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As Long as We Remember...

December 13, 2010

Want some cheese with that whine?

Earl 'Rocky' Mackintosh

The Frederick Board of County Commissioners and the Board of Education begin to fulfill campaign promises … and the whining begins!


Well, it sure didn't take long for the Young brothers’ boards to stir things up! Right of the box the loyal opposition, who lost their majorities at both Winchester Hall and "Taj-Ma" Hall, are crying foul.


Board of County Commissioners – No More Ethics?


Among the controversial items that hit the street were the plan to cut retirement benefits for county employees, eliminate the same for county commissioners, and set a hiring freeze. Then there was Paul Smith's request to our state delegation to repeal the "Lennie" Thompson 2007 amendment to the local ethics law.


From reading the papers, blog commentary and Facebook posts you would think that Commissioner Smith has proposed to abolish the ethics code for the county altogether!


In an exchange I had with former County Commissioner Kai Hagen on Friday, he referred to the proposal as an attempt to "kill the county's Ethics Ordinance ... [and go] after the very basic disclosure provisions."


May I suggest a bit of Limburger cheese with that whine?


Mr. Hagen's statement could not be anything further from the truth. The fact of the matter is that this amendment was crafted by Commissioner Thompson and sent to Annapolis to exclusively apply to Frederick County. It requires extraordinary and unrealistic disclosure thresholds regarding communication and donations between a county commissioner and the business community, to the point that under certain circumstances, it discourages that sector of the electorate from engaging in direct or indirect conversation and making campaign contributions to elected officials or candidates.


The state has strong ethics and disclosure laws that apply to all 23 counties in Maryland and all other jurisdictions. I have to ask if the state code is not good enough, why didn't Mr. Thompson propose his amendment to cover the entire state?


I have been told that one of the county’s staff attorneys has called this provision a "trap" with harsh penalties that Mr. Thompson set for commissioners and business people alike to discourage any campaign contributions from flowing from that sector.


So far, I haven't seen where any of the reporters or letters-to-the-editor in The Gazette of The Frederick News Post reported this side of the story. But I expect that the other side will surface eventually.


Board of Education - Hidden Agenda?


Right out of the box, it became clear that a new majority rules the roost over Frederick County Public Schools. Within hours after the swearing-in ceremony that added three new board members, the four sitting incumbents surprised each other. Past President Katie Groth nominated member Donna Crook as the 2010-2011 board president. Ms. Crook, who joined the board in 2003, quietly sat by as the nomination was seconded, and then, to the surprise of Ms. Groth and the other incumbents, she abstained from voting for herself. She voted for Brad Young when he was nominated.


With Mr. Young at the helm and Ms. Crook as the vice president, the non-controversial agenda for the rest of the day was quickly amended with a few more items to fulfill a few campaign promises.


Marge Neal, a staff writer for The News Post summarized it well in her article of December 10th:


When the dust had settled, the alcohol policy that pertains to students' behavior off-campus during nonschool hours had been abolished; an immediate hiring freeze was placed on the central office – all future openings are to be discussed by the board before they can be filled; school officials have been directed to phase out the controversial (TERC) math program; and Superintendent Linda Burgee was directed to have a decal placed on the school system-owned vehicle she drives.


By the end of Wednesday's meetings, Donna Crook had also proposed to revisit the former board's rejection of the application for Frederick Classical Charter School. Kudos to Donna for that one!


According the Neal's article, Katie Groth stated afterwards that she felt like the entire meeting was "scripted."


This whine calls for a nice big helping of Stilton cheese.


In response to her whining, Mr. Young stated that he wanted to get certain campaign promises and pressing issues out of the way, and he expects that future meetings will follow the traditional advance agenda format.


Frankly, Wednesday was a bit of a "touché day" for Donna Crook, who along with former board member Leslie Mansfield were often left out of planning meetings, ostracized and sometimes berated by some of Ms. Groth's fellow former members.


It was a very interesting week and, for sure, the stage has been set for many more days of Whine and Cheese … and with over 600 well-known named cheeses, I expect that we'll get a taste of each one!


The author: Rocky Mackintosh, President, MacRo, Ltd., a Land and Commercial Real Estate firm based in Frederick, Maryland. He also writes for


Woodsboro - Walkersville Times
The Morning News Express with Bob Miller
The Covert Letter

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