The Silliness Continues in Frederick County Politics

George Wenschhof

It should not be surprising in today’s political environment to see the same absurd actions taking place at the local level that we see exhibited at the national level.

Two political factions in Frederick County who primarily hold opposing views on how to manage growth continue the back and forth pendulum swings on who wields power. This silliness has now existed for over the last two decades.

The change to charter government has done nothing to end the nonsense.

It is painfully apparent it would have made little difference who won the county executive or council races.  The result would be the same with these two groups visibly displaying their dislike for each other.

Since winning the executive race, Democrat Jan Gardner has been overreaching her authority taking actions to nullify or reverse what was done by the previous board of county commissioners led by Republican president Blaine Young.

Two holdovers, Republicans Billy Shreve and Kirby Delauter from the previous administration controlled by Blaine and Company are frustrated by the new control exercised by executive Gardner and her neutering of their power by arranging for their fellow Republican council member Bud Otis to be elected president of the council.

While being loyal to Gardner, a bumbling Otis has looked totally lost in the presidency role.

The latest cartoon playing at Winchester Hall has to do with ethics in government.

Republican Kirby Delauter, whose family owns a construction company has had a long standing flap with the ethics commission since first being elected commissioner in 2010.  His question has been: Can his family business bid on county projects?

Under the former board of county commissioners, the ethics commission first issued a negative opinion and after an appeal by Delauter, it was deemed it was okay for his firm to do business with the county.

Now, with a new form of government and Delauter serving as a council member, he requested a new opinion from the ethics commission.

The present day ethics commission, with a majority of it’s members appointed by the former board of commissioners led by Blaine and Company, issued an opinion allowing Delauter’s company to bid on county projects.

This opinion set off a firestorm among Gardner supporters who claimed foul and urged Gardner to take action.

Gardner responded by issuing an executive order which in effect nullified the ethics commission opinion. An action questionable under the new charter government.

After all, why have an ethics commission if the county executive will take action to nullify their opinion.

What followed was the resignation from the ethics commission of the members who voted for the opinion.

Supporters of Delauter countered by pointing out Democratic council members Jessica Fitzwater and Jerry Donald are teachers and as such should not be allowed to vote on the Board of Education budget.  In addition they point out Fitzwater serves on the board of directors of the Frederick County Teachers Association which lobbies Frederick County government.

Ironically, Gardner responded to those accusations at a press conference by using a previously issued ethics commission opinion that stated it was okay for teachers who also serve as elected officials to vote on the budget.

Throughout this spat over the last four plus years, there has never been any charges filed against Delauter of any wrong doing while serving in office.

All of this hullabalo has created much fodder for media and supporters of both political factions.

Instead of county elected leaders focusing on taking action to develop higher paying jobs, more affordable housing, and other important issues facing voters today, the focus by the county executive and some members of the county council has been on silly tit-for-tat politics.

It will be a long  three and a half years until the next election if Gardner and members of the council continue to spend time and energy on retaliatory measures. Another pendulum swing will also likely result in the next election.

Unfortunately, the losers in all of this blather are the residents of Frederick County.

What is needed in Frederick County and across the country is a change in the divisive and polarized politics of today. Politicians who exhibit common sense, reason and a cooperative spirit should prevail.

Maybe then voters would receive the effective government they deserve.

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