Mutterings and complaints from City Hall informed me that Alderman Kelly Russell continued her bullying ways that many found offensive when she was a police official.
Since reaching her first elected post, Ms. Russell has demonstrated loyalty, not to Mayor Randy McClement, but predecessor Jennifer Dougherty, who was rejected by voters several times. The former police lieutenant also enjoys the backing of her mentor, Donna Kuzemchak who was tossed out of City Hall because of her frequent posturing and difficult attitude.
Of course, knowing her past, I could not support the new alderman in the 2009 elections; I wrote enthusiastically about fellow Democrats who shared the party ticket. TheTentacle.com column also boosted Shelley Aloi, who became the sole Republican sworn in. I knew too much about Ms. Russell. This knowledge preceded her campaign by several years. As long as Capt. Harold Domer remained at city police headquarters, every time we encountered she had a massive chip on her shoulder that resulted in twisted lips and insults for me.
At least twice since the election, the alderman approached, smiling and making friendly noises. The last time I informed her that the switch in tactics didn’t impress me, that I remembered her past behavior. The message got through. When Pushkin and I were taking our daily walk, a covey of women lavished praise and affection on the English pointer; she was in the group, hanging at the back.
Even with urging from people who were acquainted with her performance in City Hall, I declined comment until The Frederick New-Post account of Tuesday night’s meeting that ran under the headline: “Aldermen disagree over Frederic police funding.” While Ms. Dougherty arguments appeared in the story, Ms. Kuzemchak’s name did not, but the irritating ex-alderman was there to cheer on her protégé.
At one point Ms. Russell, claiming insider experience, was quoted: “I don’t understand how we can let the police department shrivel away.” Going on, she charged that public safety was obviously not the present mayor’s top priority. “That’s your opinion,” Mr. McClement replied, “that’s not the truth.”
While the badinage was going on, the other municipal aldermen sought at least more details without engaging the mayor in a personal debate. As readers know, public safety is a hot political issue. Jennifer Dougherty’s single greatest contribution was when she brought in Chief Kim Dine, from the Washington metropolitan force; Mr. Dine has shepherded crime statistics in a steadily falling direction. No one currently in City Hall wants to interrupt the decline.
But bullying helps no one. Kelly Russell amply displayed the talent a long time before she ran for elected office. Since Mr. Domer currently works as a director of the county’s animal shelter, while drawing a police captain’s pension. His wife, more feared in the department while they were both on the city’s payroll, retired to take a high-paying courthouse security job.
Which leads me to possible solution, if she values the department high numbers so much, she should contribute her pension and convince Mr. and Mrs. Domer to kick theirs in; the total of all three double-dippers could not solve the budget crisis but go a long way to keep officers on the force.
What say, Kelly, Hal and Barbie?