Cecil County Council Behaves Politely, for a Change, Under the Watchful Eye of the Law

February 25, 2014

What a difference a Deputy in the room makes.

After a raucous Cecil County Council worksession last week at which Councilor Diana Broomell shouted at another lawmaker to “shut up,” on Tuesday the voices were hushed, the tone polite and Broomell even raised her hand to ask permission to speak. Seated a few feet away was a deputy Sheriff, in full uniform, just in case the Council president needed someone to escort a misbehaving Council member from the room.

Council President Robert Hodge (R-5) initiated a discussion of the Council’s rules of decorum, in the aftermath of last week’s Broomell meltdown, telling the full Council on Tuesday that recent events had been an “embarrassment” to the Council “and Cecil County government in general.” Henceforth, he said, the rules would be strictly enforced, so that “meetings are orderly, civil, professional and efficient.”

[SEE previous Cecil Times report on the previous meeting meltdown here: http://ceciltimes.com/2014/02/political-paranoia-on-shocking-display-at-cecil-county-council-broomell-loses-control/ ]

And “if some Council members want to say I am infringing on their right to freedom of speech, so be it,” Hodge said.

Broomell did just that, saying the rules were being “enforced one way” and should also apply to members of the audience. But Hodge replied that the Council’s rules of procedure only applied to the council members themselves and if she wanted to discuss audience behavior that was a topic for another day.

“The rules have been put together and enforced for the sole purpose of shutting me down,” Broomell said. “You’re picking and choosing which rules you want to enforce.”

Hodge told Broomell it was not her disagreements with fellow Council members that were at issue but how she handles her objections. “It’s not what you say but how you say it,” he said, calling her frequent outbursts, interruptions and accusations against others “disrespectful” and “demeaning.”

Broomell complained that “all other avenues have been shut down” to air her grievances and that speaking out at public meetings was her only alternative. “I’d love to talk about the attempts I’ve made,” she said. (Broomell filed an ethics complaint last year against Hodge with the county’s Ethics Commission, which rejected her accusations.)

Councilor Alan McCarthy (R-1) offered his version of the Golden Rule that he said members of the Council should abide by. “Be polite and respectful… don’t question or assume ulterior motives,” he said.

Councilor Joyce Bowlsbey (R-2), who was told to “shut up” by Broomell last week, said the Council members “need to stay focused” on the individual items on a meeting agenda and not stray off the topic to re-hash other past complaints.

For the rest of the meeting, which moved swiftly from item to item without the usual verbal battles that have bogged down other recent sessions, members asked permission to speak, avoided most interruptions and generally behaved like adults. The deputy in the corner was thus not pressed into service.

The Council voted, 3-2, to write a letter supporting a request by the three judges of the county’s Orphan’s Court to ask the General Assembly to approve legislation providing a phased-in salary increase due to increasing workloads and no pay boost since 2002. The judges are currently paid $5,500 a year.

The request called for boosting the judges’ pay to $6,500 in Fiscal 2016; $7,500 in Fiscal 2017; and $8,750 I Fiscal 2018.

Bowlsbey said that the county’s population, and cases coming before the panel, had grown significantly during the more than a decade since the court members had received a pay boost so she believed the request was “justified.”

Broomell wanted to delay sending a letter to the county’s legislative delegation in Annapolis so she could get more information. But the council’s manager, James Massey, pointed out that the remaining days for legislative business in Annapolis were running out and that this request would have to be addressed via an amendment to another bill being sponsored by the delegation.

The court judges were belated in presenting their request, and under state law, a pay boost cannot take effect until a new court is seated after an election. The three seats will be on the ballot in this year’s election, so failure to win General Assembly approval for a pay raise now would mean any increase could not take effect until after the 2018 election.

So the Council voted, 3-2, to support the pay boost in a letter to the delegation. Hodge, Bowlsbey and McCarthy voted for the proposal while Broomell and Councilor Michael Dunn (R-3) voted no.

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19 Responses to Cecil County Council Behaves Politely, for a Change, Under the Watchful Eye of the Law

  1. David on February 25, 2014 at 4:00 pm

    It is so sad that you need a deputy sheriff to keep the meetings under control! Patchell 2014!

  2. Richard C Bartel on February 25, 2014 at 5:05 pm

    This is going to be an interesting election! As a new resident since May, 2013, I hope I can be of service to the public. I plan to run for office to do so.

  3. Joe C on February 26, 2014 at 6:38 am

    What a waste of valuable law enforcement resources, while drugs and violence invade our streets, all to prevent free speech. We live in a democracy not a dictatorship. Yes, there should be a level of decorum, but not suppression of speech by force.

    • Rebecca Demmler on February 26, 2014 at 1:29 pm

      This action is not to suppress free speech, but to ensure that the rules of procedure are followed. Diana is beyond “over the top” in her spewing venom of accusation against those who are employed by and those who work with Cecil County. She is in a role of leadership; instead her actions tear down the fabric of our government.

      Because of her previous tantrums, innuendos and outright accusations (along with not knowing how to follow an agenda) time has had to be taken in order to develop rules of decorum. Previously this was not necessary because those who served followed Roberts’ Rules of Order and understood basic rules of conduct.

      There must be a point at which a line is drawn. The county cannot continue to tolerate outlandish behavior such as frequent use of the word “liar,” telling a fellow councilwoman to “shut up,” and deviation from the established agenda into side-rants.

      If Mrs. Broomell cannot understand how destructive her behavior has been, and continues to be, then there is no other alternative. Like an errant child she must be disciplined by making it clear to her that she could be escorted from the meeting if she continues to ignore decorum (and good common sense).

      • Joe C on February 26, 2014 at 7:42 pm

        I agree that Robert’s Rules of Order should be followed, but that applies to all, if Diana had the floor, why was Joyce speaking over her and why when in a past meeting did the President take an adjournment when there was a motion and second on the floor, this was out of order. Let’s have rules applied evenly for all.

        • Rebecca Demmler on February 27, 2014 at 1:24 pm

          You are evading the real issue here: ongoing poor and inexcusable behavior. I suggest you listen to the audio of the meeting most recently in question and tell me again who is talking over who.

          • Joe C on March 1, 2014 at 9:26 pm

            Jus about political posturing by the Free spending three to draw attention away from all the spending and debt they have rung up. Make Diana look like the villian instead of the real facts!

        • Red 833 on March 3, 2014 at 10:46 am

          Broomell interrupts Bowlsbey, seizing “the floor”, and then complains when Bowlsbey attempts to speak. Send Broomell to the time-out corner.

  4. quinlan on February 26, 2014 at 9:24 am

    Interesting how you always report on Broomall ‘ s behavior. I have witnessed the other council members treating her with disrespect but you didn’t report that. Why? Bias maybe?

    • Bill De Freitas on March 1, 2014 at 11:53 am

      I usually don’t respond to these remarks but in this case you have to be kidding? The only bias is a grown woman who acts like a child and no one spanks her! Looks like the Sheriff’s Deputy did that without even touching her.

  5. Bob Laird on February 26, 2014 at 10:22 am

    Oh my goodness. Suppression of speech by force? Now before I am accused of Diana-bashing, this would apply no matter which Council member was speaking out of turn.

    This is not about “decorum,” it is about following the guidelines of the meeting in which you are participating. The right to free speech is not overruled by the personal responsibility to follow the procedures of the organization to which you have been honored with election.

    I don’t know why this was ever allowed to get this far but it needed to be dealt with somehow – deputy or not.

  6. Duct Taper on February 27, 2014 at 1:23 pm

    I just listened to Tuesday’s audio. Councilwoman [Broomell] interrupted five times on the subject of decorum. Mouth opened, foot inserted!

    • Duct Taper on March 1, 2014 at 10:49 am

      Well,well,looks like Broomell will get four votes on June24th.

  7. quinlan on February 27, 2014 at 6:00 pm

    Joyce and Robert have both been unprofessional and disrespectful. But as usual [Cecil Times] doesnt report it. I have witnessed both of them talk over Diana and make rude comments. They’re all guilty. But Joyce was appointed, this time she will have to convince the county citizens she’s worth their vote. NEWS FLASH. SHE’S NOT!!!

    Nancy why don’t you report on something news worthy. You are actually a horrible reporter. I guess that’s why you’re not reporting for The New York Times or USA Today.

    CECIL TIMES Responds: You obviously haven’t read our News and Views page on this website. National correspondent and state editor for The Baltimore Sun and news executive (VP) with the Washington Post Co. isn’t too shabby, in our humble opinion.

    • Bob Laird on February 28, 2014 at 11:57 am

      “Quinlan”– All five of them have made many mistakes and we will all get to vote to resolve those matters. I think that you give short shrift to the fact that there is a line that Ms. Bowlsbey and Mr. Hodge don’t cross in these matters. It is very rare that they will go for the personal angle – even when in the middle of being attacked personally – and, while they are human sometimes, that is the difference.

      Ms. Broomell has been consistently difficult for not only her fellow Council members but, also, for many citizens as well. For me, it’s not personal.. I don’t appreciate how she performs her duties and that is how my vote is always cast. Dr. McCarthy has his moments sometimes and the only time I’ve ever heard Mr. Dunn speak was when he chose to use a foul mouth as his vote on a matter before the Council.

      Why does this publication go toward Broomell so much? Because she is in-and-of-herself a “story” to be covered. Most people aren’t asking what happened to X or Y zoning order, etc. in the Council meetings, they are asking “What did Diana do?”

    • Bill De Freitas on March 1, 2014 at 12:00 pm

      Do some research like Nancy does every week and you will find that Nancy is actually an excellent reporter and has worked for a few really great award winning newspapers! Get your facts straight before you attack!

  8. Joe C on March 2, 2014 at 12:54 pm

    No matter what side you take, it is the real issues that affect the citizens and taxpayers, not the process to get to the end result, after all making sausage is messy but everyone enjoys the end result. The problem with the “Free Spending Three” is that only a few will get the sausage and the rest just get the to clean up the mess(pay more taxes).

    • Duct Taper on March 3, 2014 at 10:02 am

      Free spending three as opposed to the “closed to business two”.What do you expect from a pair that don’t understand anything about business.

    • Joe C on March 4, 2014 at 10:20 am

      Funny, but the “unhealthy conditions” are being caused by members of the Free spending three, otherwise I would not have to keep pointing out the unsanitary conditions during council meetings.

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