Starting This Week, Listen to County Workshops Online: Thanks Commissioner Broomell for the Open Govt Advocacy & President Mullin for Flipping That Switch

Commentary

Starting this week the county is taking a positive and helpful step toward creating greater transparency as it conducts public business.  Meeting audio of workskhops is going to be streamed on the net, thanks to President Mullin’s order to flip the switch on the audio-recorder and Commissioner Broomell’s push for opening up the meetings.  Without Commissioner Broomell’s continued advocacy in this area, beginning back when she was campaigning, we probably wouldn’t be able to hear county workshops anytime soon. 

Those workshops are some of the most important for people to monitor.  That’s where the give and take discussions occur and once they’ve ironed out a solution they bring it to the formal meeting, to have the decision officially entered into the record.  Of course there are times those things go off script in the main meeting, but that’s not common.

Beginning Tuesday any interested party will be able to listen in as the meetings are going to be recorded and streamed soon thereafter on the Net. 

We always thought it was important to create some sort of electronic recording of those workshops, but last week’s meeting  cemented that belief for us.  The commissioners came out of a closed-door session with Penn National where, according to their statement, they were meeting with “a business or industrial organization to locate, expand, or remain in the state.”  But as soon as the doors were again opened to the public, the discussion wasn’t about trying to get a corporation to stay, expand, or whatever, it was about reimbursing the corporation for previously agreed to expenses.  Ccommissioner Broomell expressed concerns about the appropriateness of the closed door meeting to negotiate reimbursements to the casino and her concerns about the financial arrangement.  It was a complicated discussion, especially for the public or members of the media that weren’t privy to the closed-door discussion, as the commissioners worked on figuring out how much of the revenue they had collected from the casino, they were going to return to the casino for infastructure cost it has inccurred.   Having the public hear what was said by everyone there is helpful.  As it stood there was one member of the Local Development Board and three people representing media outlets, for the late afternoon meeting.

Whatever the case, thanks to Commissioner Broomell and President Mullin, we’ll all be able to listen in.  The more sunshine on public business, the better for it strengthens the quality of political decisions as what is said and done gets wider exposure with the public and not just some narrow special interest groups.  At its most basic level, this allows the public to provide near real-time feedback to the elected officials, but if they had to wait for minutes their approval occurs long after the window of opportunity to comment has passed.

Someone Noticed is looking forward to having these audio tapes online and we believe this is in the best interest of the public.  It’s always refreshing to hear public officials that push for open government.  Thank you President Mullin and Commissioner Broomell.

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25 responses to “Starting This Week, Listen to County Workshops Online: Thanks Commissioner Broomell for the Open Govt Advocacy & President Mullin for Flipping That Switch

  1. Did not at least three commissioners vote for or agree to broadcast the meetings? I was surprised to read of “President Mullin’s order to flip the switch”. In the interest of transparency, I would like to know how that decision was reached.

    • Alexis

      In the interest of accuracy we checked the commissioner’s minutes to see if there was a formal vote, but couldn’t find anything. But that points to one of the problems anyone has experienced if they’re trying to stay informed. The last minutes that were posted on the site for the public to review are 30 days old and the workshop minutes about a month-and-a-half old. That’s not helpful, if youi’re trying to keep the public informed, but it’s a long established practice.

      But back to your question. The commissioners took a vote on halting the rotating meetings but we never saw the commissioners take a vote on “flipping that switch”. Perhaps they did and we’ll learn about it in a couple of months when the minutes are finally released. But we’ll all be off to new topics by that point Alexis.

      We’ll stick with our reporting. Surely at least three of the other commissioners could’ve blocked the move to open up the meetings, no question about that. So they all apprently went along by not formally blocking it. But what we saw and the record shows is that one commissioner took on the issue of opening up the meetings to the public. That was Commisisoner Broomell and it was something she ran on and addressed often. We didn’t hear others pushing for more sunshine in the meetings. Once elected she stuck to it as she pushed for video broadcasts. After one of those sessions, where Commissioner Broomell was pusing for this and the need was so obvious to all the elected officials (people couldn’t get into the room), Commissioner Mullin was asked by Someone Noticed what he was going to do about the obvious need. At that point he said he was leaning toward moving to the big meeting room and “flipping the switch.” He followed through at the next meeting and announced the board was going to move to the larger room and flip that switch.

      Here’s how we reported that discussion

      http://someonenoticed.wordpress.com/2011/02/09/president-mullin-flip-that-switch/

      So we’ll stick with the report and say onces again thank you Comm. Broomell and President Mullin. I would agree at least one more person had to agree to go along or the move could have been blocked, but I hardly think it’s worth thanking elected officials for just going along. We appreciate elected leaders taking positions and providing leadership on issues.

      We’ve reported on this all along.

      Hopefully we’ll see more of them push for putting as much sunshine on the affairs of government as possible. Resist that urge to go behind closed doors whenever possible.

      • Your headline thanks “President Mullin for Flipping That Switch”. You thank him three times in the article. I think that it is most accurate to say that Commissioner Broomell’s advocacy for transparency and creation of a record of meetings resulted in moving to the larger meeting room. Why not just thank the other four for supporting her.

        • Alexis
          Now we’re getting somewhere. We’re starting to agree about elements of this story. Okay so we concur that Comm. Broomell was a force in making this happen as she pushjed for opening up the meetings of Cecil Co. government to the public. It’s grat that we’ve largely resolved that point.

          As for your next point, Alexis. It concerns how many times we thanked President Mullin for “flipping that switch.” Since you agreed that Commissioner Broomell was involved in getting something done here, we’ll give you that perhaps Someone Noticed thanked President Mullin too many times. We’ll meet you on that point. Instead of thanking Pres. MJullin, three times, perhaps two times would have been sufficient. Or perhaps one thank you would’ve been sufficient! We don’t think we need to get hung-up on how many times we thanked him, so we’ll agree we could’ve reduced the numberby one or two times and still made our point.

          But here’s why we did that (though the number could’ve been reduced). When he said to us in the hallway of the county building, after people couldn’t get into the room and what was said in the room was in dispute, you’ve got to understand how pleased we were to hear that he was thinking about “flipping that switch.” That’s his quote, by-the-way. We’d watch those meetings, listen to discussions where elements of earlier meetings were questions, and think about how hlepufl it wouild be for the public and the officials to have a recording. Whky not, as these are the most important give and take discussions?

          We need a stronger push on more open government at every opportunity. We didn’t hear any of the others pushing for that and when he followed through and made it happen, it resulted in an improvement in making the workings of the county commissioners more open to everyone.

          Now, of course, we could’ve thanked the others, as you point out, for just going along with it, but we’ll have to disagree on that point. We don’t believe in thanking politicians for just going along. It would’ve been great to have heard them push for this and that would’ve called for thanks.

          There remain plenty of opportunities for the county commissioner to keep pushing for transparency and sunshine. Comm. Broomell hasn’t solved all the opportunities there. Look at that closed door meeting last week to keep a business from moving away, closing (or help them expand), according to the statement the county released!

          Anyway thanks for your perspective Alexis.

  2. Great Job Commissioners! Thanks for leading by increasing what is taped while the Town of Elkton is decreasing their tapings.

    • Bob Elkton has definitely headed in the wrong direction. For as long as we can remember, the Elkton board recorded its workshops, the most important sessions. But after they lost that lawsuit, they stopped. Wish we has a Comm. Broomell on that board. Heck wouldn’t hurt to have someone like a President Mullin. At least he’s willing to flip the switch. Mayor Fisona flipped it to the off position.

  3. Bob, we all need to push for open government. There are plenty of concerned citizens that can’t attend the meetings. The Mayor of Elkton would stop all recording if he thought he could get away with it. No one questions him but Someone Noticed. Elkton conducts a lot of business behind closed doors. It’s obvious. The minutes certainly don’t give any info. Anyway, thank you CC Government.

    • Debbie we agree with you. There’s more important business going on at those workshops and without a recording it’s hard to figure out what was said there. The officials have trouble with it from time-to-time too.

  4. It is amazing how everyone keeps praising Broomell for her televise meetings. Yes, a true push for transparency, except those closed door sessions which are necessary for secrets.

    Now, maybe, she will have time to submit ALL her campaign finance information. It is past due.

    And also past due are final campaign finance reports from Dunn (and all his various entities), Mullin, Smigiel and Pipkin. For that matter, all their sub entities, committees, PACs, etc.

    I guess they are all too busy to do their books. After all, it is hard to keep track of all that money moving between hands.

  5. Raoul,
    Very good point on the Smipkins not filing their reports. Apparently they are having trouble figuring out where all the money came from and was moved to. Looks like a tangled web to me.

  6. Jacque Broomell

    Raoul – Broomell, Diana Christina- Results for Election Cycles between January 1, 2007 through December 31, 2010. Total contribution amount is $2,262.07. Total expenses for this account is $3,028.89. That’s it. Period. There were no campaign contributions after the last reported filing date. I would know as I was her Treasurer. Candidates are allowed to contribute X (the number escapes me at the moment because I’m tired) number of dollars to their campaigns. Therein lies the difference. Why do you insist on insinuating campaign finance misconduct on her part? ALL campaign finance IS reported.

    • Congratulations on a very spirited defense and effective refutation of the allegation, JB. I anxiously await a response from Smigiel Pipkin & Patterson, as well as the other members of the “Fiscal Conservative Teams”.

    • Well Jacque,
      My ‘insinuating’ finds a foundation in some very confusing information. The regime’s web of moving money around has been documented on this blog in the past which was picked up from another blog of information compiled (and I confirmed stats) from the Maryland Campaign Finance web site. But just as a minor refresher:
      Listed under Diana Broomell:
      - Broomell, Diana – Personal Treasurer Account
      - 21st GOP Club Central Commmittee
      - Broomell, Diana Friends Of (2006)
      2006 where there was a whole lot of Mullin Money moving around
      Contributions from Friends of Mike D. Smigiel, Mullin Appraisal Service, Republican Central Commitee of Cecil County, and of course, Jim Mullin

      Interesting to note that for someone whom we are trusting to make decisions regarding county tax dollars, that this particular account had several service charges from M&T Bank in her Campaign Expenditures…what’s up with that?

      - Broomell, Diana – Personal Treasured Account
      - 21st Century GOP
      - Broomell, Diana Friends Of (2010)
      reported $2,262.07 (almost half from ‘Cecil County Republican Central Committee’), the last of which was 10-22-2010.

      I am sure that if we dig a little deeper, we’ll find plenty of questionable entries such as all the ‘Lump Sum’ contributions to the Cecil County Republican Central Committee. Lump Sum means no name, no address, no connection of any kind. I guess it is just money that fell from heaven or out of someone/some-committee pocket.

  7. Just to clarify, as a former Treasurer responsible for counting and properly documenting $38,000 in cash in the one year that I was doing the books for Sutton:

    The campaign finance limit an individual can directly or indirectly donate to a candidate is $4,000 (and $10,000 for multiple candidates) during a 4 year election cycle.

    Candidates or there spouses may actually donate ANY amount to their own campaigns. You still have to document it as a contribution though. If the intent is for that money to be repaid, it must be documented as a loan.

    In managing the massive amount of cash and contributions that I did, I believe I only used the lump sum donation once for a minor amount of ticket sales. You are only allowed to use the lump sum donation if the amount is under $51. Otherwise, I was able to accurately document all of that cash, without issue. Not sure why others had a problem.

    Another ironic point for Broomell’s campaign finance is the percentage of expenses over her contribution amount. For such a “Tea Party” conservative, you wouldn’t think she would be spending what she didn’t have in her campaign coffers. It looks like she must have “bailed” herself out.

    • Patrick,
      The following are from the Cecil County Republican Central Committee financial report. It seems that only three meet your criteria for Lump Sum contributions.

      LUMP SUM $0.78
      LUMP SUM $5.23
      Lump Sum $20.00
      Lump Sum $101.00
      LUMP SUM $114.50
      Lump Sum $120.00
      Lump Sum $305.00
      Lump Sum $468.00
      Lump Sum $720.00
      Lump Sum $740.50
      Lump Sum $920.00
      Lump Sum $1,281.00
      Lump Sum $1,340.00
      LUMP SUM $1,771.00
      Lump Sum $1,800.00
      Lump Sum $1,967.00
      Lump Sum $2,090.00
      Lump Sum $2,480.00
      Lump Sum $2,489.00

      The other contribution catagory I love is ‘VARIOUS’ for $ 5,307.83.

      Is this just poor book keeping, [Someone Noticed edit] finance manipulation, or as Commissioner Broomell might say, ‘those funny numbery thingies’?

  8. Jackie Gregory

    Patrick,
    She “bailed” herself out? Really? That’s the best you could come up with? When you pay for something yourself, that negates the the whole idea of the word “bailout”. Commissioner Broomell ran a campaign on very limited resources in comparison to most other candidates, and paying for something on your own that you value or believe in is very TEA party. It is actually kind of funny that you would actually try to suggest that a $3k campaign for commissioner isn’t conservative. And how dare she have the nerve to actually put a small amount of her OWN money into her campaign! LOL.

  9. Patrick: Does Chris Sutton feel betrayed by the SMIPKIN “Fiscal Conservative Team” for the DunnMullin proposed 10% cut to Public Safety? How does he feel about the Ted Patterson about face on support for the FOP? Were the FOP donations worth it?

  10. Raoul (is this one of [Someone Noticed Edit] “Cruella de Vil” multiple personalities or just [Someone Noticed edit] pimping her agenda)-

    While we’re on the subject of campaign finance reports, can anybody make sense of your pal Lockhart’s reports? Looks to be two set of books there- one with hundreds of dollars in late fees, a $5500 loan from his mother, and a big expenditure to Wayne Tome’s campaign. Then this account was abruptly closed and ‘replaced’ [Someone Noticed edit] (as even this account has $190 in late fees) where Mr. Cash himself claims to have paid for everything ‘out of his own pocket’ in the form of in-kind donations (is this even legal?). Including $800 to the Cecil Guardian, perhaps this accounts for the favorable coverage given to Lockhart by this publication- such as the Palko puff piece immediately following the election which amounted to a “Lockhart for County Exec” press release.

    And what about missing expenditures? Those godawful yellow check mark signs don’t show up at all on his reports. Raoul you better get your boy’s house in order before you attack other folks. And do you really want to get me started on your other buddy Roberts and his ‘website’ expenditures?

    • The Shadow, doesn’t know.

      I am not associated with any politician or political party.
      I am an independent Cecil County tax payer who is fed up with government lip service while they continue to try pulling the wool over our heads while [deleted so that Mike doesn't feel obligated] our tuchas.

      Thank you for pointing out another politi-bum.

  11. Roscoe: I was his treasurer for a year until I moved to DE. I don’t know how he feels about any of that. I’m curious to see the exact cuts they want to make to Public Safety though, especially with the rate of crime listed in the UCR.

    Jackie: I probably could have come up with something better, had I invested more time in my response, but that will do. Just because you run a campaign on 3k doesn’t mean you are conservative. Fundraising ability does not necessarily correlate to ideology. I was simply pointing out that ACCORDING to her treasurer’s post, her contribution total was only 75% of her expense total. If your contributions are correctly documented, the numbers should match up.

  12. Raoul: I don’t know how that’s acceptable… maybe I’m missing something…

    • Patrick,
      Sometimes I forget that sarcasm does not work well over the internet. It is so literal. I apologize and will try to be more succinct in the future.

      What I see as a big problem, is where campaign money comes from and who is financing any given candidate. When a person contributes to his or her own campaign, they will not owe favors or be expected to honor the party line.

      When anyone, as I, are registered Unaffiliated, the voting choices are limited and not at all appealing.

      A single party board of commissioners, three of whom have very long and strong ties to each other and politicians at the state level, necessitates a vigilant watch. When they grandstand and pat each other on the back, I become even more suspicious or their motives.

  13. Jacque Broomell

    Ugh, it’s the way it’s reported on the website. Here is Carl Roberts, Diana Broomell’s district 4 opponent:

    Roberts, Carl D.
    Results for Election Cycles between January 1, 2007 through December 31, 2010.
    Total contribution amount is $39,712.44
    Total expenses for this account is $49,292.60
    Patrick, Raoul, square that.

  14. My same comments apply to that as well… it’s not about party for me.

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