Time to Move On
The Christmas cookies have been consumed, the jolly old man is comfortably back at his workshop at the North Pole, and the world braces for the unknown – both good and bad – that awaits us in the New Year.
For many of us, the holidays are a time to reflect on the past year, before hiking up our britches and moving on.
Not so for our local elected officials, it would seem.
As a sort of holiday present left for incoming County Executive Jan Gardner, outgoing County Commissioner Blaine Young arranged his own appointment on the county’s Planning Commission.
Of course, it was handled in such a way as to seem spontaneous, but there was little to no spontaneity here. By strategically communicating both interest, opportunity and availability in advance to now former Commissioner Paul Smith, Mr. Young was able to arrange a simultaneous resignation as an ex-offico planning commissioner while accepting an appointment as a citizen member, all while serving as president of the Board of County Commissioners.
Armed with a confusing legal opinion offered by County Attorney John Mathias, one that seemed to both allow and question the action (something only a trained lawyer could possibly do), Mr. Young and Mr. Smith pulled off the old switcheroo. Commissioners (soon to be Councilmen) Kirby Delauter and Billy Shreve dutifully followed the will of their colleagues and enthusiastically supported the motion.
To say that Commissioner David Gray seemed confused is both obvious and redundant.
I remember thinking how both creative and spiteful this maneuver seemed at the time. The confusing opinion cited by Attorney Mathias and my own limited understanding of the powers of appointment seemed to allow this action. Therefore, it appeared as if Executive Gardner was looking at four years of her most vocal protagonist in a position to cast votes to ensure his legacy, or at least to make those arguments in a public forum.
It appears that she had her own trick up her sleeve, and her trick happened to be the same trick Mr. Young employed.
In a fairly complicated legal reversal, Attorney Mathias, now employed by Mrs. Gardner, offered her an opinion that pointed out the flaws in Mr. Young's actions.
Yes, it seems almost laughable in a sad, pathetic way.
Given that Executive Gardner would rather have Adolf Hitler serve on her planning commission than Blaine Young, there's no doubt she'd take any action to rid the Winchester Hall dais of any trace of her predecessor.
I'm sure – if she could – she'd remove his photo, too.
As he was leaving county government, when asked about his planning commission spot, Mr. Young suggested he'd see Executive Gardner in court to protect his appointment.
The latest twist is that Jan Gardner has now sought and obtained a non-binding legal opinion from Maryland Attorney General Douglas Gansler confirming the view that the whole appointment process was invalid. To Mr. Gansler, and now in Mrs. Gardner's eyes, it's as if the Young appointment never took place, as it lacked the power of law to be fully effective.
No doubt the county executive will now appoint an additional citizen member, likely someone who will represent her point of view. She'll also inform Mr. Young that his services are no longer required, given that her executive opinion (backed by both Attorney Mathias and Attorney General Gansler) is that he was not duly appointed in the first place.
What happens next is anyone's guess.
Does Blaine Young show up and take his seat at a Planning Commission meeting? Does Ms. Gardner deploy the county building security to stop him? Will the Sheriff's Office be asked to provide additional security? Will Mr. Young be led from 12 East Church Street, shouting his indignation at the outrageous imperial government?
Will Executive Gardner replace Mr. Young with the likes of former Commissioners Lennie Thompson or Kai Hagen, both vocal campaign supporters and development opponents? Will Blaine Young seek judicial intervention to fulfill what he believes to be a valid appointment?
The answers to these and other mysteries will have to be answered by the players in this little political drama. As a reviewer and critic, all this writer can hope is that the play ends soon.
At the end of the day, two competing views fought a hotly contested political race. The voting public had every opportunity to choose, and choose they did.
Now, it's time to move on.