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March 31, 2016

A General Assembly Personal and Vindictive Foul

Guest Columnist

Charles Jenkins


It’s March Madness time again...but I’m not talking about basketball. Every year when the General Assembly convenes for its 90-day session between 2,500 and 3,000 pieces of legislation are proposed. Most of them die on the cutting room floor – fortunately.


There is good reason the annual legislative session is referred to as the silly season.


One of the more silly and insulting proposals this year comes from Delegate Bill Folden (R., 3B Frederick). You would think someone drawing an annual $50,000 delegate’s salary, a pension as a retired sheriff’s deputy and an active City of Frederick police officer, would be able to let go of his personal vendetta against Sheriff Chuck Jenkins, but it seems he can’t and won’t.


Delegate Folden has proposed adding the county executive as an allowable attendee to the negotiating table with the sheriff and the union representing employees of his department. He calls it simply a ministerial action as a result of the county adopting charter government.


If this were simply the case, then why single-out the Sheriff’s Department? Why doesn’t Delegate Folden’s bill also allow the county executive to sit in on the teachers’ union and firefighters’ union negotiations?


The short answer is Delegate Folden didn’t lose an election to members of those groups.


Make no mistake about it, Delegate Folden’s legislation is personal. County Executive Jan Gardner has more than enough on her plate, and she should have had the good sense to tell Mr. Folden and the other members of the delegation “no thank you.” That Ms. Gardner supported this proposal is a clear lack of judgment on her part.


Generally speaking, delegation bills are shown what is called local courtesy. This means most other members of the General Assembly will support a delegation measure in exchange for support of their proposals. While it is no longer the purview of Secretaries David Brinkley and Kelly Schulz (former members of the Senate and House), it would be good of them to advise Gov. Larry Hogan to veto this bill if it makes it out of both chambers – which I fully expect to happen.


Instead of labeling this HB1556/SB1128, it should be renamed simply Folden’s Folly in his honor.


Sheriff Jenkins in all likelihood has at best one more campaign in him. It would be delicious irony if that campaign was for county executive instead of re-election. Sheriff Jenkins has been a true public servant, a stalwart in his management of the Sheriff’s Department’s $40M plus budget through the years, and has earned the public’s trust. Sheriff Jenkins vs. Jan Gardner in 2018 – now that could be quite the Cinderella story.


It seems many of our delegation members, with absolutely no knowledge or experience in putting together a budget, or in casting a vote that will ever matter, want to micro-manage the operations of the county. Several two-faced members actively supported the move to charter, giving the county more autonomy over state interference – hypocrites much?


Shame on Bill Folden, Michael Hough, Kathy Afzali and the others in our delegation who seem hell bent on undermining Sheriff Jenkins’s credibility with their bush-league bullying tactics.


[Editor’s Note: The writer is a former county commissioner and delegate. He is not related to the sheriff of Frederick County – Chuck Jenkins.]


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