The Genesis of a Relationship
As you are probably aware, the buzz in Frederick County is about ethics. As it currently stands Frederick County has the same ethics laws as the state of Maryland.
As an elected official, I requested an ethics opinion as to whether or not I could bid on county (CIP) capital improvement projects. These are the same type of projects my company has performed during our 60 years in business.
As a county commissioner (elected in 2010), I asked the same question and was not only denied bidding on CIP work, The Ethics Commission denied me the ability to bid on any and all work in the county, even private work. I appealed and won that decision only to have Jan Gardner, then a former president of the Board of County Commissioners, organize a closed door meeting with Karl Bickel, a former chief deputy in the Frederick County Sheriff’s Department, and several others who were then on the ethics board.
The Ethics Commission issued a revised (third) opinion without giving me due process or contacting me or my counsel. This opinion stated again that I could not do any work in Frederick County.
I appealed again and won the appeal for the third time.
A fourth complaint against my company was filed by John Helms, another Jan Gardner supporter. I had the fourth hearing, this time regarding Mr. Helm’s bogus claims. I won that hearing as well, which meant I could do business in Frederick County while serving as a county commissioner.
As a side note, both Karl Bickel and John Helms now serve on County Executive Jan Gardner’s ethic task force. Imagine that.
This brings us 2015 where I requested that the Ethics Commission issue an opinion on whether or not I could do CIP work with the county as a county councilman. This council position is different from the former commissioner position in that as a commissioner I had both legislative and executive authority. As a councilman, I only have legislative authority. Therefore I wanted a new opinion based on my new role as councilman.
The ethics panel issued a very lengthy opinion that stated I could, in fact, do business with the county with no violation of the ethics code.
No sooner did the independent ethics board issue this ruling than County Executive Gardner, along with Council President Bud Otis, stepped in and issued an Executive Order overriding the Ethics Commission’s decision to allow my company to work on the county-paid projects. So much for Ms. Gardner’s “open and transparent government, where everyone can be part of the process.” The only people she wants as part of the process are people that agree with her.
As for Mr. Otis, what a sorry disappointment he has been. I supported him during the election. He’s asked me to help him with certain things soon after we were elected, things like permitting, reviews by internal audit, fleet services, etc. In every case he asked for my help, I gave it.
It’s very disappointing to have this executive order come down with no notice, no meeting, and with Council President Otis backing it, without the courtesy of a phone call to me or any discussion whatsoever beforehand. What a coward we have in Mr. Otis. What a lap dog for the County Executive Gardner. His lack of leadership is the only consistent thing about Bud Otis. He is consistently bad at leading this council.
As I’ve said many times, I will continue to do what I said I would do: expose tax and spend policies, watch out for your tax money, and serve you honorably and with conviction.
Once you get through the smoke and mirrors of the Jan Gardner and Bud Otis sideshow, soon enough you will see who is a businessman/politician, and who the politician’s politician are. One looks out for others, the others look out for their own best interest.