Ethics Squabble Illustrates Political Divide in Frederick County

Mills Custom Wood Floors

George Wenschhof

The opinion issued by the Frederick County Ethics Commission allowing the firm owned by Republican council member Kirby Delauter to bid on county projects has caught the ire of Democratic Frederick county executive Jan Gardner.

In a hastily crafted letter co-signed by executive Jan Gardner and council president Bud Otis(R), they state “We will take immediate action to remedy this situation through Legislation and Executive Order.”

However there is first a question as to whether Gardner can use an executive order to nullify The Ethics Commission opinion.

Secondly, council president Bud Otis signed the letter in an official capacity without the issue coming before the council for a vote.

Delauter and fellow Frederick council member Billy Shreve(R) are holdovers from the former board of county commissioners (BoCC) led by Republican Blaine Young.  Young was defeated by Gardner in the county executive election last year.

The change to charter government has done little to end the political divide between two political factions whose primary difference over the last couple of decades has been on how to handle growth.

In the last administration of a board of county commissioner form of government, Blaine Young and Company would add goals of the privatization of government services and less money for education to their mantra.

In the county executive race, Gardner highlighted ethics as an issue in her campaign and upon winning, she appointed with much aplomb, a committee to recommend a new ethics ordinance for the county.

The primary reasons for her push to highlight ethics was former commissioner and current council member Kirby Delauter being allowed to have his company bid on county projects and a myriad of questions swirling around the actions taken by former Republican president of the BoCC Blaine Young.

Of course, supporters of the other faction point out that newly elected Democratic council members Jerry Donald and Jessica Fitzwater work as Teachers in the Frederick County school system.  In addition, Fitzwater sits on the board of directors of The Frederick County Teachers Association.  This leads to ethical questions pertaining to their voting on the board of education budget, an amount that is nearly half of the total county budget.

These tit-for-tat squabbles are an ongoing battle between the two factions who hold substantial differing opinions on growth.

Gardner moved swiftly after her election to obtain majority support from the council when she persuaded the three Democratic council members to support Republican Bud Otis for president against Republican Billy Shreve.

This has left Republican council members Billy Shreve, Kirby Delauter and Tony Chmelik on the short end of votes.

This was reminiscent of two terms ago when her infamous “Dream Team” comprised of fellow Democrat Kai Hagen along with Republicans David Gray and John “Lennie” Thompson ran and won.

After that election, she had the newly elected board vote to change the requirements of how the president of the BoCC was determined to allow her to claim the presidency.

Never questioned was what gave the newly elected board the authority to change the requirement pertaining to themselves.

Typically, the presiding board can take actions, such as an increase in salary that will take place in the following elected board, meaning they would need to be reelected to benefit.

Growing pains in the implementation of the new charter government have been evident ever since the swearing in of the newly elected officials.

Whether Gardner can take executive action in regard to this recent ethics opinion or whether Otis acted properly by co-signing the letter with Jan without him taking the issue before the council for a vote are just the latest examples of the growing pains.

In this case of a firm being owned by council member Delauter, being allowed to bid on county projects, the opinion issued by The Ethics Commission looks and smells bad to voters. If something smells bad to voters, it is typically wrong.

Council president Bud Otis should take this issue to the council and obtain legal advice on the proper manner to proceed to take action to reverse the ill advised opinion issued by The Ethics Commission.

Hopefully, the committee appointed by Gardner to update the county ethics ordinance will also conclude their effort soon.

Stay tuned.

Facebook Comments

Related posts

%d bloggers like this: