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December 6, 2016

Frederick County’s Leadership Scramble

Harry M. Covert

All eyes throughout Frederick County today will be on Winchester Hall, headquarters of the county’s council. It won’t be surprising that the lawmakers’ own cable television channel will have a nice big viewership.


This afternoon the seven-member group of the Charter government will officially re-organize leadership. The county executive probably won’t attend. In reality she doesn’t have to do so, as her position is shielded from activities of the elected council. That’s a mighty good deal for a leader of a governing body.


There’s been lots of talk that the council’s president could be replaced by the Vice President M.C. Keegan-Ayer for the next two-years. That sounds good and some political watchers would like it.


President Harold “Bud” Otis is not popular to say the least. The former Republican has held the job since the new council was sworn in. He shocked the county political world by siding with the three Democrat members. He could have voted with his former colleagues Kirby Delauter, Billy Shreve and Tony Chmelik. He didn’t, and the Republican Central Committee has been furious. Bud resigned from the party before being drummed out of the GOP.


For the price of the title and other supposed perks, Mr. Otis sold his political soul.


Member Keegan-Ayer, a Democrat, has received good marks as vice president. She would like to take over as president. The reason: She “is tired of babysitting and covering for him." I have the facts.


Life as elected County Council members has not been pleasant for either political side, most assuredly the conservative Republicans. Kirby Delauter, Billy Shreve and Tony Chmelik are routinely ignored in their participation where their suggestions are voted down or suggestions stymied, mostly by Mr. Otis, and then their opposites. They can’t even talk to staff.


According to insiders Member Keegan-Ayer “does it all” and Bud Otis “can’t prepare or run a meeting.” If she can’t make a meeting, it’s canceled by the president, even when there’s a quorum present.


Citizens in attendance at the Winchester Hall meetings, and those watching on cable or on their computer, always see the vice president whispering in his ear throughout the sessions.


According to my investigation, Mr. Otis will, in all likelihood, get the job again even though Ms. Keegan-Ayer would be more efficient and proper. The thinking is this: “MC has figured out that why would she prep and run everything and take the heat for mistakes . . . when she can prep and run everything and let Bud take the heat?” Makes sense.


The president does have his eyes on the county executive post when that battle arrives. Wagers are he’s living in a dream world. At present, Jan Gardner is in command. No one in the loyal opposition will support Bud Otis. There are several people who’d like to challenge The Executive. That will be fun to watch.


Back to this afternoon proceedings. When the nominations are opened, Mr. Delauter will likely nominate Mr. Shreve and that will fail by a 4-3 vote. Then Mr. Chmelik’s nomination will get another 4-3 losing vote.


Here’ how the presidency vote develops: someone will nominate Bud, probably MC Keegan-Ayer, and Mr. O will be confirmed for two more years “of idiocy on parade,” 4-3.


The vitriol toward to council president has increased. A constant and informative citizen emailed members. Here are excerpts:


“I suspect the majority of you will vote tomorrow for Bud Otis as council president out of fear that if you remove him, he might start voting with the Republicans for a change.


“I am certain anyone other than Bud could run the meetings just fine. He makes all of you look bad. For all that MC Keegan-Ayer has done to cover for his lack of leadership. I think she should be president of the council. Of course, I'd love to see one of the Republicans as council president but that will never happen. At least with Keegan- Ayer as council president, we'd have no more painful meetings. Folks have grown weary watching Bud stumble over his words and looking to MC for guidance. I may not agree with CM Keegan-Ayer on anything, but I do believe she deserves more than the role she has inherited as his dais babysitter.”


Another insider says, “Bud does drive a hard bargain, he did manage to extract the front parking spot (at Winchester Hall) from (Executive) Jan (Gardner).”


Let’s promote the show. On Comcast, citizens can turn to Cable Channel 19 for FCG-TV at 4:30 and listen with open ears and mouths agape.


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