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The Tentacle

May 24, 2005

Sun Queen Mayor

Roy Meachum

Mayor Jennifer Dougherty shows clear signs of suffering a Louis XIV complex. When chided for acting in ways inimical to the best interest of the state, the Sun King replied: "I am the state."

She has never been so brazenly imperial as in her announced intention of considering whether to appeal Friday's ruling in federal court. In his official opinion, Judge Frederick Motz held that her insistence on maintaining a three-year residence for mayoral candidates violates both the Constitution of the United States and Maryland precedents.

To Her Honor and her blindly loyal coterie, led by a former mayor and his wife, Jennifer simply can do no wrong. In that circle, it matters little that the state Attorney General's office had advised the lengthy residency requirement was probably illegal.

Wiser heads would have reached the conclusion that spending taxpayer money on lawyers might be throwing good dollars after bad. After all, the mayor was forced to pay out over $125,000 to keep fired Weinberg director Stewart Seal out of court where he stood a very good chance of walking away with several millions.

No, I have that wrong. Despite the fact that her name appears on every charging document, all legal actions are against City Hall; after all in the manner of the erstwhile Sun King, the lady sees no difference between City Hall and herself.

When Alderman Dave Lenhart went to court questioning the legality of her veto on a change to the charter supported by the board majority, she blissfully announced his suit was against "the city of Frederick." Louis XIV couldn't have put it better.

The charter change would have eliminated the mayoral three-year residency requirement and cut taxpayers' losses. Her refusal to consider any opinion but her own cost thousands in lawyers' fees.

By the way, according to the charter, hiring of outside counsel should be approved by the Board of Aldermen even when funds are available in the budget. That requirement is clearly spelled out. And totally ignored by her "royal" honor!

Ms. Dougherty acted illegally in hiring a lawyer to reply to Mr. Lenhart's legal action, scheduled to reach court next week. Had she put the matter before the aldermen as the charter demands, she knows she would have lost. But the majority is always wrong when she disagrees. It's that simple in her Sun Queen view.

Similarly, when the board majority passed alterations in her proposed budget, she claimed they simply did not understand the implications to the city's financial well-being. She has not announced her intentions toward the approved budget.

The mayor may have minded more, of course, that the new version will spare the human beings her version meant to throw out in the street. At this point we can wonder what impact saving those thousands thrown away in court might have on saving jobs.

Her eagerness to place her four-year record against the 16-year accomplishments by former Mayor Ron Young argues loudly her delusions of self-grandeur. Whatever Mr. Young's failings, it was on his watch that Frederick came splendidly into modern times while holding to its valuable traditions.

In this age when real-life kings and queens are in short supply, Jennifer Dougherty's regal pretensions would be vastly entertaining - except Frederick citizens really can't afford her performance.

But then the original Sun King bankrupted his nation and created conditions that brought on the French Revolution. Hey, that's an idea.

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