President Lockhart: How Do We Fix This? Do You Want the Friends to Give the Money Back?

News Brief —-

In a well-attended Tuesday workshop, with print media outlets present and video cameras rolling, the County Commissioners examined questions about how a group was handed a BRAC bus tour that raised money for a political campaign.  Commissioner Hodge opened by saying we’re here “to put everything on the table as a matter of transparency” about questions centering around Economic Development’s connection with this event. 

This is the first time a statement has been made as nearly four weeks went by and questions grew more tangled, while the matter escalated in county government.  Concerns grew more confused after the county said it had no connections with tours and said there were no contacts for additional information at the federal or state level to help sort it out.

In a prepared statement read by the director of economic development, Vernon Thompson, he said when it was clear the chamber couldn’t handle the tour Erika, the BRAC marketing coordinator, approached him. She’d have to find a volunteer so she talked to Joyce Bowlsbey, he continued.   That ended the director’s involvement, as well as the involvement of Economic Development.  “We were never in a position to pick and choose,” the director added.

From the Firends of Charter perspective, Joyce Bowlsbey added:  “Friends of charter was never an issue or a point of discussion. . . .  I chose Friends of Charter to be the recipient” of the profits the tour made.       

After questions ebbed and flowed about literature saying Economic Development was the contact point, how much county employee support was involved and whether the Friends were a political group, President Lockhart started wrapping things up.  “Senator how do we fix it. It’s already done, do you want Friends of Charter to give the money back.  I think we want to fix the problem.” 

Senator Pipkin responded, “The commissioners need to be aware of when orders are given by the county.  That’s a breakdown in communications, if the department head doesn’t feel it’s important that an employee is out there spending resources.  As for whether the money should come back that’s a legal question.  Other people will decide whether that happens.  It is more than a causal gee shucks we weren’t involved.  How can someone say we’re not in the tour business, yet the web site says you’re in the tour business?  You can sit there and say you’re not in the business but it looks like you’re in the business and to make a profit out of that and hand it to a political group is worthy of a discussion about the use of county employees and county assets.” 

“There’s nothing the commissioners can do today?” President Lockhart responded.  “We want you to leave here today happy.  What can we do today to make you happy?”  To that Senator Ppkin continued:  “At the end of the day, why didn’t the commissioners know?  Why didn’t the department head? Why did a private citizen have a right to decide?  Is this indicative of what charter government is going to be all about?”    

Commissioner Hodge added his conclusion:  “I think Senator Pipkin’s points are well taken.  Things could have been done different.  I wish they were done differently.”

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29 responses to “President Lockhart: How Do We Fix This? Do You Want the Friends to Give the Money Back?

  1. “To that Senator Ppkin remarked: “At the end of the day, why didn’t the commissioners know? Why didn’t the department head? Why did a private citizen have a right to decide? Is this indicative of what charter government is going to be all about.” ”

    Oh Yes, Smipkin, take it from a ballet issue committee and turn it into your trash talk, anti-charter agenda.

    If having Smipkin in control is so good for us, they have all the answers, and with charter we miss their all knowing-all powerful oversight…then I have these questions to you.

    Why didn’t you know and do something under your watch?
    Why did it take you so long to notice?
    Where were you and what were were you doing when all of this happened?
    Is this the government the citizens of Cecil County are receiving from the Annapolis-Controlled Commissioner form of government?

    Before you point blame, perhaps you should take responsibility.

    • Raoul, You amaze me with your postings. If Senator Pipkin had taken responsibility you would have been the first posting to say he was inferring . To keep his nose out of county business. Now when he comes forward you attack. You are a perfect example of ___if you do, and __ if you don’t.

  2. Congratulations, Mike for your persistance and patience in weeding this story out. Excellent journalism… for a rookie!!

  3. You always want to say you are such a good reporter. YTou better start checking your sources. I read the Cecil Whig today and I don’t think you tand Cheryl were at the same meeting. Cheryl would have told us about this if it happened. She’s a trusted reporter around here and hasn’t just jumped into covering the county unprepared, like you. Someone Noticed better start noticing and paying more careful attention. That’s what I think and get better prepared before you’ go jumping into county businees. You need to be aware of what is going on around you. This isnt’ an Elkton town meeting.

    • Joe:

      We’ve reviewed our article and it provides a fair summary of what happened. There were a few basic questions about how a BRAC bus tour became a political fundraiser. From the stanpdoint of Economic Development, they said they didn’t hand it off to a political group, but gave it to a private citizen, Joyce Bowlsbey. Joyce said she was the one that gave it to the Friends of Cecil County Charter so they could raise money for their political campaign. She reemphasized that Economic Development had nothing to do with selecting the political group, she did that as a private citizen, once the dept handed it over to her.

      Beyond that, the questions went back and forth about how involved county employees were in coordinating and supporting the tours, as things like in-kind county support for marketing, handling registration, and tour support were disputed. Those considerations reached the level of debating whether the Friends of Charter were political group as it campaigns to get people to vote yes for charter at the polls on Nov. 2nd.

      Toward the end, once the core points about the hand-off and support had been argued, President Lockhart asked Senator Pipkin about how to fix the problem. If the county had the Friends of Charter return the money, would that resolve the problem and end the investigation he asked. Joyce jumped in on that saying “We don’t have it.” (By that, she was probably saying the money was already spent or committed on obligations related to the media campaign.) The senator said questions about an investigation were out of the hands of everyone in the room.

      Later President Lockhart once again returned to the question of how to fix it a second time. Obviously we can’t go back so is there some way we can fix or undo this, he inquired another time. So the Senator and the President exchanged more remarks about how to straighten the controversial decision out.

      Commissioner Hodge followed President Lockharts remarks with his own take on things by saying the “senator’s points are well taken. I wish things were done differently. They should have been done differently.”

      I can’t explain why the Whig didn’t mention those remarks. You should call them for that public conversation about methods to resolve the confusing, controversial matter clearly occurred. We’ll stand by our reporting on that element.

      Whatever the commissioners statements about “undoing it,” there were plenty of unsettled/disputed points. Perhaps the most central was Economic Development saying it didn’t hand it to a political group as they turned the tour over to a volunteer. She then selected the political group, allowing them to decide, independent of county government, that it was going to be a fundraiser for a political campaign. We want to make sure we clearly point that out.

      BTW, plenty of cameras were rolling, so we’ll see if we can get some video about the disputed aspects of the coverage. Video is making its way around social media sites. Although we didn’t have a camera joining at least two others, we have audio we could share. But how about if we see if we can get you some video so you can see it without reporters trying to tell you what happened as it is already popping up.

      The Whig had a professional videographer there covering the full meeting. Perhaps the newspaper could share the full thing so everyone could see exactly what happened. No sense having the reporters filtering what we should know. Much better to just let people watch what happened so they can come to their own conclusions.

      Anyway Joe, this isn’t to say that lots of points weren’t disputed by Economic Development, for they were. But those are the statements from two members of the political leadership. Others made other points, but rather than get way down into the details, we’ll start working on that video. That way you can watch and decide.

      Diane Broomell would’ve been pleased to see so many cameras rolling at a county meeting. Seems to be a good idea to us to figure out how to start streaming those meetings. It won’t cost much. Might be able to get some group intersted in good government to volunteer to do it and save the taxpayers some money.

    • Joe, If you want one sided , half truth read the Cecil Whig. If you want honest, fair, factual print read Someone Noticed. Ofcourse you might try going in person. Outstanding reporting Mr. Dixon .Thank You

    • OK Beale, Joe, Roual,Abbott, Cecil Whig, Cecil Times You want to see the real facts go to Delegate Smigiel’s offical Blog right now. This will show you exactly what happened. And you will see and hear what the Cecil Whig did not print. Notice the man with the camera in the back he was from the Cecil Whig so they already new the truth and didn’t print it.

  4. Seems as though lots of people at the meeting were armed with voice recorders. Interesting side conversations could be revealed. I understand that Smigiel was accompanied by his Chief of Staff/Videographer Andi Moroney. Seems to be his latest intimidation ploy. Or is he planning a documentary?

  5. Beale, “Intimidation ploy”? NO. A way to show readers what really took place. YES. Your postings are always misleading, crude, and rude. Now with the video readers will see and hear for themselves.

  6. Dear Bob … I mean, “Howard”:

    You’ve known me long enough to be able to spell my name correctly by now.
    Additionally, if you would like to see the video you can see it at http://www.delegatemike.com

    Andi

  7. Bee…What happened to your vow against posting? I am hurt that you would say bad things about my posts. Perhaps because I don’t agree with you? I pride myself on being polite, even to those who are impolite. Will the readers see and hear my postings for themselves? What about the documentary? You seem like the leader of the SMIPKIN cheerleader squad. Please bring your pom-poms next time.

    • Beale, I did not vow anything. I simply stated I was tired of doing battle with you. Am I for Smigiel and Pipkin YOU BET.The documentary is on Delegate Smigiel’s Official Blog right now.I will bring my Pom Pom’s when you learn how to spell Smigiel and Pipkin.

  8. Mike Dixon… I saw your edit of the meeting. You should change from Someone Noticed to Pimping for Pipkin.

    • Howard as you will see in the article this clip was designed to show why we reported what we did after we had inquries about that. See what joe wrote. It was never presented as the full piece. We don’t have the video. Call the Whig.

      • Allright I am able to say it. I was wrong. The commissioners did ask about giving the money back. After reading the Cecil Whig I thought you two went to different meetings. They was such a difference in what you two wrote. I’m surprised Cheryl didn’t mention it. She is good at covering the county and didn’t just jump in covering politics unprepared. Sorry if I caused those others to get excited. I watched the Whig’s video so the one you put up suprised me. Just goes to show you how things are going with papers these days.

        • No problem Joe. It did seem unusual that the Whig decided that it wasn’t part of what happened and we now have dueling video clips. About the only way to get the unfiltered story as this shows is to watch it directly. Call the Whig and encourage them to share the entire recording.

      • Howard:
        Ref my 4:52 p.m. answer, I was working from a smart-phone at the other end of the Peninsula, so the response was quick. Now that I’m in front of a regular keyboared, I will include more details.

        You will notice that we said we were sharing a specific clip in order to answer questions about whether the comments we included in our news piece from Commssioners Lockhart & Hodge were accurate since the Cecil Whig decided that aspect wasn’t part of the story.

        Considering that we were just posting a new brief, our approach to the story was to introduce the reason for the meeting, provide some basic background and give the readers some idea of the discussion that occurred there. Then when Commissioner Lockhart started suggeting methods to resovle the matter, surely that had to be a part of the story.

        Some basics were finally reported in public for the first time, such as economic development gave it to a volunteer but the volunteer was the one that decided to turn over to a political group to use as a fundraiser. That seemed to be accepted by everyone, but that raised lots more questions and there was plenty of disagreement after that. We made sure we indicated that there was much debate on the points beyond those basic, agreed upon facts.

        At the end though when President Lockhart twice tried to reach a conclusion, and at one point asked if returning the money would put it to an end, we saw that as part of the core news-piece. Surely he thought there was some reason for the county’s elected political leadership to make such statements and that’s why we included it as it was central to the story as he tired to create some resolution on the matter.

        Commissioner Hodge was another one. He opened the meeting with one set of statements, that seemed to be more in line with statements published on a blog days before the meeting, but then he too closed the meeting with a different cluster of statements about how the points were understood and he wished things were done differently.

        Thus since that aspect of the coverage was questioned, the quickest and best way to settle the matter for the readers worried about the facts, was to share the clip. It was something they could watch and make the own determination about whether those statements were included in the meeting. As for why the Whig didn’t see this as even a minor part of a news story as they presened it, we can’t say. Perhaps a call to the newspaper would be the best way to figure that out.

        Howard, the video was one piece, that as we wrote in introducing it, was intended to document for readers that one aspect of the meeting that some questioned whether it occurred.

  9. Bee & Howard, you’ve both made your points about what was or wasn’t going to be posted after remark at some point earlier in time. Got it. So we’ll ask that you move on with other matters, if there are any news ones to be expressed. Thanks

    • Please post the entire Andi/Bee recording of the meeting in the interest of transparency/honesty.

      • Howard we agree that the sharing of the entire video would be a good thing. Did you call the Whig about that after the paper showed its selected clips. We highlighted the last piece after Joe protested about what we said happened. Thus we displayed the video clip. The Whig had a.prof. video operation there recording all of it including audio. Shouldn’t be hard to let everyone watch it all rather than the Whig selected clip

      • Howard

        When the first edited video appeared on the Whig site, with selected out-takes the daily newspaper decided to share, we didn’t see any noise about that. But now over 48-hours later, look out. I guess that has something to do with the one Someone Noticed selected as it supports why we said President Lockhart clearly tried to put solutions on the table to fix the problem (wouldn’t want that shared, is that it?)

        Think if associated parties put this much energy into just getting the answers out there in the first few days and then quickly putting the story to rest so the debate about the pros and cons of charter could begin! But no that’s not the way it was handled, it has to escalate in county government for 4 weeks. During that time as we neared an election, it grew more tangled as the county provided responses that required much more understanding (we weren’t in a position to give a bus tour to anyone & there’s no correspondence to examine) and then tried to ignore it. It now appears we’ll keep it swirling around until after election day.

        Howard you must’ve noticed at the commissioners meeting that the Whig had a professional videographer there, with headphones, tripod and all the sound and recording equipment one needed to professionally document the happening. Perhaps since the daily paper went to such trouble and there’s now more added noise about selected and or favored clips being posted by each side, it would be a great service for the daily newspaper to share the full recording on its web site, rather than the segments it selected.

        That would settle the latest disputes about what happened at the meeting. Besides it is the next transformation that is happening in media. A few years ago, the new thing was the social networking and blogs. Now these cheap camcorders are starting to get used by professional news types, as well as non-professionals, who will share the rest of the story when legacy media doesn’t.

        That’s just the way it is. There are draw-backs to any change, but there are advantages too. Just look at this matter about whether President Lockhart said can we give the money back and Commissioner Hodge said he wished things had been done differently. Viewers can watch the statements being made.

        Oh it also appeared the county had a stenographer there.

        We didn’t record a video piece, but we think we’re going to have to start doing that. We had an audio recorder that we use to get the quotes right.

        We’d strongly suggest you call the Whig and urge them to share their work so everyone can see without the filters of writers telling them what happened.

        We’ll still stand woth our news brief as a summary report of the meeting and we believe it is fair and balanced.

        BTW, Diana Broomell, considering her advocacy for recording the meetings, would have been pleased to see all those cameras rolling. Think of that, too, if the meetings were recorded and streamed by local government, as many are now doing. We could’ve all watched it by now, leaving the dispute about campaign financing behind, as we got on with the pros and cons of the ballot question.

    • Mr Mike, I agree. Howard Beale or Bob Amanto which ever he might be makes me see red when I read his postings. My apology and thank you.

      • I can’t speak for Howard Beale/ Bob Amanto, but SMIPKIN could clarify issues.

      • I would like to apologize to Mike Dixon for my intemperate and uncalled for remark alluding to a pro-Pipkin bias on his part. I took Bee’s advice and visited the Smigiel blog hoping to see the complete recording of the meeting. As expected, I saw a series of self serving clips. I found the one on the subject of use of the county seal amusing. A piece of advertising for the SMIPKIN “Fiscal Conservative Team” includes an image of the “team” posing in front of a Maryland State Legislature seal. Doesn’t this imply endorsement by the State of Maryland ? This is pertinent to the discussion since use of the county seal was one of the issues raised by Smigiel in his letter and in the meeting.

    • Would Smigiel or Pipkin themselves care to comment?

  10. I’ve seen a lot of posts that Friends of Charter is a political group. Which one do they belong too? Its not a political group is a Ballot question.

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