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June 16, 2009

Illogical! Even Stupid

Roy Meachum

Donna Kuzemchak was never known for demure behavior. She was a fiery acolyte during ex-Mayor Jennifer Dougherty's term; understanding the measure of the woman she supported, she scarcely raised a peep directly against the boss lady. She did not start Jeff’ Holtzinger's four years as a happy camper, which everyone understood.


Until recently Ms. Kuzemchak's dislike for the current mayor was relatively low key, although she has ever been the nosiest member of the board. In recent weeks she has turned the volume up. Way up. The volume and grave charges she's rattled around City Hall leave no doubt: THIS IS AN ELECTION YEAR!!!


Seeking advice from Ms. Dougherty, her faithful devotee means to trash Jeff Holtzinger's reputation on his way out the door. On June 1, Ms. Kuzemchak wrote an email to the former mayor (copied to Alderman Marcia Hall) that contained her "corruption" motion. The ex-mayor was asked: "Let me know what you think," and she received "Thanks for your help."


In echoes of the former administration's reign of terror, Alderman Kuzemchak threatened city employees who hesitate to do her bidding without Mr. Holtzinger's approval. For his reluctance to present a power point presentation, Ms. Kuzemchak was furious with Steve Kroon, a technical employee; she was quoted by The Gazette:


"You (Kroon) actually work for the city, not for the mayor. Not running it could cause you as much trouble as running it could. Just heads up, the aldermen vote on positions, not the mayor. So I'm afraid what you just did is put yourself in the middle of it. You might want to come up and talk to me about it."


When queried by a reporter, the alderman admitted making a mistake and claimed "but I went down and talked with him and everything was fine."


Tellingly, Mr. Kroon refused to comment on her statement that everything was hunky-dory. has affidavits from city Budget Director Katie Barkdoll and Human Resources Manager Kathryn Nicolato about a Kuzemchak surprise visit to a conference between them. In her sworn and notarized statement, Ms. Barkdoll said:


"Alderman Kuzemchak began by stating she thought she had an 85% chance of being re-elected and even if she was the lowest vote-getter, she would have the most seniority and be pretty powerful on the board."


Ms. Barkdoll continued that the alderman "stated that she believes all employees rehired are working for the City illegally."


The budget director further quotes: "The City is owed many thousands, if not millions, of dollars and that people who violated the Charter would be held personally liable for repaying the money and could go to jail."


In any event, since Ms. Barkdoll was not involved; the city human resources director was threatened directly and rendered tearful.


When later told Ms. Barkdoll and Ms. Nicolato's reaction by a Gazette reporter, the alderman brushed it off:


"Most of it was giving them a heads up" – the same thing she said about her warning to Steve Kroon. "If they took it in a different way, I can't help that. I just wanted them to know what was going on. And yes, I expressed to some of them that malfeasance carried jail time, and I expressed to the city attorney that I did not think she did her job."


For the record: Ms. Kuzemchak had no legal training; her degree was in psychology and she's spent years as a public school substitute teacher.


Her attempt to bypass the mayor and order city employees personally contravenes Sec. 28 of the Frederick City Charter:


"Generally. The mayor shall see that the ordinances of the city are faithfully executed and shall be the chief executive officer and the head of the administrative branch of the city government."


The board of aldermen is the legislative branch. What Ms. Kuzemchak attempted is tantamount to a member of Congress commanding the secretary of defense and expecting instant compliance, totally ignoring the White House.


In reading transcriptions of mayor and board meetings, I am appalled at the games Donna Kuzemchak plays. It strikes me that she sails about endlessly hoping to catch a favorable political wind.


Marcia Hall is not much better. On the buyout issue, she now questions positions she confirmed. I have no smoking gun or document that locks her shifting to Ms. Dougherty. But the probability occurs when seeking for the reason why an intelligent and generally ethical human being subverts her positions on the record.


City Hall's other "hot potato" deals with the Historic Preservation Commission (HPC) and the newest restaurant in my neighborhood. Pushkin and I walk by Volt at least twice a day. I never noticed the absence of the former building's name over the door. I'm appalled that anything so obscure could be the source of anger and name-calling.


In the latest petty plot reported on The Frederick News-Post front page, Alderman David Koontz said he plans to take the HPC matter to the state prosecutor. That was the course advocated by Ms. Kuzemchak in an email that she sent to what appears half of the county.


The rhubarb spins around Mr. Holtzinger ordering staff not to enforce the HPC order to restore the sign and pay $500 for each day it's not done. The mayor did not veto the order, which could only be done by a judge. He stated that taxpayers' money would be better spent than backing a position that most folks would consider trivial.


HPC vice chairman Scott Winnette (address: Beverly Hills Presbyterian Church, Bethesda MD) vehemently disagrees. He wants the city to go to court to change the order. Incidentally, from two people I have heard there might be a personal issue between Mr. Winnette and the restaurant owners.


In any event, going to the state prosecutor smacks of grandstanding. By the time an investigation was done, Jeff Holtzinger will exit office, leaving the next administration to figure out whether to enforce or not.


To me, it doesn't seem worth all the noise and Pushkin agrees. The boy pointer and I couldn't see the old sign before it disappeared. Does it matter now?


Let's face it: We are in an election year. In the heat of chasing votes, candidates can be rather illogical. Stupid, even.


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