on September 5, 2013 at 4:23 pm

        Finally and Rightfully standing up to her– no, just getting on her level, it is like ‘I hit him because he hit me first’ kid stuff. Shame on all of them.

        I resent you comparing OUR President to Broomell. This is just a case of you supporting who YOU like. I think they are all acting very childish. I don’t need a reality check, these people act like kindergardeners, and you are right this is a very important job, too important for time spent fighting amongst themselves.

        • Stupid Intolerant on September 7, 2013 at 11:23 am

          Betty, I beg to differ with your resentment.I see several parallels between the two.Both ran on hidden agendas,anti-growth(ARCA CLUA)on one hand, anti-business(Obamacare,corperate tax increases,NLRB,AFL-CIO,NSA etc.)on the other.Both ignore the law,Roberts rules and then the U.S. constitution.Both ignore the will of the people.Sorry I had to point out the obvious but you did need a reality check.

          • Betty on September 8, 2013 at 12:43 pm

            The will of the people: Excuse me, but I believe the people voted Obama IN. Enough said!

          • Ron Lobos on September 9, 2013 at 4:33 pm

            Betty, I would like to invite you to a council meeting. I have never seen you at one. You will find it to be an eye opening experience.

    • RED 833 on September 5, 2013 at 10:19 am

      One person can control a meeting of five if all follow Robert’s Rules of Order (that’s Col. Robert, not Robert Hodge). A Sergeant-at-Arms in the form of a Deputy Sheriff should be present in order to escort troublemakers from the meetings.

      The upcoming election will provide an opportunity to replace Broomell and Dunn as well as an opportunity to send a message against the destructive policies of Obama and O’Malley.

      • Joe C on September 6, 2013 at 8:50 am

        I guess that there would be very few patroits left in the room if this happens since most of the outbursts come from them, but “Roberts’s Rule” does not apply to them.

        • Betty on September 8, 2013 at 6:19 pm

          You are so right, the so called Patriots act like they set the agenda. I really want to ask, does anyone notice that the press and the public talk about how the Council behaves toward each other BUT never comment on work that is actually done by the council? It is time to Shut Up and Put UP, get to work. Cecil County needs direction and leaders that can work together.

          • Donna on September 9, 2013 at 7:03 am

            Betty, How so? If you are going to throw out accusations about the Patriots acting like they set the agenda, would you please be a little more specific? How does one “act like they set an agenda?” Since I am a Patriot, I’d love to hear more about it!

          • Rick O'Shea on September 9, 2013 at 9:05 am

            The press reports regularly on county work and the many successes. Unfortunately, much time is spent dealing with problems caused by prior administrations, both Republican and Democrat controlled. You apparently choose to focus on the drama.

  5. Joe C on September 5, 2013 at 8:54 am

    I will not get into this as who is right and who is wrong, but one thing is for sure there would be no need for an ethics board or financial disclosure had public servants in the past conducted themselves properly and not ever used their positions of power for personnel gain.

    • David Neff on September 5, 2013 at 1:52 pm

      The ethics form is already available publicly by request.

      • Joe C on September 7, 2013 at 9:40 am

        What are you talking about?

  6. John Bowlsbey on September 5, 2013 at 1:06 pm

    Love your coverage of county affairs, but have an issue with your selection of the word “Diva.” You’re too gracious, for this word implies talent and celebrity, neither of which apply for the individual discussed.

    However, it also suggests spoiled and haughty so I see where you are coming from. I would suggest “Diva wannabe.” It’s sad but there just isn’t language to describe this entity.

    • DW Senn on September 10, 2013 at 5:46 am

      How about “harpy”?

  7. David Neff on September 5, 2013 at 1:26 pm

    I must say that I was at that Citizens Corner and did not hear that part about the cake. However, I was appalled that she and McCarthy got into an argument when someone said something they didn’t agree on. Though I must say that she did show me respect and I do appreciate it.

    I asked her to call me and she called me the following day, so thumbs up to her for following through with calling me.

    EDITOR’S NOTE: The cake and commentary reported in the article refer to the events at the morning worksession.

  8. John Cole on September 7, 2013 at 3:35 am

    I think it can be reasonably argued that Broomell had no “right of property” over the documents published on her blog, that they are the property of Cecil County Government, and that an immediate “Take Down” notice be issued.

    If the County website decided to publish these documents, that would be one thing, but for Broomell as an individual to publish these documents is abhorrent and flies in the face of all that is natural and reasonable.

    Broomell needs to realize that her blog is a personal political tool, unconnected with the County, designed for her own advancement, and that misuse by any person of the data contained in the documents she has published could result in her personal liability.

    • Cecil Times on September 7, 2013 at 8:08 am

      Very interesting points, Mr. Cole! Although the documents in question were filled out by the individuals, their submission to the county government as part of a legally-required condition to hold office could indeed render the documents the property of the county government.

      Although the documents in question do not include a copyright notice on them, it is not necessarily required for copyrights to exist. And under the Digital Millenium Copyright Act, the owner of the material can serve a ‘cease and desist’ letter and demand the material be removed from a website.

      Think we’ll have to have a chat about the DMCA with the county attorney…

      • Michael Burns on September 8, 2013 at 8:19 am

        Whether or not my former Ethics Commission colleague Jason Allison’s assertion that there is little recourse to deal with Broomell’s actions is correct, the ethics law can and should be amended to prohibit such action. (The law currently permits copying but does not mention publishing.)

        The new ethics law is already overreaching; it was forced upon the counties by the state at least partly due to the corrupt acts of former Baltimore Mayor Sheila Dixon and others.

        Any change would have to be approved by the state, but such an egregious, destructive act by no less than an elected official makes a good case for reconsidering.

        Ms. Broomell’s first two years were spent purging the county boards and commissions of highly qualified, dedicated citizens, including her defeated opponent Carl Roberts. It seems she distrusts and resents anyone who has been successful, financially or professionally, regardless of their record of service and reputation in the community.

        Mr. Hodge is right on point that the county is in critical danger of losing the service of its most valuable, essential residents. This does not bode well for the county’s future.

        • John Cole on September 8, 2013 at 10:35 am

          Although Jason Allison asserts there is little recourse to deal with Broomell’s actions, that is purely from an ethics committee standpoint.

          The ethics committee is reasonably limited in its ability to interfere in this issue, because it is designed to work within government, whereas this case is outside of their remit.

          I would be inclined to argue that the County Council has the right to sue for theft of their documents. (This might also be a criminal act.)

          The individuals who provided the information to the ethics committee have every right to expect their privacy would be protected. Normally, I believe, their right of action under the Tort of Invasion of Privacy would be against the County Council. However, in this case, Broomell obtained these documents in her role as a councilor, and then proceeded to publish them on her personal website, placing them in the public domain, thereby bypassing the control of the Council.

          Consequently, Broomell’s actions could get into deeper water than she can afford.

          As Nancy Schwerzler points out, there is also an issue under the DCMA. The individuals who have had their details published on Broomell’s site can do the following:

          1. Contact the website owner (This according to the article has already been done);
          2. Send a Take-Down Notice to the Online Service Provider (“OSP”) in this case Google;
          3. Send a Take-Down Notice to the Company that Registers the URL, Markmonitor.com;
          4. Send a Take-Down Notice to the Search Engines, primarily Google, Yahoo, Bing.

  9. Al Reasin on September 7, 2013 at 5:11 am

    Anyone who has attended the commissioners’ or council’s meetings for any period of time, unless they are so ideological that they will not admit it, would see that either when in the majority or minority, Ms. Broomell’s behavior has been beyond the pale.

    I have watched Mr. Hodge absorb her attacks repeatedly and three times Ms. Broomell has attacked me at meetings, once saying I misrepresented the truth. I don’t know how Mr. Hodge has managed to suffer through these attacks for over 2 years; I would have “lost” it by now.

    Unfortunately, MD’s Constitution does not allow recall but if it did I would be active in that effort to remove Ms. Broomell. Beyond her outbreaks, she went behind the other then-commissioners’ backs and engaged a lawyer, which was in the end paid for by the county as authorized by then President Mullen. This was to investigate a county contract and in a court of law taxpayers have no standing to complain about this. She engaged in tactics prohibited by a contract which resulted in that contract being voided and causing the county to absorb $50-62 million in future costs to bring county sewage services to Elkton West.

    These actions were not criminal, but unethical, just as publishing the financial records of other council members was.
    As was written, we will have our chance to correct this mistake in electing her in 2014. I was one of those who was taken in by her and voted for her in 2010. This person will do what he can, when he can, to defeat her and bring decorum to our county’s government.

    I strongly thought about running against her, but I made a choice to return to the work force because of the present economy. And as others have written, the financial reports required of candidates, and volunteers, is not something to take lightly as recent actions by Ms. Broomell have shown.

  10. Joe C on September 7, 2013 at 9:52 am

    The bottom line of all this is none of this would have occurred if officials act not only ethically but not give even the perception of impropriety, whether now or in the past.

  11. Dennis Brezina on September 15, 2013 at 1:17 pm

    Alice Roosevelt Longworth once commented after giving birth to her only child, “Having a baby is like trying to push a grand piano through a transom…”

    Why should it be surprising in Cecil County that issues over greater transparency and accountability — like such “birthing babies” in other government entities across America — tend to spark intense pushes and pulls between the team-focused well-connnected and the persevering less-than-well-connected? Just suppose the Council majority says in so many words, officially or otherwise, “Councilwoman Broomell, we get your point!” Then try taking half a loaf (a slice at a time?) to induce more Council cohesion?

    • Stupid Intolerant on September 16, 2013 at 10:53 am

      Dear Mr.Brezina, I will attempt to help you here and since you prefer parities we will use that method starting from the top. Diana Broomell ran on a hidden adgenda of anti-development, anti-business (ARCA,CLUA,Tier map 4) so actually she is transparent as a brick.

      Accountable? She breached a contract with Artesian Water that had us as a county in the drivers seat at Elkton West. Instead we are on the hook for 60+million; then she submitted a legal counsel bill for doing this disservice. Sorry but there is no parity for this much stupidity.

      As far as getting her point, this is like chasing shadows on a cloudy day. Cohesion is holy water on the devil to this person….

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