Washington County politics front and center in 2018 cycle

Observers of Maryland politics may often ignore Western Maryland as a peripheral political playground, while Montgomery, Baltimore, Prince George’s, Howard, and Anne Arundel Counties, plus Baltimore City, are provided close media attention and acute coverage.

2018 is likely to be different, however.

Over the last year, Washington County government has seen more than its fair share of scandal, chaos and dysfunction. The all-white male Republican commissioner board has been rocked by sexual harassment allegations and a crisis of leadership.

Commissioner LeRoy E. Myers, Jr, who is embroiled in a sexual harassment suit after a former county employee accused him of inappropriate sexual contact during a 2016 county business development trip to South Korea, last year organized a coup to oust longtime County Administrator Greg Murray, with the witting assistance of Commissioners President Terry Baker and appointed Commissioner Wayne Keefer.

As a result, the well-respected Murray was essentially pushed out of his position, forcing him to retire early.

Myers and his wife, Nicole Alt-Myers, a Republican candidate herself for Myers’ once-held District 1C state delegate seat, subsequently concocted a vicious rumor against Murray, manufacturing a pretext for his ousting, as cover for their subterfuge.

The baseless rumor about Murray, manufactured by the husband and wife team, has ultimately been proven abjectly false, further eroding the Myers’ already-waning credibility in Washington County.

Many Washington County residents and even some county employees believe that Myers, who opted against running for re-election this year, is at the center of commissioner board’s dysfunction.

Other Washington County citizens and government employees believe that Baker, who was first elected to the commissioner board in 2006, and Keefer, appointed by the Republican Central Committee in 2016, joined Myers’ voting bloc on the commissioner board because Myers has a financial hold over the two men – in the form a business deal and a financial loan, sources claim.

Myers has previously denied accusations to A Miner Detail that he loaned money to Baker and Keefer; however, a growing chorus of Washington County residents say and believe otherwise.

The dysfunction enveloping 100 West Washington Street is perhaps the impetus behind 21 candidates filing to run for county commissioner this cycle, including incumbent John Barr, who abandoned the Republican Party last week, filing instead as an Unaffiliated, Maryland’s political characterization of an Independent.

Also ditching the GOP to run as an Unaffiliated commissioner candidate is former Washington County Commissioner William “Bill” McKinley, who lost his commissioner re-election bid in the 2014 Republican primary. McKinley filed his candidacy paperwork on Feb. 23.

Another layer of Washington County’s House of Cards saga includes a crumbling relationship between two longtime political allies and friends.

Multiple sources have reported to A Miner Detail that state Del. William “Bill” Wivell (District 2) and Commissioners President Terry Baker are on the outs with one another stemming from Baker’s decision to support LeRoy Myers. Baker of Clear Spring has leveled a passionate defense of Myers both personally and often publicly.

According to three sources with knowledge of the Baker/Wivell friendship fallout, Wivell is said to have encouraged Baker against defending Myers.

Sources have told A Miner Detail that Myers some years ago acted inappropriately towards Wivell’s spouse, Robin Wivell, a 2010 Republican commissioner candidate. Sources claim that that the Wivells have retold the story to multiple people over the years.

In turn, Wivell’s relationship with Baker has largely disintegrated over Baker’s embrace of Myers.

Four incumbents from the current commissioner board are seeking re-election, including Baker, Barr, Cline and Keefer.

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