Cecil County Council Unveils Redistricting Commission, Sammons Stirs Political Pot for GOP Seat

September 9, 2021


Cecil County Council President Bob Meffley (R-1) could have used a sledgehammer to gavel a Council meeting to order on Tuesday (9/7/2021) when an unruly member of the local Republican Central Committee launched a loud personal attack. But the volume of his wooden gavel, although forceful, was nothing compared to the belligerent battle waged by Vincent Sammons, the chair of the local GOP Central Committee, who wanted to override county law to claim a seat on a Redistricting Commission assigned to re-draw County Council district lines based on the new Census.

No matter to Sammons that both the County Charter and the authorizing legislation enacted by the Council in April to establish the local commission specified that any “elected” official could not be seated on the redistricting panel. Sammons was elected by voters in the 2018 GOP primary to the party committee.

No matter to Sammons that his Central Committee had not submitted a full slate of five GOP candidates to the County Council, as required, this summer and instead had listed “to be determined” instead of actual names for several GOP seats.

The Redistricting Commission is set up to re-draw district lines for the local County Council and School Board districts after the once a decade Census results. The newest 2020 federal census data, delayed for release until late August due to the COVID pandemic that hampered census counts and calculations, found a surprisingly small increase in Cecil County’s population in the past decade.

The new Census lists the total county population at 103,725—a tiny increase of 2,617 people from the 2010 census. Interim federal American Community Survey census data had shown estimates of over 103,000 people in the county about seven years ago. Some experts have estimated that the COVID pandemic had hampered collection of census forms from local residents and depressed the count in 2020.

As a result, there is very little legitimate line re-drawing to be done by the local Redistricting Commission, with only a tiny population boost to be accounted for. Much of the counted population increase is centered on Elkton, which could result in some limited modifications for the lines between the Elkton County Council District 2 and the more rural District 1, which includes southern Elkton, Chesapeake City, Cecilton and Earleville.

Under the county Charter, the commission consists of five people nominated by the Democrats and five people nominated by the Republicans. The County Council is empowered to appoint one member, so as to break a possible tie, and to select the chair of the commission.

Sammons wanted to hold on to his seat as the chairman of the GOP Central Committee while also serving on the Redistricting Commission and he filed a personal lawsuit on 8/30/2021 against Meffley in the county’s Circuit Court, seeking a “writ of mandamus” to let him hold onto his elected Central Committee seat while also seeking a seat on the Redistricting Commission. He claimed that because he was only elected by Republicans in a party primary, he shouldn’t be considered an “elected” official.

But faced with the clear language of the Charter, Sammons suddenly resigned as chair of the GOP Central Committee on Tuesday and put his name in for a seat on the redistricting panel, saying on social media that he would seek re-appointment by his allies to the GOP panel when the redistricting commission finishes its work in mid-November.

The irony of Sammons’ argument—that he wasn’t really an elected official—is that he was one of only three members of the nine-member GOP committee who actually were elected by Republican voters in the 2018 primary election. At least six members of the panel were appointed, primarily by Sammons often acting alone, after elected members resigned.

Even some previously appointed fill-ins have also resigned, with some former members saying privately that Sammons was divisive and prone to unilateral decisions. With Sammons’ new resignation, only two voter- elected members—Kevin Emmerich and Cindy Emmerich—remain on the GOP committee. One question for the committee will be where will they meet, since Sammons had moved from public sessions to holding meetings in his basement, sources said. According to the panel’s website, another Sammons-backed appointee, Kathie Kennedy, has been named the new chair to replace Sammons.

Some local Republicans have complained to the state Republican Party about Sammons’ conduct as the Central Committee chair. But their complaints fell on the politically deaf ears of Dirk Haire, the state GOP chairman and active supporter of Danielle Hornberger’s campaign for Cecil County Executive. He used state party funds to pay for private polls that touted her candidacy in the GOP primary—although the party apparatus is supposed to be neutral in a primary. Haire and his wife, Jessica, also acted as defense lawyers for Hornberger in a civil lawsuit challenging the legitimacy of her candidacy since required financial disclosure documents were not on file with the Board of Elections as required by law.

Sammons has been an ardent supporter of Hornberger, both before and after her election.

A resolution introduced at the County Council on Tuesday listed the following nominees for the Redistricting Commission:

The Democratic Central Committee nominees were:
Dist. 1—Josh Brown, Earleville
Dist. 2—Maryanne Othello, Elkton
Dist. 3—Janet Rudolph, Elkton
Dist. 4—Phyllis Kilby, Colora
Dist. 5—Michael Welker, North East

The Republican Central Committee nominees were:

Dist.1–Jason Howard, Chesapeake City
Dist. 2–Pat Ulrich, Elkton
Dist. 3—Calvin Bonenberger, Conowingo
Dist. 4—Peter LaPointe, Port Deposit
Dist. 5—Vincent Sammons, Rising Sun

The County Council nominated Carl Roberts, the former Cecil County Schools Superintendent and a consultant to former County Executive Alan McCarthy (R), as the Council appointee and the chairman of the commission.

The legislation to formally appoint members to the Redistricting Commission was introduced at the 9/7/2021 Council meeting and is slated to be voted upon at the 9/21/2021 meeting. The county Charter specifies that the Council has at least one appointee to the Commission and is empowered to name the chairman.

During the Council’s evening legislative session on Tuesday (9/7/2021), Harold McCanick, a Sammons-appointed member of the Republican Central Committee, attacked Council President Meffley, shouting that the Council President “should resign” and claiming that his personal rights were being violated as he was admonished to stop shouting. As McCanick shouted, Meffley pounded his gavel, saying that he would not allow attacks on individual Council members, regardless of which member was attacked.

McCanick is a perpetual loud voice at County Council meetings, often using offensive language and even referring to Council members and actions as “cat turds.”

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