Slates, Slams and $: Gregory Promotes Pals for Cecil County Council; “Slate” Flyers Push Lies, Paid for by Developers, Hornberger

July 9, 2022


Jackie Gregory (R-5), the vice president of the Cecil County Council, must have an acute case of insomnia, posting social media attacks on some of her fellow councilors and perceived political foes at all hours of the night. And when the sun comes up, she stars in glossy promotional mailers declaring she has a “need” for her preferred “slate” of candidates to sit with her on the Council.

What she isn’t saying is that the “Cecil Conservative Slate” of political newcomer candidates she is promoting is largely financed by out-of-county developers and financial transfers from Del. Kevin Hornberger (R-35B), a large donor to her own campaigns and the spouse of county executive Danielle Hornberger (R), a close ally of Gregory.

And she isn’t saying why her “slate” is particularly focused on attacking Councilor Al Miller (R-3), who is up for re-election this year, with flyers attacking him personally with false claims. One flyer shows pictures of her three preferred candidates but inexplicably declares that Miller is “our opponent.” The official Republican primary election ballot lists only one candidate running against Miller: Bob Gatchel, an actor who appeared in drag wearing female clothing and a bouffant red wig in a show, and a sometime multilevel and online marketing businessman. He is a member of Gregory’s “slate.”

Two other flyers also take aim at Miller with juvenile fake photos. One falsely claims he voted to raise property taxes in two budgets– although by the same skewed metrics, Gregory voted to raise property taxes twice in Hornberger’s two budgets. A photoshopped image depicts Miller’s hand pulling cash out of a farmer’s back pocket. Another mailer depicts Miller lying in a bed, under sheets, next to Dr. Anthony Fauci, the national COVID expert, and asserts that Miller “supported mask mandates on our children and was in favor of forcing businesses to make customers mask up.” In fact, mask mandates in Maryland were imposed by Republican Governor Larry Hogan and violations were punishable by law.

Miller and his wife, Karen, are active in many local civic groups and events, often accompanied by their young grandchildren.

Miller, a member of a multi-generation Cecil County farm family, county fair leader, community volunteer and agribusiness executive, was the only member of the Council to vote against Danielle Hornberger’s appointment of Lawrence Scott, an Annapolis political consultant who had never set foot in a state courtroom to represent a client before she picked him as Cecil County attorney. Scott has become the Tony Soprano political strongman of the Hornberger administration, and Miller has often asked probing questions of Scott and other Hornberger administration officials at Council meetings.

And perhaps more importantly, Miller has been promoted in local political circles as a potential strong candidate against Danielle Hornberger for county executive when her current term expires in two years. Indeed, this year most farms in the northern and southern county agricultural areas prominently display large Miller campaign signs. If anyone photoshops a photo of Miller, it might be a lot more accurate to depict him wearing a Boy Scout uniform.

For Gregory, installing her loyalists on the Council would no doubt give her a majority vote to take over as Council President from current President Bob Meffley (R-1). With the power to set the Council’s agenda, a President Gregory would give the Hornberger administration a seamless, firm grip on all levers of county government and power.

The negative personal attacks are being conducted by the “Cecil Conservative Slate” which was registered with the State Board of Elections (BOE) on 5/20/2022, with its chairman listed as Vincent Sammons, a local political gadfly and Hornberger supporter. He is known for creation of multiple social media pages and websites used to post false political attacks and photoshopped cartoon images against his perceived foes. He is a former chair of the county’s Republican Central Committee and a candidate this year to return to the GOP committee.

Campaign “slates” are a way for a group of candidates to collect more donations to benefit their campaigns than they would otherwise be allowed to receive under state donation limits to an individual campaign. It also allows candidates to pool their own money with other candidates to pay for flyers and other campaign activities they could not afford on their own.

Members and beneficiaries of the “Cecil Conservative Slate” are Gatchel; Donna Culberson, a recently appointed councilor for District 4 and a close Gregory/Danielle Hornberger supporter who says she wants to use her seat to “restore responsible educational curriculum in our schools,” although by law such powers reside with the Board of Education; Rebecca Hamilton, a political newcomer who said in a recent interview with Cecil.TV that she was called by God to run in District 2 against incumbent Bill Coutz; Sammons and Kevin Hornberger.

The “slate” began with donations of $400 each from Culberson, Gatchel, and Hamilton, according to BOE records. But that money was actually recycled from donations from Kevin Hornberger, who gave each of the Council candidates $1,000 from his own political committee. (Hornberger also gave $500 to Sammons.)

Now, the most recent BOE filings show the “slate” received another $8,025 in June primarily from out-of-county business and developer interests, and the same report shows much of that money was used to pay the costs of at least one flyer sent to county voters. The new donors include William Cox, Jr., a real estate operator from Bel Air, $1,500; LFB Capital LLC from Pennsylvania, $1,500; MLK Preston Lake LLC, from Lanham, MD, $5,000. The report also showed payments of $6,102 to an Annapolis firm for “mailing” expenses, apparently for a campaign flyer.

The “slate” did not have enough money in its account to cover the expected costs of all three mailers—or perhaps even more that have so far landed under the local radar—so voters will not know the full costs and donor money used to pay for them until after the July 19 primary election.

A “slate” flyer claims that Miller voted to “raise your property taxes” in fiscal 2020 and 2021 because property tax REVENUES to the county would rise. In fact, the county-set property tax RATE remained the same, with no tax increase. But overall revenues were projected to rise because the STATE Department of Assessments and Taxation re-assesses property VALUES for one-third of local properties each year. As property values rise, so do the tax bills paid by residents. In addition, an influx of new businesses recruited to locate in the county by the former administration of Alan McCarthy meant that more valuable properties were being created and that boosted revenues even as tax RATES remained the same.

What Gregory and her “slate” aren’t telling voters is that Danielle Hornberger’s own budgets for the two years of her term each acknowledged that property tax revenues to the county would rise. In the current budget year, Hornberger’s own budget documents admit that property tax revenues will rise by $1.66 million in Fiscal 2023.

And in Hornberger’s first budget, for Fiscal 2022, her own budget documents admit that county revenues from property taxes would still rise by $1.7 million in the budget year.

Jackie Gregory voted for both Hornberger budgets. Perhaps someone should create a glossy flyer against her.

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