Erosion control 2

The Monocacy River is seen at Lily Pons Road.

Bud Otis may not have been on the ballot if it wasn’t for the Monocacy River.

More specifically, he may not have made the midterm ballot to defend his seat as County Council president, if a plan for the management of the river had not stirred up public outrage — over property rights and clean water — during much of the two years before Election Day.

On July 24, Otis bowed his head into his hands, and silence filled Winchester Hall. He needed to make a decision. The vote before him was clearly split down party lines, with all the council Democrats opposed and all the Republicans in support of sending the river plan back to those who wrote it after it languished with the County Council for months.

He sent it back.

In that moment, everything changed. Residents who had threatened to vote Otis out of office instead walked out of Winchester Hall and began signing petitions in support of him as an unaffiliated candidate for County Council.

“There were several people — some really strongly Republican — that signed it, that I didn’t think would, that did,” said Edison Hatter, one of the most prolific petition circulators for Otis, who was standing on Market Street collecting signatures the night of the vote.

When a group of residents in late 2014 decided to rewrite a 1990 river management plan — which makes recommendations for recreation, agriculture and natural resource management along the Monocacy River — there was little expectation that it would become a decisive and defining part of the midterm election. Yet the events that followed Otis’ vote that evening show it clearly did.

“I think, had he not supported it [sending the plan back], I wouldn’t have helped him,” said Stephen “Buzz” Mackintosh, a Realtor who has spoken out against the river plan since it was released in 2016.

Mackintosh has known Otis for years and voted for him in the past, but he collected signatures on Otis’ behalf only after Otis voted to send the plan back to the Monocacy Scenic River Citizens Advisory Board.

By then, more than half of the river board’s 10 members had changed. With the turnover, the dominant voice on the board had also shifted from one of water and resource conservation to one of farms and property rights.

To many, sending the plan back meant an opportunity to make these new voices heard.

“Here’s my philosophy: If we have as a county advertised for people to serve on different commissions and boards and then we appoint them, we need to let them do their work,” Otis said in an interview in October. “So I thought it ought to go back to them, and that [I] was grossly misunderstood on this because people thought I was caving in to one side or the other. I wasn’t. I was saying ‘time out’ to both sides.”

His decision, though, came 13 days before he needed to file 1,794 signatures with the Board of Elections in support of his unaffiliated candidacy. And, short of making that decision, it’s possible he wouldn’t have made it.

Final count

Otis made it onto the ballot by a margin of 168 signatures.

In all, Otis collected 2,666 signatures, of which 704 were invalid. The county Board of Elections tells candidates to prepare for 20 to 30 percent of signatures to be invalidated — mostly due to a stringent name standard set by the state — which made Otis’ 26 percent invalidation rate average, if not a little high, said Election Director Stuart Harvey.

“It’s always better to have more than less, so you don’t have to get more signatures,” Harvey said.

When Otis submitted his first group of petitions at the end of July, however, it was clear he did not have enough signatures to get on the ballot, Harvey said.

Harvey did not know the exact date when he notified Otis there were insufficient signatures, because he verbally informed Otis rather than sending him a letter. But an Aug. 2 email from Lisa Bell, a riverfront landowner who organized opposition to the river plan for a year and a half before the vote, shows a last-minute “push to help get 300 signatures from Frederick County Registered Voters” for Otis.

“He needs our support right now ... and we need his support too to get the River Plan passed that sufficiently protects property rights!” Bell wrote in the email provided to The Frederick News-Post. “This is why we want to return the support to Mr. Otis for protecting property rights thus far, among other things — and why your petition signature matters.”

She attached the blank petition to the email, which garnered 209 signatures between July 27 and Aug. 6, a review of Otis’ petitions revealed. In all, 176 of the signatures were valid, which is greater than the margin of 168 signatures that pushed Otis onto the ballot.

Politically toxic

Before the County Council’s vote and a flurry of petition signatures on Otis’ behalf, the Monocacy Scenic River Management Plan was considered politically toxic.

“If this passes this board, this group, these people won’t forget who voted for it in November,” Paul Allen, a Frederick County resident who served on a previous river board, said at a hearing in front of the council in June.

Distrust in the plan started in 2016, when many riverfront landowners heard of the plan for the first time. They packed the Taneytown Volunteer Fire Co. meeting room baffled by letters — notifying them of the rewrite — they said never reached them at their farms and homes. But as they began to organize in opposition to the plan, environmental groups began to rally in support of it.

Among the supporters of the plan is Matt Seubert, an Urbana resident and environmentalist who has become concerned that Otis may have had unethical conversations with Bell before the vote. He is in touch with a lawyer and drafting an ethics complaint that he plans to file with the county’s Ethics Commission.

“She’s the wife of the vice chair of the river board. That adds an extra element of perhaps impropriety,” Seubert said.

Otis, when asked by The News-Post whether he promised to vote to send the plan back to the Monocacy Scenic River Citizens Advisory Board in exchange for signatures, or if others promised him signatures in exchange for his vote, denied any “quid pro quo.”

“That is so below my dignity, it’s unbelievable,” Otis responded. “I am not bought or sold by anybody.”

Had he instead voted to approve the plan on July 24, he said in the same interview, then he was led to believe he’d be endorsed by “certain groups.” He declined to say which ones.

“I want to make a couple things very clear: I’m very protective of property rights and I think as a government we have a responsibility to protect those property rights,” Otis said. “I’m also very concerned about the quality of the water in that river.”

Power and influence

Running as unaffiliated candidates, Otis and Earl Robbins, who is running for county executive, were the only ones who needed to collect signatures to appear on the ballot. Some have questioned whether Otis should have accepted assistance from people who were intimately involved and affected by a plan in front of the County Council.

Council Vice President M.C. Keegan-Ayer (D-District 3) worried that acceptance of the signatures from those opposed to the river plan in the last 13 days of the filing window came close to the “appearance of impropriety,” or as is written in the county’s ethics law, “the appearance of improper influence.”

County Attorney John Mathias said it can be a difficult standard to assess.

“It’s kind of a vague, amorphous, nebulous standard,” Mathias said.

In zoning cases, county boards are meant to be neutral and assess an application based on whether the property satisfies a set of parameters and make a decision based on those facts. The County Council, on the other hand, does not need to be neutral, and it’s appropriate in their role as legislators to seek all kinds of opinions, Mathias said, without speaking to any particular case.

Enticing people to work on an election campaign is also part of politics, Mathias said.

A review of public records and conversations with petition circulators shows Otis’ vote on July 24 did entice people to work on his behalf.

“Like so many other citizens, I appreciated Mr. Otis’ decisions and was pleased to volunteer later on in the Bud Otis ballot petition effort,” Bell said in response to questions emailed by The News-Post. “I also support other politicians, by the way, who support protecting and defending property rights.”

Bell collected 71 signatures — 62 of them valid — and Matthew Toms, a sitting member of the river board, collected 15 signatures that were all valid for Otis.

Mackintosh collected 29 signatures — 20 of them valid — and Margaret Elgin collected 20 signatures — 14 of them valid — for Otis.

They were joined by Maurice Gladhill, Rebecca Eaves, Patricia Fisher, Philip Hoagland Jr., Mark Long, Cynthia Grossnickle, Doug Kaplan, Holley Hovermale, James Glenn Bittner, Jane Young and Khalid Ahmad Asad and even two signatures from Otis himself all using the identical petition sent out in an email on Aug. 2 by Bell.

Together they found 209 people willing to support Otis on the ballot in November.

“If I were in his shoes, I don’t know that I would be so willing to accept assistance in that manner,” Keegan-Ayer said.

Follow Samantha Hogan on Twitter: @SAHogan.

Samantha Hogan is the state house, environment, agriculture and energy reporter for The Frederick News-Post.

(34) comments


To Matts853: Just so you know, as a matter of process - written public comments received by the River Board have historically been reviewed individually by board members on their own time. Thereafter, board members can bring up any comments or thoughts they choose during board meetings related to written public comments. The process however, is NOT for the Board to review each and every written public comment at River Board meetings.

Board member Earl Bell did not solely refuse to review all of your numerous 17 pages or so of comments. That is inaccurate. Another Board member led the discussion on why written public comments (yours and others) were not reviewed publically. He explained that the process was NOT for the Board to review each and every written public comment at board meetings. River Board members do read and consider them.

As it turns out though, your comments were among many public comments received on the River Plan by the board. And many of the subject topics in your comments were mostly addressed by the Board during public meetings - because they overlapped with the topics presented by the counties in the counties' list of suggested reforms. Thus, there was coverage on the topics in your comments.

Moreover, The board's agenda at Board meetings was to review the suggested revisions provided by the counties as they revised the River Plan further, not review written public comments one by one at board meetings. This is not to say they board did not consider public comments, which they did. By the way, most all of the counties suggested revisions were based on public comments as well.

Hope that helped explain things!


Thank you madam River Board secretary, but it doesn't. Save your breath. I don't need your explanations. They're just more disingenuous nonsense. I've been engaged at a much higher level than the casual observer so I know all the tricks that've been played and all the players.

I could care less though, because I never expected your husband would give my comments any consideration. He's not interested in transparency or honest debate. So while I got my comments on record with the river board, they were really written for the council members.

The real vote on the Plan happens Tuesday. We'll just have to wait and see what happens.

Good night, Lisa. Matt.


To Matts853: Look I don't have anything against you personally. But actions from you and others in your circle have been to launch into offensive campaigns against others, which not only has been hurtful to those you attack, but it is counter-productive.

Is it possible for you to get past any more counterproductive name calling and accusations– and instead just take a moment if desired, to identify the top items of concern and what it is you want specifically applied to the River Plan? Can we just have a normal exchange of ideas where you say what exactly you want instead of getting off topic to criticize me or others? Let’s just try it!

It would be great to know specifically (not broad, sweeping statements) but exactly the major items you wanted included in the River Plan drafts, that weren’t there. Just wondering…because the River Board did what was asked of them by the governing councils of both Frederick & Carroll Counties, which was to further revise the previously submitted and flawed 8/2/17 River Plan update, to consider the counties suggested reforms.

Thanks for identifying your desired reforms, or those of others in your circle – as again, I’m curious about the specifics. For example, someone in your circle was previously claiming the River Board gutted science from the River Plan Update. What exactly was gutted? And what science is it that you or others in your circle specifically wanted in the River Plan? This is curious because the River Plan revision process has added much science and information to the plan, not gutted science from the plan.

Thanks again for you thoughts....that is if you want to engage nicely.


Lisa, I went through each of the Carroll County amendments that came out of the March 12 forum in detail, providing my comments and suggestions. These were given to the full River Board, however your husband refused to bring them to a board discussion. You should ask him.



This article is FAKE NEWS, strumming up a false controversy that does not exist. It’s a disgrace that FNP even published such an article suggesting impropriety by County Council President Bud Otis without a shred of evidence to support it. This is because zero evidence exists, as nothing unethical has occurred! If you want to know the truth…and details, please read my comment below.

The FNP article above represents outrageous and incorrect conclusions by Matt Seubert and Council Member MC Keegan-Ayer (obviously politically-motivated) to try and wrongly undermine candidate Mr. Otis prior to the election.

To be clear, NO “deal” was cut where Mr. Otis promised to vote favorably to help protect property rights if Monocacy landowners and farmers helped petition to place his name on the ballot as an “Independent” candidate. I know the facts on this and the uncorroborated innuendos in the article by Matt Seubert and MC Keegan Ayer are plain wrong. And it is wrong as well for the FNP to do an article such as this.

As the county attorney noted, “It is appropriate for the County Council in their role as legislators to seek all kinds of opinions.” As such, there’s nothing unethical or illegal about Mr. Otis as President of the County Council, listening and talking to many citizens and groups before making up his mind on the River Plan issues. That’s what politicians are supposed to do! Listen to citizens, evaluate issues, and make decisions.

Nor is there anything unethical or improper for citizens to make up their minds to support a politician based upon the candidates’ views and actions. It’s no surprise that many citizens are supporting (and urging others to do the same) –those politicians who will defend property rights. This includes volunteering on their own accord, to help candidates such as a ballot petition effort for Mr. Otis for example, or assisting in various other politicians’ campaigns who support property rights.


And citizens should have the freedom to support politicians they choose without being disparaged by those with differing political views.

Moreover, Mr. Otis was not alone in his vote at the River Plan hearing referenced in the article. He was part of the majority on the Frederick County Council who voted to send the flawed 8/2/17 River Plan Update back to the River Board to address concerns focused on protecting property rights. Afterall, it is the joint-county River Board’s job to do this. And the plan remained flawed in need of further reforms.

In fact, the 8/2/17 River Plan was so deficient, it was widely rejected as well, by The Carroll County Commissioners (who also voted to send the deficient 2017 River Plan back to the joint county River Board for revisions); The Frederick County Planning Commission; and the undisputed majority of citizens following the River Plan issue. Despite all this, County Council member Ms. MC Keegan Ayer and fellow Democrats Jerry Donald and Jessica Fitzwater on the Council (who typically align in lockstep with County Executive Jan Gardner’s objectives) tried to push through a measure to adopt the flawed 2017 River Plan as-is, without the necessary reforms to protect property rights. This could have led to undue harm to landowners & farmers along the Monocacy.

Fortunately, this effort failed due to lack of support from Mr. Otis and the Republicans on the Council. To many, it appears clear why MC Keegan Ayer’s is going after Mr. Otis in this article. She has an axe to grind as a sore loser would. And Mr. Otis is in her cross-hairs.

Furthermore, Mr. Seubert who is featured in the above article, regularly makes slanderous, baseless accusations towards others on the River Plan matter. Mr. Seubert has been repeatedly threatened with removal from public River Board meetings due to his false accusations and vitriolic, uncivil conduct. Remember when he baselessly called all those defending property rights “Fascists” at a public hearing on the River Plan?

Lastly, there’s nothing improper that Col. Earl Bell is a River Board member on the citizens-based board – while his wife has an opinion of her own on the River Plan matter. There’s something called “free speech” in this country.


I don’t understand why you don’t put your name to these rants, Lisa. If you’re going to get personal with people then at least have the decency to identify yourself.

You and your husband have policitized this process from day 1. It all goes back to your ties to Carroll County Commissioner Richard Rothschild and his paranoid and delusional agenda 21 conspiracy theories. Your husband, Rothschild, and Holstein all got together and conspored to have that quack attorney from Idaho send a threatening letter to the board. Real professional. Holstein and I go back a ways and he told me about it over coffee, so don’t try to deny it.

In a scenario with rational and reasonable people who aren’t blinded by extremist politics, Col. Bell would never have been appointed by radical politicians like Rothschild to serve on a board that is tasked with producing a plan that is supposed to focus on the river, not property rights. We have enough law books in this country on property rights to fill the pentagon. What we don’t have are enough reports that give a fair and honest assessment of our finite natural resources that, and this may surprise you, other people beyond the river’s banks actually depend upon and would like to enjoy. You have never understood that this Board exists to give a scientific and unbiased report on the river that includes real science - which you and your husband, Col. Bell, have repeatedly denied and gone out of your way to strip out of it. This Board is plainly biased and unbalanced with what, seven out of 10 members that are landowners? It is the ANTI river board.

It’s funny how you act like you’re a River Board member yourself. Getting up from your chair in the audience and walking behind the dais to whisper into your husband’s ear. Are you not totally self unaware of your improper actions?

Your political motivations are clear, Lisa. You and your husband have bastardized this process. There are others - more than you realize - like me that want to see a true stewardship plan produced, and we will get it eventually. So Forgive me for punching back and defending myself. It’s called free speech and unfortunately I’ve had to sink down to your level in some cases to prove my points.

And spare me the moral high ground on civility. You tried to have the Frederick County staff person fired. Why? Because he did his job and you didn’t like it. And your husband followed him into a parking lot after a meeting and got nose to nose with him. And you were seen by several people yelling and booing at the tv outside the winchester hall hearing room saying people like MC and the “dems” suck. That’s bizarre. So don’t try to play the aggrieved party here. It’s totally disingenuous. I’ve been an angel compared to you.

And there is evidence to support the article, Lisa. Look at the timeline. Just like every other inconvenient fact you don’t like, you just raise your voice and say NOT TRUE! or it’s all baseless! Well you’re wrong, Lisa.

Sorry, but you are the fake news in this charade.

Matt Seubert


A leader of a certain Group A went to Bud's office to lobby him to vote one way and in exchange for his vote said that Group A would support Bud in the general election.  

A leader of a certain Group B went to Bud's office to lobby him to vote one way and in exchange for his vote said that Group B would support Bud in the general election.  

Bud, an honest and strong willed man, said that both groups had good points, but he would make up his own darn mind and not be influenced by their groveling.

Bud voted the way he wanted.  Group A was pleased.  But Group B acted like a jilted suitor, saying they had been deceived, and that Bud and Group A were involved in a grand corrupt conspiracy to destroy Frederick County.


That's pretty much how I saw it too.


Ahh. I see where you’re trying to go with this Don. 2 things: first, MC and Ragen Cherney were also in the meeting I had with Bud. So, not only did I not offer QPQ in the meeting, they’re witnesses, if you will.

Second, Don, and this is a big one: I’m not a River Board member - let alone a chairman - nor the spouse of a river board member. The ethical stakes of the Bells taking to Bud in this instance, don’t apply to me. In fact, you could even take their interaction with Bud, on behalf of their “coalition” and their involvement to the Board to the next level of lobbying.

I know politics is hard to follow for you sometimes (most of the times) so I’m happy to help clear things up for you any time. Let me buy you a drink some time.



Spurned suitor says they were deceived and betrayed "Bud's the kind of guy that will agree with you in person, give you the firm double hand shake with that big smile of his, tell you how much he appreciates you, and then
screw you over the minute you walk out of the room.:


Maybe we need to get Ben Grumbles involved.


You wrote "WHY? BECAUSE PROPERTY RIGHTS MATTER IN THE USA!" What about the rights of those who own the property your activities are polluting? Yes, property rights matter and when you can't control the pollution coming from your property then you have to comply with the other property owners' wishes.


Farmers of the land should not do harm to the farmers of the Bay. Nor anyone else. Every sector has a price to pay for cleanup. Cleanup has worked, but so far only the low hanging fruit have been mitigated. The future actions will be more difficult. Riparian buffers are one of the most effective low impact ways to deal with non-point pollution.


Otis made the correct decision, representing his constituents, which in liberal land now gives the “appearance of impropriety”.

Farmers and property owners along the river, and through out the county, have responded to environmental regulations responsibly for the past 35 years I have lived in the Frederick. If the county wants riparian buffers along the Monocacy then they can buy the land or purchase conservation easements. Property rights are paramount. If Democrats manage to keep control of the County government then we can expect on more erosion of property rights under Gardner and Hagen.


The rights of cows to pee and poop in the river shall not be infringed.


Nor shall the rights of deer, fox. Coyotes dogs, cats, squirrels, chipmunks, etc. be similarly infringed. Furthermore, the right of all aquatic lifeforms to poop in the water, and make other little aquatic lifeforms while dwelling in said surface water, shall not be infringed.

Really, if you're drinking from a surface water source, all of this is in that water. Modern water processing facilities can easily handle the bioburden. Elevated chemical levels from suburban lawn care, and pharmaceuticals from human waste treatment from urban and suburban areas also are difficult to remove.


Adding additional pollution (beyond natural sources) to surface water (from human activities such as crop or livestock farming) increases the cost for cleaning up the water to use as a drinking water source. Beyond that the runoff causes problems that adversely impact the bay and those who make a living from the bay. Therefore the "property rights" people are actually arguing to do what ever they want while pushing the costs onto others. If you can't control the adverse impact of storm water runoff from your property or flooding on your property then you need to accept restrictions imposed by those you are adversely impacting. You do not have the right to pollute others' properties without their consent. I for one resent being taxed to pay for the problems caused by farmers etc. Let them pay for the problems themselves by raising their prices and if the market won't bear a price increase, then their goods wren't that valued.


I would hope that your intolerance of pollution of surface waters includes suburbanites who over apply fertilizer, weed killer, pesticide, in their quest for that lush green lawn. All of these chemicals run into streams and other surface waters. Then there are the urban dwellers who have no ground to absorb the rainfall. It all goes into storm sewers that hold God knows what, and run into the river. Let's not forget vehicular traffic that drops oil, grease, and other chemicals into the roadways. Then there is all of the road salt that is used on the roads. ALL of these activities contribute to pollution "beyond natural sources", and I would imagine that farmers resent being taxed to pay for the problems caused by suburbanites and urbanites". First remove the beam out of your own eye, and then you can see clearly to remove the speck out of your brother's eye.


Gabrielshorn, it certainly does. Again the key is "without consent." I don't use chemicals on my lawn because I don't want to impact my well water. I don't drive a car that leaks oil, I keep my hybrid well maintained. I've installed solar and geothermal to go carbon negative with my home energy use. In other words, I believe in acting responsibly. There are limits on what people/industry/goverments can discharge. No one should be able to pollute someone else's property without their consent. Thinak about it and maybe you'll understand that my position is truly a "conservative" position. Go ahead and make a profit or keep your lawn green but if it adversely impacts me I want to be compensated or have the activity stopped. I don't want to be taxed (as I am now) to clean up someone else's pollution.


Very well written article Ms. Hogan, very informative. Thank you.


Good investigative journalism. Sorry Bud, but it is not hard to connect the dots - you finally sold out, which is disappointing because you took a LOT of grief for sticking to your principles when you parted ways with Billy, Tony, and Kirby.


I don`t know maybe the man fell off his political wagon and started talking to the Grey Goose and so many conversation with the bird causes to make bad choices[beam]


It's highly unlikely Otis will be reelected. If he is hexpected is highly unlikely to be the Council President.


Otis is not a worker. He rarely justifies his positions, even on "his" bills which are written on his behalf by developers and other power players who coerce him with their support. Notice how he only introduces his own bills on development matters (FRO, mitigation fees) after Jan has already done so. He's purely reactionary at the behest of those in a position to help him the most. Same thing happened here on the River Plan.

In decisions that boil down to what's best for Bud or Frederick County Citizens, Bud chooses Bud. Oh, he's bought and sold alright - many times over. But it looks like it will backfire on him.

Matt Seubert


Agree on all that, Matt.


matt- [thumbup][thumbup][thumbup]


It is supposed to be a part-time job. There is barely any salary. I have been saying we should pay decent salaries and get a full-time council, but I think most people want it the way it is.


It will backfire on Seubert. Otis "was led to believe he’d be endorsed by certain groups." Hmm, hmm. Come out of the closet.


I agree with M.C. on this one and good for Matt S. filing an ethics complaint! Lisa and her group made a deal with the devil. I hope the voters show Otis the door on Tuesday!! Benefiting Bud doesn't care about property rights - he just wanted help getting signatures!




Otis used the River Board fanatics like a tool, just like a carpenter would use a hammer or a saw, to grt a job done. In this case the job was to advance his own selfish, personal political interests, instead of doing what was right for the general public.

Just like what he is doing by accepting campaign money from the Jefferson "Tech" Residential Park, like Kathy Afzali did. Betraying the general public.

We need to use our votes like tools, to get rid of hypocrites like Otis and Afzali.




Otis met with the Frederick members of the River Board and asked them if they supported the 2017 plan with Keegan-Ayer's amendments and they agreed, suggesting he might bring those forward and approve the plan. He did not. Instead, he opted for the plan to be sent back and it now is in draft with 150 changes, mostly to reduce the plan's environmental scope and tenor, and assert property rights over any science or attempt to make changes towards cleaner water. The now property rights packed board is pushing to send this draft plan forward without any public hearings or process. The entire affair is an affront to the citizens of Frederick County.



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