Cecil County Commissioners Workshop — March 8, 2011 — At this week’s workshop a normally routine matter, the approval of the minutes, ended up causing a great deal of confusion as officials decided they’d better go back behind closed doors to sort out what actually occurred. Granted there were nearly ten records that had to be reviewed and approved as some stretched back for months. But that doesn’t explain the confusing that took place as elected officials differed over earlier proceedings. With lots of talk ensuing about what occurred and what should be in the record, they approved some while deciding they’d better get behind closed doors to figure the others out.
Once President Mullin routinely called for approval of the cluster of minutes, Commissioners Hodge and Moore made motions for approval. But Commissioner Broomell had a series of substantial objections, many of them associated with the recent closed door session with the casino. For that earlier meeting, the board justified shutting the public out by saying they were meeting with a company to help it open, expand or keep it from closing. But once the officials opened the door, it became clear they were meeting with representatives of the casino to discuss returning some of the revenue the casino hands over to the county for distribution to projects having an impact on the area.
Concerned that the minutes didn’t properly reflect the dialogue that occurred with casino representatives, along with some other matters, the western Cecil County official worried about the vagueness of some records, missing actions in others, and statement about thing she didn’t recall taking place.
For about 15 minutes it went back and forth over these sorts of details. Part of it centered on the vague nature of the original agreement with the casino, according to Commissioner Broomell. (The previous board of commissioners agreed to the terms through an email vote.) At one point, Commissioner Hodge interrupted her saying, “You can add stuff but you can’t take out what was said. Commissioner Broomell replied, I don’t remember that being said.
Another time when they were discussing whether the county budget manager, Craig Whiteford, had said the local impact fund money being returned to the casino would be split between Perryville and the County, there was another exchange. In that one, as Commissioner Hodge disagreed with some corrections she was asking for, the official replied, “I think we’re using these records to look back and to see what actually was agreed upon. . . There was no formal vote recorded in the minutes for the letter to be sent out to Penn National. I don’t see that in the minutes anywhere.”
About this time the county attorney, Norman Wilson, got into the conversation about amending the official record. “Commissioner Broomell we’re talking about closed sessions minutes that haven’t been approved yet. They really shouldn’t be brought out in public.” President Mullin and other weighed in and it was decided that they’d get the people out of the way and go behind closed doors to sort out what did or didn’t happen in those sessions involving important business agreement.
As they struggled to approve some of the other recordations and defer others a little longer, the county attorney largely guided them through the multi-step process. So the public will wait for the commissioners to get behind closed doors to talk about what actions they did or didn’t take at some closed door sessions. Once they sort it, a thoroughly but privately vetted and aired amended record will be released for public examination. Meanwhile Someone Noticed has asked to see copies of these documents as they were discussed extensively in an open meeting, making them part of the public record.
Editor’s Note — The recent recording of meetings, something Commissioner Broomell had pushed for, now allows the public to hear discussions directly, without the filter of any media outlet or blogger. To hear the commissioners in their own words, click on the link below.