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August 12, 2010

A County Embarrassment

Joan Marie Aquilino

My first election prediction is: The highly respected, knowledgeable, Michael Marschner, director of the Frederick County Division of Utilities and Solid Waste, will resign if Commissioner Kai Hagen is returned to office.


I know Mr. Marschner isn’t on the ballot but really think long and hard about what you are going to get if you return Mr. Hagen to office.


At Tuesday’s Board of County Commissioners meeting, Mr. Hagen antagonized Mr. Marschner in a rude and unprofessional manner.


If Mr. Marschner resigns, retires or otherwise leave Frederick County employ, I also predict others will quickly follow. No one wants or should be expected to stick around and ruin their own professional reputation by being associated with the immature rantings of an unprofessional elected official.


Rude behavior followed by accusations that were wrong and over the top appear to be Mr. Hagen’s MO; and he either can’t filter his own behavior and words, or he doesn’t care enough to even try. I’ve never seen a staff person be pushed so far that they were publically and uncomfortably forced to call out a county commissioner. Even County Manager Ron Hart had to say something eventually.


We may want to ultimately reduce the size of government but this is not the way. With the prediction of heads of departments making a mass exit upon the re-election of one single person says a lot.


I ask the voting public to consider this: do you rid yourself of one single antagonistic personality, or take a chance on the county losing many knowledgeable and experienced staff? I, for one, go for keeping knowledge and experience of many over rhetoric and play ground bullying of one.


During Mr. Hagen’s time in office he’s been accused of pushing the limits of ethics, spirit of the law and misuse of taxpayer’s money, and financially and personally benefiting from regulations he himself put into effect or pushed for, etc. We aren’t talking one person taking him on; these accusations come from all directions.


His opinions aren’t even the issues. It’s the way he presents them and the personal attacks he throws at county staff, colleagues and private citizens. He vilifies anyone who dares to disagree with him.


His constant call for public hearings is little more than a false front. Public hearings to Mr. Hagen are more than that because he needs his followers there to back him up while the rest of the public is busy trying to support families and earn a living and can’t be bothered running to a multitude of busy-body hearings. The public elected these commissioners to do a job; they don’t need to be called in for public hearings every five minutes so elected officials can show boat and avoid responsibility for their actions.


Mr. Hagen’s latest attack was against the appointment of an individual for the Solid Waste Advisory Committee. This committee has an advisory role making no final decisions, only forwarding their recommendations to the Board of County Commissioners.


Accusations, no matter how Mr. Hagen couched them, gave the clear impression to all present, except possibly his protégé, Caroline Eader, he was hell-bent on stopping Daniel Locke’s appointment in favor of his friend, who had also applied.


Oh, let it go . . . they are like Jack Russell Terriers, so little but boy can they get under your skin with all that barking. Nothing personal, little Terriers, but if you live next to one you know what I mean. Waste-to-Energy isn’t even a topic of discussion right now; it’s already been voted on and passed; and that is where Mr. Hagen and his protégé’s objections were directed.


I see numerous members in the Democrat line up that will be far more productive than Mr. Hagen. In his own words (or lack of for once) during an interview, he was hard pressed to come up with anything he had actually accomplished during his term and can hang his hair on.


Differing opinions, points of views, even directions are acceptable and should happen with a board of five. One member antagonizing staff and colleagues with no productive outcome is a waste of taxpayer’s money and not acceptable.


Elected officials who attack their own colleagues, staff and private citizens because they don’t posses the skills or knowledge to do otherwise should not be in office.


Elected officials should be working to improve the county and to better our relations and reputations within – as well as outside – our borders. Right now the in-house bickering, normally lead by one Kai Hagen, is an embarrassment and distracts from productive work.

A person I consider a wise and knowledgeable friend said, “I've concluded that if I had to pick between a regional WTE for 30 years or four more years of Commissioner Hagen, I'd take the WTE.” I’m taking her words out of context somewhat but they are her words and I wish I had said them. There is very little in this world of ours that will cost more than four more years of walking in kai, as our editor so lovingly puts it.

Before voting, ask what skills candidates offer and how they will improve our lives, not just ‘tax’ them. You should also want to know what they bring to the table that will enable them to work well with others.


Look at the Democrats running and ask them what they have to offer, how they will improve your county and how they will accomplish it without waste (money or time). Republicans do the same within your party. There are knowledgeable and passionate candidates on both sides willing to put in the time and will actually work for us.



. . . ’til next time…..


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