After Someone Noticed reported that a Maryland Board of Elections registered group campaigning to sway voters on the charter ballot question bankrolled its media campaign by conducting a BRAC Bus Tour, we had questions about local government’ involvement with the arrangement. Our initial inquiry focused on fact-finding realted to that, especially as this activity made a substantial profit for an election campaign. (A Friends of Cecil County Charter spreadsheet reported the “See Cecil” tour had profits of $8,900 on revenue of $11,030.)
The matter became more tangled as we tried to pin it down by asking basic questions of county officials. Economic Development initially stated in an interview that the political advocacy group hosted a bus tour because there were two at the same time and the county could only handle one. In addition, the volunteres from this organization were capable of “showcasing” the county properly as they’d served as trip hosts for the Chamber of Commerce. But that understanding took an astonishing turn when Economic Development later advised it had no connection with bus tours. So continuing with our examination of the matter we asked to see written documentation between federal agencies and Cecil County, but were informed nothing existed.
So with things growing less clear we emailed the commissioners on Oct. 10th, asking for assistance from the political leadership in straightening this out. Commissioners Lockhart and Hodge responded, and President Lockhart said he would ask Vernon Thompson to prepare a memo providing details about the bus tour and any interaction between the county and the Friends of Charter.
Now, as we rapidly approach the start of early voting and had hoped to have had the final piece written on this (whatever the rest of the story is), it appear we might be on the edge of being able to explain things soon. In a widely distributed email Friday, which included two of the area’s print media outlets (Whig & Guardian), the county administration advised that during Tuesday’s workshop the matter will be “fully vetted.” The county attached a letter from Delegate Mike Smigiel inquiring about the matter too. As the county distributed the letter to some legacy media outlets and a wide range of others, we’ll go ahead and include it here.
Although this matter was allowed to grow more tangled and answers were slow to arrive, it now appears officials will get the facts out to the public. That’ll be helpful as there’s also a need for a detailed discussion about the pros and cons of the proposal to modify our form of local government.
Here are the questions we’ve been asking.
- What is Economic Development’s role in arranging, conducting, sponsoring, facilitating, supporting and/or conducting bus tours for BRAC?
- How many BRAC bus tours were there and which organizations actually delivered the tours?
- If there is a connection with local government, why is it that the Friends of Charter was selected to sponsor this bus tour?
- Were all the previous BRAC bus tours sources of profit for the sponsoring group or just this one?
- if others were revenue neutral or near so why was this particular one a source of profit?