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January 7, 2014

Frederick’s Non-Starter Charter

Patrick W. Allen

A double handful of self-proclaimed insiders, displaying incompetence, deceit and self-interests, decided it was in the best interest of Frederick County citizens to betray the public trust. In the business of politics, this group’s work product is called election engineering. In the daily lives of everyday Frederick County citizens, it’s called a scam.



Having been given 18 months and a blank sheet of paper to construct the framework for a new and sovereign form of government for Frederick County…to move the county from commissioner form to Charter…the Charter Government Board (CGB) delivered a 25-page copy and pasted executive summary.


The CGB participated in implementation of a public relations campaign designed to obfuscate the board’s failure in meeting its’ obligations and responsibilities to the citizens of the county. In other words, the public was never given full disclosure of facts regarding the Charter government they would be adopting. Instead, the CGB and its public relations partners put on a smoke-n-mirrors, dog-n-pony show…a classic bait-n-switch…say one thing, but do something else.


Regarding the new government’s elected positions for Executive and County Council, several CGB members stated: “The voters can vet the candidates.” This statement, alone, goes far beyond ignorant and borders on absolute stupidity.


With the power of the pen and a responsibility to define minimum qualifications to campaign and serve (i.e., public administration experience, ability to read a spreadsheet, an understanding of what a comprehensive plan is, etc.), the CGB chose instead to turn its back on the seriousness of constructing a new and sovereign form of government…leaving critical due diligence to a low information and historically low voter turnout electorate.


By purposefully omitting critical, professional qualifications as a threshold to enter the race for Executive or County Council, the calculus has changed from viable candidates discussing what they can do for the citizens of the county, to candidates running negative campaigns against one another.


Gross Negligence: The CGB was appointed to undertake the task of constructing a comprehensive Charter Government document intended to provide a structurally sound foundation for the creation and implementation of Charter Government for Frederick County.


The CGB was provided with an 18-month timeline…that’s 162 man months…to compile the language of governance to be implemented for Frederick County, should the voters approve a change from commissioner to Charter form of government/governance during the 2012 election cycle.


With numerous examples available within Maryland, and elsewhere, to base their work and work product upon…such as the 44-year existence of Charter Government in Howard County, the Frederick CGB chose instead to copy and paste language from the Cecil County Charter document. Important facts to consider regarding this strategy:


  1. A forensic comparison between the Frederick CGB document and the Cecil County Charter document reveals the Frederick CGB work product is virtually a verbatim copy of the Cecil County document.


  1. The Cecil County Charter Government document, going into implementation only one month after Frederick County voters approved an identical Charter Government approach at the 2012 general election ballot box, is thread-bare on many issues regarding procedure and process of governance and had not been tested in the courts or through practical application.


  1. The Frederick County CGB traveled around the county, giving pro-Charter presentations, not by presenting their Charter Government work product, but instead presenting an abstract perspective, contrasting the difference between commissioner and Charter form of government. A Civics 101 power-point slide show with no meat on the bone regarding Frederick County specifically.


Legal Issues: Many citizens strongly believe the Frederick CGB used deceptive practices to market a new and sovereign form of Charter Government to the citizens of Frederick County.


It is important to note that the Frederick CGB, having copied and pasted text from the Cecil County Charter Government document, failed in their plagiarism to include a Table of Contents to the 25-page Executive Summary document. This may seem like a small oversight to some, but it is extraordinarily telling to many others. Several gaping holes in the plagiarized deliverable include, but are not limited to, the following:


Qualifications to Serve: The CGB Charter document does not stipulate any professional qualifications for County Executive or County Council candidates. At a minimum, as defined in Charter documents in other Maryland counties, demonstrated professional experience in Public Affairs and/or Public Administration should be a minimum requirement to enter a competitive election or to serve in office.


With an absence of professional qualifications, there is a plausible, if not probable, reality that one or more members of the new management team for Frederick County may not posses even the most basic and fundamental skills to manage a county government…knowledge of a Comprehensive Plan, Planning and Zoning, legislative packaging, budgeting, ability to read and understand spreadsheet data, etc.


Filling Vacancies: The Frederick County Charter document provides limited-to-no process and procedural steps regarding filling vacancies ahead of term expiration for the County Executive and/or County Council members.


Written correspondence with Maryland State political party officials reveal the Republican and Democratic State parties function as IRS Code 527, non-profit organizations. All Maryland County Central Committees function as subordinate organizations to their Maryland State political party parents, obligated by law to also operate within IRS Code 527, non-profit guidelines and directives.


The following partial transcript of written correspondence is provided for review and record.


From John Doe #1: [11/5/2012] Frederick County, Maryland, has a ballot question regarding Frederick County moving from a Commissioner form of government to a Charter form of government. In the Charter document, it is stipulated that if the County Executive leaves office (for any reason) prior to completing their term, the Central Committee of the presiding political party will be tasked with selecting a replacement County Executive.


In other words, if the County Executive is a Democrat, then the Frederick County State Democratic Central Committee would select the new County Executive.


Q: Does the Maryland Democratic Party bylaws, constitution, charter for Democratic Central Committees in the State of Maryland provide for a Democratic Central Committee to act as an adjunct component of county government?


Response By State Dem Compliance Officer: [11/5/2012] It is not part of the State Party by-laws.


The CGB document does not address a fundamental question and plausible scenario of what happens when the Executive is elected under one political party banner…changes party affiliation during their term in office…then resigns prior to completing their term.


Given that state political party officials stipulate county-level political central committees are not authorized to function as a component of county government decision making, the CGB document fails the legal litmus test on this one aspect, alone.


The Republican and Democratic Central Committees in Frederick County also bear a degree of culpability regarding the Charter hoax insofar as the leadership of each committee did not perform the requisite due diligence to ensure that language contained in the Charter document committing each Central Committee to function as an adjunct component of county government was in fact legal.


Had either committee’s leadership checked with their state party compliance officer (see Legal Issues above), they would have been duty bound to publicly demand the existing language in the charter document be removed.


The irony of this failure is that a member of the CGB, which constructed the charter document, is a practicing attorney, a member of one of the Frederick County central committees and is an officer in one of the state political party organizations.


However, there are numerous inconsistencies and outright omissions within the document on which a new and sovereign form of government for Frederick County will be implemented.


Challenging the Charter during 2013 would have provided a 50-50 or better chance to have the Charter’s 2012 election results struck down in the courts…forcing four more years of commissioner form of government and requiring the CGB to start over and get it right.


Summary: The window for legal action to stop this travesty has passed. But, following the 2014 elections a new window for legal action will open to challenge the merits, or rather demerits, of the thread-bare Charter delivered to the citizens of Frederick County.


Those who were given responsibility to create the framework for Frederick’s Charter form of government failed in every way possible and have nothing to be proud of. Those who could challenge the CGB work product did not take up the cause to right an obvious wrong. Frederick County is the lesser for both inactions.


References and Sources

Adopted Frederick County Charter_FredCo Govt Website
Cecil County Charter Document
Frederick County Charter Board Articles
Charter Meetings_April 2012,  Charter Meetings_May 2012
Charter Govt Background Report,  Charter Highlights,  Charter Overview
FredFiveCharterAnalysis,  Charter_Adopted_With Maps

Charter Education Coalition Palm Card,  June 2012 Charter Poll Results
Charter Board Overview and Purpose_FredCo Govt Website
Final Charter Board Minutes_FredCo Govt Website,  Final Charter Board Agenda_FredCo Govt Website
Charter Presentation_FredCo Govt Website,  Charter Highlights_FredCo Govt Website

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