Back-Room Deals and Opaque County Government

By Eric Beasley

So this morning started just like it does every Wednesday morning after a Frederick County Council meeting. Take care of the dog, start the coffee, watch some Granicus feeds of the elected body that spend about $900 million every year (County and BoE spending).

I was especially interested in CollabGate, the most recent scandal to hit the County Council. CollabGate started with a seemingly innocuous exchange of ideas between Councilman Kirby Delauter and Council Vice-President M.C. Keegan-Ayers during officer elections in December.

Councilman Delauter:

Not once have we challenged the County Executive. We are the check and balance in the government and right now she writes the checks and there is no balance.

Vice President M.C. Keegan-Ayers:

We challenge her on a regular basis. We collaborate and come to an agreement before bills are introduced. So while it may not appear that we publicly challenge her, there are a lot of discussions, compromises, and negotiations that take place. And I think that simply to say that we don’t challenge her is not correct.

I actually covered this exchange on the radio, not because I thought any law was being broken, but because Frederick operates of the principle of “appearance.” We are not concerned with actually breaking any laws or violating ethics rules, but whether or not it “appears” that said infractions occurred. This ruling was first passed by Executive Order, then reinforced by a 4-3 Council vote.

Luckily for all of us, there are people out there (specifically Mary Posey, BIG tip of the hat to you, ma’am) that took these comments to the next level. From the Woodsboro Walkersville Times:

County citizen Mary Posey filed a formal complaint to the Maryland Open Meetings Compliance Board (OMCB) based on Keegan-Ayer’s statement declaring behind the-scenes….

During that meeting, Councilman M.C. Keegan-Ayer confirmed that legislative decisions and negotiations are made out of public view contrary to the intent of the Maryland Open Meetings Act.

 

As expected, VP Keegan-Ayer took the opportunity on the dais to defend her previous comments and other allegations from the Times article. In a surprising twist, she actually took responsibility for not responding to media inquiries from the Times.

In her statements on the dais, Keegan-Ayer claimed that “we” is the County Executive Gardner, Council President Otis, and herself. She claimed that they do not “negotiate”, but she went on to describe exactly what “negotiation” is. Now I may not be a Professor of the English language, but this “it depends on what the definition of is is” defense sounds too Orwellian for my personal tastes.

Keegan-Ayers also went on to say that “our legal department” would be responding to the complaint submitted to the Open Meetings Compliance Board. Interestingly enough, the County Council does not have a lawyer, budget analyst, or such staff to actually process such requests. Councilman Billy Shreve has been pushing for that for 2 years now and people like Keegan-Ayer have stonewalled it.

So what’s actually happening here is that the County Executive’s staff, the people who are appointed and work for her, will be providing a legal defense to the County Council. I guess when your BFF controls the County employee labor time, you can afford to NOT have a lawyer because you can just borrow one on-demand.

 

At the end of her comments Keegan-Ayer mentioned a Washington Post article that stated elected representatives are employees of the citizens and encouraged citizen feedback. She claimed a desire for the citizenry to challenge their decisions on the dais.

Except there’s one problem with that. The Frederick County Council holds their meetings at 4:30 on a Tuesday. Even with my work-from-home situation, it is difficult to attend these meetings. Considering the number of Frederick County residents that have to commute down that hell-hole parking lot known as I-270, if the County Council was interested in real feedback they would not schedule their meetings at a time which forces full-time taxpayers to take vacation time to attend.

If Keegan-Ayer wants to be held accountable for her actions as a Councilmember, we’re more than willing to make sure that happens. But please, schedule your meetings at a time when we can actually be there.

Eric Beasley
Eric Beasley Administrator

Eric is a former officer in the Republican Club of Frederick County and Frederick County Republican Central Committee between 2015 and 2018. Former guest host on WFMD and showrunner on WTHU. Avid gardener and food preserver. Graduated from Libertarianism to Anarchism as the corruption level in the state requires us to start over from scratch. 

About the Author

Eric Beasley
After a year fighting bears and chopping wood in the forest, a Cancer has emerged in Frederick County. The only way to kill Cancer is with fire, and casting a ballot.

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