Frederick County’s General Assembly delegation voted along party lines for a change in leadership, though few people were on hand to hear the discussion. It took place Saturday morning, just before the start of the delegation’s annual public hearing at Winchester Hall.
County Executive Jan Gardner (D) said she was returning from the League of Women Voters legislative breakfast when she noticed a large group of about 50 people in the Winchester Hall lobby. She knew the delegation had already started meeting inside.
Gardner walked into the meeting room and heard delegation members discussing whether to replace Sen. Ron Young, D-District 3, with Delegate William Folden, R-District 3B, as the delegation’s vice chairman.
Gardner asked the delegation if the meeting was open (it was), then invited those gathered outside in.
By then, the delegation had already mostly wrapped up its selection of officers.
Gardner said it was her understanding that Delegate Kathy Afzali — who was again elected chairwoman — told the building’s security to keep the public out until the scheduled hearing at 10 a.m.
In an interview this week, Afzali (R) said that was a “misunderstanding” and didn’t intend to give a security guard the impression that the officer portion of the meeting was closed.
The delegation typically chooses its leadership in a more informal setting just before the annual hearing, but there hasn’t been a question of openness before, said Delegate Karen Lewis Young, D-District 3.
She is one of three Democrats in the eight-member delegation and thinks the public should have heard the entire debate over leadership.
“I think the public should have seen what transpired before that meeting. Because that election was determined in advance,” Lewis Young said. “And there were several arguments that the minority brought forward that should have been public.”
Those arguments included an appeal that the delegation’s leadership has a tradition of being bipartisan (one Democrat, one Republican) and bicameral (one senator, one delegate), neither of which will continue for the 2017 session.
Afzali was elected by a 5-3 vote. Folden was elected by a 5-2 vote with Young abstaining.
Afzali said the election wasn’t necessarily predetermined, though possibilities had been discussed.
“You know, in the General Assembly, Speaker [Michael] Busch knows the vote before he calls the vote. That’s not new in politics,” Afzali said.
She hopes Folden will go on to become chairman of the delegation in 2018.
Folden said he was proud to be chosen vice chairman during his first term and will focus on maintaining structure within the delegation’s meetings and procedures.
“I think we’re going to hopefully see a more smoother, more fluid dialogue, rather than things being kind of chaotic at times with people talking over people,” he said.
Under state law, county delegations are only subject to the Maryland Open Meetings Act when they are undertaking functions assigned to them by the House of Delegates — voting on legislation, for example.
Harassment claim closed
Frederick County Council President Bud Otis said Thursday that a sexual harassment claim filed against him by Councilman Billy Shreve has been closed and was found to be “without merit.”
Shreve filed the complaint in October and provided a copy to The Frederick News-Post.
According to the complaint and a separate email chain from June that included The Frederick News-Post, Shreve approached Otis in the council’s lobby last spring to ask about including an item on the council’s agenda. At that time, Otis responded that Shreve should “ask me nicely” or “start by getting on your knees,” according to the complaint.
“I was enraged, but my self-restraint was amazing. When it happened I wanted to grab Otis by his tie and throw him through the window,” Shreve wrote in the complaint. “For the first time in my life I was a victim of sexual harassment. It felt dirty. I felt sick. I was mad! I never want this to happen to anyone again.”
In the email chain, Otis said he intended the comment as “sarcasm.”
Otis did not speak in detail about the allegation on Thursday, but he provided a written statement.
“Council Member Billy Shreve made a ridiculous and baseless allegation against me. One that I believe was totally political and meant to embarrass me. ... The Council leadership elections are over and I sincerely hope we can now move forward without the personal attacks,” Otis wrote.
Earlier this year, Mitch Hose, the county’s human resources director, said he could not comment publicly about any specific case, but gave a general overview of county complaint procedures.
Hose said the county interviews the complainant, subject of the complaint and all witnesses. When the investigation is concluded, only the subject of the complaint is informed of the final action.
New chairman of the Grand Old Party
Maryland Republicans chose a new chairman during their fall convention at the FSK Holiday Inn in Frederick last weekend.
Dirk Haire — a lawyer who lives in Anne Arundel County — takes the reins from Diana Waterman, who did not seek re-election. He is the longtime counsel for the state party and was the campaign attorney for Gov. Larry Hogan’s 2014 election.
Haire will serve a two-year term.
Movin’ on up
Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D) was recognized by her colleagues on the Senate floor Thursday after her “summing up” speech.
The speech and ensuing accolades included a number of one-liners highlighting the oratorial flair of the longest-serving woman in Congress’ history. A few examples include:
- “Stop whining and have a glass of one.”
- “It’s not about gender. It’s about the agenda.”
- “The best ship you could sail on in life is something called ‘friend ship.’”
Sen. Ben Cardin commented on Mikulski’s way with words, lamenting how he generally speaks after her at public events.
“That’s been a burden that I’ve had now for 10 years, so, as I pointed out to the people of Maryland, we are losing one of the great giants and advocates for our state, and that’s going to be a great loss. The only benefit I can see is that I will not have to follow Senator Mikulski on the program in the future,” Cardin joked.
He then turned serious.
“All of us being in the Senate is special, but my enjoyment, productivity and life in the Senate has been made so much greater because of my seatmate and friend,” he said.