Washington County Republicans Selectively Enforce Ethics [2022]

The Washington County Republican Party target Democrats but not Republicans.

The Washington County Republicans have a funny way of holding their local elected officials to account.

What are their methods?

If you’re a Republican, you could literally shoot somebody on, let’s say, South Potomac Street, and they’d still support you.

If you’re a Democrat in Washington County, the Republicans would have you arrested for treason.

It’s bullshit – partisan, back-woods, good ol’ boys bullshit.

The Background on Washington County Republicans targeting Emily Keller

Emily Keller won a Hagerstown City Council seat in 2016.

Since then, the local Republicans have drug Keller through the mud.

Here’s why:

  1. Emily Keller is a woman and the first female ever elected mayor of Hagerstown.
  2. Emily Keller is a Democrat.
  3. Emily Keller is under 40.
  4. Emily Keller is a single mother and a successful business owner.
  5. Emily Keller threatens so many of the good ol’ boys’ masculinity.

Jerry DeWolf 

Jerry DeWolf is the former Washington County Republican Central Committee chairman.

When Keller first came onto the political scene, DeWolf recognized that Keller posed a threat to the good ol’ boy network.

After Keller was sworn into office, DeWolf focused the Central Committee’s collective attention on embarrassing Keller and defeating her in 2020.

Emily Keller decided to run for mayor in 2020.

Longtime Hagerstown Mayor Bob Bruchey did not seek re-election.

Keller defeated Republican Michael Barnes in the 2020 Hagerstown mayoral general election.

And the rest is history.

Not quite.

Read on!

Keller Wins a Car at the 2017 Bonanza Extravaganza

The Washington County Republicans lost their shit in May 2017 when then-Hagerstown City Councilwoman Emily Keller won a car at the Bonanza Extravaganza.

But first, here’s the background information. 

The International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) is a labor organization working to protect professional firefighters across the U.S. and Canada.

In 2005, IAFF Local 1605 formed a non-profit philanthropic foundation.

The foundation operates the annual Bonanza Extravaganza, a mega fundraising event held annually in May at the Hagerstown Speedway.

So, what happened with Emily Keller?

Keller bought a ticket to Hagerstown’s 2017 Bonanza Extravaganza.

Ticket number 2392, among many, was randomly drawn from the lottery machine.

Emily Keller held winning ticket 2392.

What did Keller win?

She won a car!

Keller wasn’t at the Hagerstown Speedway when her ticket number was called on Saturday afternoon, May 13 – but she arrived shortly thereafter.

Bonanza Extravaganza officials found Keller once she returned to the Speedway and informed her that she had won a big prize.

Here’s the video of Bonanza Extravaganza officials informing Keller that she had won!

Keller Plays it Safe, Calls for Independent Ethics Investigation 

The next day, Keller called Bob Bruchey, the mayor at the time, for advice on how to ethically handle her prize winnings.

Keller ultimately requested the Hagerstown City Ethics Commission to issue an ethics opinion on her Bonanza Extravaganza prize.

The ethics panel ruled that Keller *did not* violate any ethics laws by winning the Bonanza Extravaganza prize. 

A Miner Detail received a call from a City of Hagerstown employee at the time.

The City of Hagerstown employee said Jerry DeWolf planned to attack Emilly Keller over her Bonanza Extravaganza prize winnings.

DeWolf really wanted that car!

A Miner Detailed emailed DeWolf to learn his side of the story.

DeWolf responded the following day:

Mr. Miner,

I hope this finds you well. 

Recently myself and others in the Washington County Republican Club were made aware of Ms. Keller’s Bonanza winnings.

At first glance the optics of it seemed awkward by the merits that she is a sitting City Councilwoman, the event was sponsored by local 1605, and it is my understanding that the city of Hagerstown is still under negotiations with local 1605.

In the video posted to Ms. Keller’s Facebook page, she seems genuinely surprised by the winning, and I don’t question the merits of it.

When I made a cursory inquiry into how a city ethics panel works, or for more information, I was informed by the City Administrator Ms. Means, that Councilwoman Keller has already asked for an ethics panel review.

I was very pleased to hear this and feel that Ms. Keller has made the right choice, and I applaud her decision.

I, and as far as I know, no other member of the republican club, had made any accusations, regarding this issue, other than the optics of it looked bad.

Ms. Keller has proven in her five months to be a hard worker for the citizens of Hagerstown as she promised to be, and is doing very decent and noble work on the unfortunate opioid crisis within the city.  

While we have witnessed far too often in governments small and large around the country, ethics violations that resulted in violations of public trust of officials, we certainly did not want any appearance of wrongdoing here, even if there wasn’t.  

An ethics review panel is the right course of action, and I for one, am confident that this issue can be put to rest after a quick review.

I do not under any circumstances consider this an attack on Ms. Keller’s character, but merely trying to lend a careful eye to our elected local, state, and federal officials.

Again as I’ve stated before, I applaud Ms. Keller’s decision to seek an ethics panel review to make sure it was above reproach and am confident this is not an issue.

Furthermore, I thank Ms. Keller for serving her fellow citizens on the Hagerstown City Council. 

Thank you very much sir for asking for a comment.

Very Respectfully,

Jerry DeWolf, Chairman

Herald-Mail Media covered Keller’s big win story, but, unfortunately, they quoted Jerry DeWolf.

Here’s what DeWolf emailed the reporter:

“When is it ever OK for an elected public official to win, or accepts gifts from a local union that is under negotiations with the same body as the elected official?

Answer: never.

This calls for an Ethics Panel Review of Hagerstown City Councilwoman Emily Keller and calls into question her judgment,” the email reads.

DeWolf, always a day late and a dollar short, didn’t think to check in with his friend Bob Bruchey before he emailed his response to Herald-Mail Media.

Keller had already contacted the mayor the day after she won the prize to request the initiation of an independent ethics commission investigation.

How many elected officials do you know who ask for an investigation into their own *completely ethical* conduct?

Now you can see why Emily Keller is the mayor of Hagerstown today.

Washington County Republicans selectively choose their outrage 

Do you think Jerry DeWolf ever called out Washington County school board member Mike Guessford?

Guessford, who owned a catering business at the time, was profiting from school board contracts, for which he failed to disclose in his mandatory ethics disclosure forms.

Jerry DeWolf, Mr. Ethical Abiter, never once gave Mike Guessford the Emily Keller treatment.

Why not?

Mike Guessford is a conservative Republican.

And Mike Guessford is tied in tight with the local Republican Washington County Republican establishment.

The good ol’ boys in Washington County have each other’s backs.

Washington County Public Schools’ independent ethics advisory panel determined that Guessford violated the school board’s ethics policy.

The ethical panel ordered Guessford to pay back the $1700.

Did DeWolf write a letter to the local newspaper calling Mike Guessford’s ethics into question?

Nope.

The Karen Harshman Saga

Do you remember Karen Harshman?

Karen Harshman is a former Washington County Board of Education member.

The Maryland State Board of Education ordered Karen Harshman’s removal from the Washington County Board of Education in 2017 for gross misconduct.

She was tossed off the board for some really bad stuff.

Mrs. Harshman, you’d think, would have been a legitimate target for Jerry DeWolf.

Why so?

  • Karen Harshman is a woman.
  • Harshman is a registered Democrat.
  • She’s a union supporter.

But throughout the Harshman saga, the Washington County Republicans never paid any attention to Harshman’s misdeeds.

Why do you think that is?

Because Karen Harshman was (or still is, who knows?) tied in closely with Mike Guessford, another school board member with whom the local Republicans are pretty close.

Harshman was off-limits – despite violating the public’s trust and thousands of dollars of taxpayer dollars and staff time.

The Washington County Republicans don’t care about ethics – unless you’re a Democrat.

Ryan Miner Administrator
Ryan Miner is Editor & Founder of A Miner Detail, a Maryland Politics Blog.

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