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| Guest Columnist | Harry M. Covert | Jason Miller | Ken Kellar | Patricia A. Kelly | Cindy A. Rose |


As Long as We Remember...

May 21, 2015

An Absence of Crime and Corruption

Harry M. Covert

The drum beat goes on. Crime and corruption is pervasive in Maryland’s largest county. Listening to the Frederick County executive this week was alarming.

Using the words crime, corruption and throwing in transparency so often did bring about an excitement.

Such language before a “press conference,” I thought would have included big time reporters from Baltimore, Washington and Hagerstown. It seemed like the state’s attorney, the county sheriff, state police and even the FBI might be waiting in the wings to slap the cuffs on a couple of elected leaders.

How delusional. How silly. There was a reporter from the local paper. Except for the County Council president, the press conference was empty. It was somewhat embarrassing to hear Executive Jan Gardner and President Bud Otis offer to answer media queries. There was only one query. Nothing new.

It has been intriguing to hear about crime and corruption in Frederick. But, no first-hand information, no criminal warrants, no charges of misfeasance or malfeasance. Just talk. My Lord, the campaign has been over for months.

What brought about the Tuesday press conference was an Ethics Commission decision. The commission, duly authorized and proper, dared to decide that an elected council member could bid on county contracts. This doesn’t mean the member’s company would get the contract, but merely could submit a sealed bid along with other companies.

Almost before the ink was dry on newspaper pages and read on the website, the executive, with endorsement of the council president, determined to nullify the bonafide Ethics Commission ruling in a heavy-handed way.

Several other questions come to mind here that ought to be considered for ethics. Can school teachers elected to the council still vote or lobby for teachers pay and the school budget?

Yes, the Board of Education formulates its budget and how to spend its funds. But, it is the County Council that appropriates the money; gives them taxpayer funds.

From this quarter, Board of Education employees should not be allowed to be elected to the County Council. That’s another story though.

Not for one second do I think the councilman in question is dishonest. Nor has there been any evidence that any elected official has been proven unfit for duty.

The impression coming from the executive and her minions is that crime and corruption is rampant. What a disservice, not only to her political opponents, but to the people of the county.

A few weeks ago a longtime county political activist jumped on the Republican president of the council during a public meeting televised on the county system. She publicly called out Bud Otis for not being faithful to his political promises. Mary Posey, of Myersville, did not waste words and presented evidence from Mr. Otis’ own campaign pledges. It was uncomfortable to see the facts and the squirming.

Executive Gardner has no qualms about maligning opponents. Her first executive order destroys the opinion of an honorable commission. In fact, Councilman Kirby Delauter, of Thurmont, asked for the ethics ruling. Could his company bid on county projects? Such bidding is proper under state law.

The Ethics Commission job is merely to interpret and not to enforce or issue contracts.

In announcing the executive’s press conference to vacate the ethics process, the words read to “insure open and honest government and address fairness in the procurement process.”

Why are such recriminations continuing in the county government?

Ms. Gardner’s leadership must now be questioned. Also, Council President Otis has become what some are calling a toady to the executive. County attorneys dance around the issue that the Executive Order is not legal and proper.

Also, in a dispute between council members and the executive, who represents them both at the same time? According to insiders the county legal staff is “either leaving, getting terminated or just scared.” The county attorney didn’t know the answer in reply to a councilman.

The new charter government is not a happy family. There is no question that this fight over the ethics decision and the Delauter request comes from Mrs. Gardner’s dislike and disdain for the councilman; also from her loathing of any and all decisions made by the previous Board of County Commissioners.

There is no crime, corruption or lack of transparency in Frederick County. Use of such language is continually wrong, untoward and will come home eventually.

If criminal activity is ongoing investigators from the state and federal government will flood Winchester Hall. They would not be hugging .suspects.


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