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February 25, 2016

The Ethics of Snow Removal

Harry M. Covert

Sure seems like all the froo froo about ethics emanating from Frederick County’s Winchester Hall is truly a waste of time and chin wags. Creation of citizen commissions to involve themselves in non-existent violators and violations is merely make work and stall techniques.


Another group that should be abolished for the betterment of communities is the Frederick Historical Preservation Commission. Why should the latter have a legal right to say what’s historical or not? The County Council, or the city governmental structure, should have the final say in these matters. If there’s a squawk, let the Circuit Court rule.


For today’s conversation the ethics and historical bodies are worthless. Examining just how the current County Council operates, perhaps this body could or should be disbanded, too.


At the risk of troublemaking, writers of the county’s charter created a council body and county executive office. They could be charged with some form of malfeasance or misfunction. The winner of this deal is whoever becomes county executive – the Lord High Elk of all countywide matters, decisions, appointments and complete authority, in other words, a benevolent dictator.


The present county executive, Jan Gardner, won the election a year ago fair and square. Who can blame her for exercising the power and glory given to the office? Her political opposites are hung out to dry. Those elected to the County Council don’t have a chance at enacting anything and are merely at her mercy.


Whispers emanating from Winchester Hall are something. County employees and supervisors are prevented from talking with County Council members. Communications from or with minority members are either delayed or ignored. Imagine how citizen queries may be held in abeyance if their representatives are denied responses from staff? Discourteous, of course, and nothing can be done about it.


The Ethics Commission tool is bogus. Council members on the "wrong side” can face trivial or personal challenges.


The “froo froo” referred to at the beginning is something. Remember the battle whether Council Member Kirby Delauter’s company can bid on county contracts? It sure has been convenient. Councilman Delauter has been the ethics rule target. Never has his company been accused of any improper county construction. In fact, the quality of the firm’s work is praised. Let them build the schools.


The recent snow downfall made the county suffer. Snow removal was a gigantic problem? Numerous contractors always available for emergency service were overwhelmed. There weren’t enough shovels and plows to go around.


Any idea who was called and asked to pitch in? The councilman in question was contacted to pitch in. Yes, without fear of any ethical violation Her Worship, Ms. Gardner, under pressure from constituents to clear their streets, asked Councilman Delauter to use his company’s resources to make the county safe. He did and all was well, and, are you ready for this, was paid by county funds authorized and signed to pay by the county executive.


Ethics are undoubtedly in the eye of the beholder. All the silly debate over the past year regarding council members bidding on county contracts has been ugly and unkind. Doing business with the local government is neither improper nor unethical. Those in public office are considered to be of high moral and ethical character, unless and until proven otherwise. A citizens committee is unnecessary since there are legal entities ready willing and able to handle any miscreants.


Ms. Gardner used good executive sense trying to alleviate the snow problem. I think Mr. Delauter showed what a distinguished community leader he is by doing the job despite past and present disagreements at council’s public meetings, interfacing with the executive and her Winchester Hall minions.


If the new ethics code is enacted, Mr. Delauter, despite being asked to assist in any county project or crisis, could be charged with a violation of the new code. Makes little sense to me.

I borrowed the expression “chin wag” from across the Atlantic. It labels exactly the gabble that flows from County Council meetings. One good thing about watching the proceedings on television is the on-off button on the remote control.




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