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Political Paranoia on Shocking Display at Cecil County Council; Broomell Loses Control

February 21, 2014
By Nancy Schwerzler

COMMENTARY

“Paranoia strikes deep,
Into your life it will creep;
Starts when you’re always afraid,
Step out of line, the man come and take you away…”
–Buffalo Springfield song, “For What It’s Worth”

There were many people at the Cecil County Council’s 2/18/14 worksession who wished someone would come and take Councilor Diana Broomell (R-4) away when she had a meltdown, over what should have been a routine review of the minutes of a previous meeting, but instead turned into a tantrum in which Broomell told another council member to “Shut up.”

(Due to a badly sprained ankle from a fall in the ice and snow, we were not in the room at the time but listened to the drama on audiotapes of the meeting. The sounds of shocked gasps in the room were clearly audible on the tapes as Broomell ranted, interrupted other councilors who had the floor and generally disrupted the proceedings.)

It took the County Council much of its first year of existence to draft and ratify a handbook of policies and procedures for the panel’s operations, largely due to objections and demands raised by Broomell. The handbook, based on Roberts Rules of Order, specifies escalating steps to enforce decorum at meetings up to and including removal of a misbehaving councilor from the meeting room.

But the policies manual lacks one sanction that might have been most useful on Tuesday: the power for the Council president to order Broomell’s mouth washed out with soap. That was the remedy in the olden days for a parent to deal with a back-talking or foul-mouthed child. Parenting may be a lot more permissive these days, but Broomell’s performance made some nostalgic for the old ways of imposing discipline.

Broomell’s conduct has been escalating for months, as Cecil Times reported recently here: http://ceciltimes.com/2014/02/five-shades-of-grey-broomells-bondage-of-cecil-county-council-election-year-rants-on-horses-ethics-etc/ ] Her erratic behavior has been reserved primarily for other members of the County Council, County Executive Tari Moore, the media and volunteer members of county advisory panels with whom she disagrees. But most troubling is that her attack mode is increasingly on display in discussions with state officials.

Cecil County has enough image problems around the state and has too long been the butt of “Ceciltucky” jokes that prevent the county from being taken seriously and deserving of respect in policy decisions. The last thing the county needs is an elected official who goes off the deep end when the county is trying to win support for initiatives—from programs to combat drug abuse to aid for education or economic development.

Over the past two years, in conversations with Broomell, we have told her that the problem is not necessarily with WHAT she wants to do, but the WAY in which she goes about pushing her agenda. Perpetual personal attacks—a tactic she clearly learned from her former employer, Del. Michael Smigiel—may yield some short-term gains in a political election campaign but accomplish little in the actual job of governing and achieving substantive goals.

County Council President Robert Hodge (R-5) tried to tell Broomell much the same thing at the end of the Tuesday evening Council meeting, after she veered off the issue at hand at several points in the session with personal attacks on Hodge, Councilor Joyce Bowlsbey (R-2), state health officials and volunteers serving on the county’s advisory Drug and Alcohol Council. “Being disruptive” and “badmouthing them, calling them liars, is not the way to do business,” he said.

During the morning worksession, Hodge hit his gavel and ruled Broomell out of order at several points, asked her to be “civil and respectful” and when she persisted in interrupting others, he finally asked her, “Would you like to leave the building?”

Broomell’s behavior cut short a presentation by county executive Moore and her drug policy adviser from the county health department, Ken Collins, on a recent letter from the governor’s office granting a request for state funds to pay half the cost of a designated drug analyst in the state crime lab to handle only Cecil County cases — so that prosecutors can overcome a backlog of drug test results that had led to dismissal of some criminal cases in court. That was a significant, and unusual, step for the state to take, even though several other requests for aid were denied.

But the discussion was stopped—and other Councilors denied the chance to ask their own questions—when Broomell interrupted the speakers several times to expound on her view that outpatient treatment of addicts with methadone “doesn’t work” and crowed that she has “called out” the local advisory panel and state health officials for what Broomell believes is mishandling of the issue.

“We need to censure one of our members,” Hodge declared. Moore, no doubt grateful she was no longer a member of the county’s legislative body, said, “I think it’s best that we leave” as she and Collins got up to depart the room.

The bizarre tone of the session was set at the outset during a review of the minutes of the previous worksession meeting, as Broomell launched into a lengthy re-hash of her objections to a letter expressing broad interest in a proposed state marketing effort to promote equine tourism, including at Fair Hill. Bowlsbey raised a “point of order” but before she could elaborate on the point, Broomell shouted, “Shut up.”

Clearly shocked, Bowlsbey declared, “Excuse me?” She then read from the council’s policy manual that specifies councilors must not “speak disrespectfully” to or about one another. “Nobody, nobody is allowed to tell me to shut up,” Bowlsbey said firmly.

Broomell defended what she briefly admitted was an “over the top” outburst by saying she was “frustrated” and then turned around and asserted that the decorum “rules are being used against me” and declared that “it’s disgusting how the county is being sold out.”

By the meeting minutes?

It’s all part of a “scheme,” Broomell declared, to “systematically shut down the democracy.”

She still hadn’t calmed down by evening, when she was ostensibly discussing the horse park issue, and suddenly asserted that “Mr. Hodge sells out this county regularly for your own profit.” (Will she next claim that Hodge’s two pet zebras are in on a conspiracy to turn Fair Hill into a wild game preserve?)

Instead of a gavel, Hodge might want to bring a very large butterfly net to the next Council worksession. And perhaps alert the local hospital to prepare its special room with the padded walls…

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8 Responses to Political Paranoia on Shocking Display at Cecil County Council; Broomell Loses Control

  1. Kim Swyka on February 21, 2014 at 12:06 pm

    Who in the world voted for Broomell? I just don’t see how someone who continually causes such havoc over the most idiotic things can be in her position.

    She makes Cecil County Government look like a “reality show” to the rest of the world. For those who may be considering relocating to Cecil County, after reading the continual issues, they most likely would change their minds. Ms. Broomell, you make being a resident of Cecil County an embarrassment.

    You chose to be in the public eye and represent our county Therefore you have a responsibility to act respectful and professional, as you are what outsiders see as our county officials– not act like an adult Honey Boo Boo!

    Seek professional help. Start acting professionally or STEP DOWN!!!

  2. Rick O'Shea on February 21, 2014 at 1:17 pm

    Since Broomell believes that she knows more than the medical community about addiction and mental health issues, she should recognize her need for treatment. Apparently not. I suggest that the next Citizens Corner be devoted to an “Intervention.”

    Aggrieved parties, such as victims of character assassination, could confront her in an attempt to convince her of the error of her ways and the need for a new course of action.

    • Red 833 on February 22, 2014 at 8:19 am

      Broomell would view an “intervention” as a series of endorsements. Of course, her dupes would line up to praise her.

  3. Dawn George on February 21, 2014 at 5:19 pm

    Broomell’s actions over the past 8-12 months have clearly depicted a woman who needs psychological help and needs to be removed from office. Listening to her and watching her in action reminds me of paranoid schizophrenic patients I used to take care of. She should have been removed from office long ago.

  4. David on February 21, 2014 at 10:54 pm

    She is an embarrassment to Cecil County and a disgrace to our government.
    It’s appalling that she has the audacity to say SHE knows more about drugs than the medical professionals do.

    No wonder businesses do not want to do business in Cecil County!

  5. Joe C on February 24, 2014 at 9:21 pm

    Ok folks, we know it is an election season, let’s talk about real issues like the skyrocketing debt and spending in Cecil County! The only ones who are going nuts are the taxpayer!

  6. Bob Laird on February 26, 2014 at 10:25 am

    …Way to stay on focus Mr. C.

  7. Concerned Citizen on April 22, 2014 at 9:37 am

    Really? Think about it. If it were a man in her position acting this way, he’d be fired on the spot.

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