The meaning of the word ALL has become an important point in overlapping concerns between the Frederick County Sheriff’s Office (FCSO) contracts with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the Frederick County Charter, control over the FCSO and the signing of contracts, grants and agreements by the county executive.
An examination of FCSO contracts and agreements by the local group Concerned Taxpayers has shown that ALL contracts and agreements involving the expenditure of appropriated funds are signed by the county executive, with the exception of the FCSO agreements with ICE. The two ICE agreements, the 287(g) agreement in which immigration status of those coming into custody of the jail (for which there is no reimbursement for costs incurred by the county), and the Inter-Governmental Service Agreement (IGSA) to house ICE detainees (for which there is a reimbursement that may or may not cover expenses), are the only FCSO agreements/contracts found by Concerned Taxpayers that were not signed by the county executive.
According to the county charter, Article 4, Section 402 (f), under County Executive Powers and Duties “signing or causing to be signed on the county’s behalf all deeds, contracts, and other instruments” is a required duty of the county executive.
The question regarding the absence of the county executive’s signature on these two FCSO agreements has become a bone of contention. Even the validity of the contracts, the spending of taxpayer dollars, in the absence of the executive’s signature, has come into question. Those raising the issue have focused on the word ALL, arguing that according to the county charter, ALL deeds, contracts and other instruments must be approved/signed by the county executive.
At the Aug. 1 meeting of the Charter Review Commission, Dr. Joseph Berman asked that the commission address Article 4, Section 402(f) by defining ALL.
The subject of Article 4, Section 402(f) was raised again at the Aug. 19 meeting of the Charter Review Commission meeting by commission members. At the time there was a lengthy discussion on the issue centering on the sheriff’s authority to sign contracts and the county executive’s duty to sign ALL contracts.
County Attorney John Mathias was tasked by the commission to draft an opinion on Article 4, Section 402(f)’s applicability regarding the signing of the 287(g) contract and presumably other such instruments involving the FCSO. These questions seemingly hinge on the use of the word ALL in the charter provision in question.
Merriam Webster’s online dictionary defines ALL as “the whole amount, quantity, or extent; as much as possible; every member or individual component.”
Black’s online Law Dictionary 2nd Ed. Defines ALL, “Collectively, this term designates the whole number of particulars, individuals, or separate items; distributively. It may be equivalent to ‘each’ or ‘every.’” State v. Maine Cent. R. Co., 66 Me. 510; Sherburne v. Sischo, 143 Mass. 442, 9 N. E. 797.”
It seems that the English language definition and the legal definition are clear, ALL means ALL, yet as of this writing, the county attorney’s office has not clarified the matter.
In the Aug. 19 commission meeting, the county attorney did make it clear that the sheriff is an independently elected official who can sign contracts, but that the sheriff can do only what the county executive and council fund.
In order for the county executive to exercise fiduciary responsibility it seems clear the executive must review, approve and sign ALL contracts requiring the expenditure of taxpayer dollars, in accordance with Article 4, Section 402(f) of the county charter. This includes the ICE agreements.
It is time for this to be addressed and clarified.
Karl Bickel was the 2018 Democratic candidate for sheriff. He can be reached at KarlBickel@comcast.net.