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Monday, October 5, 2015


George Wenschhof
The election of Jan Gardner(D) as the first county executive of Frederick County, Maryland has perpetuated the decades long battle between two factions who primarily differ on how best to manage growth.
Gardner’s actions to date have been a reversal of actions taken by the previous board of county commissioners’ president Blaine Young(R) and Company.  Young and Company expanded the differences between the two factions from growth management to include the level of education funding and a desire to privatize government services which I described in a previous column entitled Blaine and Co. bad for Frederick County.
The latest move by Gardner is her threat to use eminent domain to void the contract of the business sale of the services being provided at Citizens and Montevue senior assisted care centers owned by the county government.
For Frederick County residents, it is a modern day real life portrayal of the movie “Groundhog Day”.
This perpetual back and forth battle has also caught the eye of many outsiders and political leaders in Annapolis.  The running joke “Is there something in their water?” never seems to get old as it applies no matter who wins.
Following Jan’s convincing of the council to reopen the Monrovia Town Center development approval, stacking committees with her appointees (a common practice by the winner), reversing the ill advised “English Only” ordinance and ethics committee decisions, she has now turned her sights on undoing the sale of the “business only” interest of the Citizen and Montevue senior assisted care centers.
She enjoys the support of a 4-3 vote from the council by ensuring Republican Bud Otis would become the president after the three Democrats on the council voted for him over Republican Billy Shreve.  Since then, Jan has received Otis’s vote with the 3 Democrats on every issue she presents to the council.
Republican council members Kirby Delauter and Billy Shreve, who were part of the previous board of county commissioners referred by me as Blaine and Company, enjoyed a board with a sure 4-1 vote on every issue presented by Blaine.  They are exasperated because they are now a minority on the council.
Crying foul at every move made by Gardner and complaining she is only focused on undoing everything their board did, Shreve and Delauter seem to forget they spent their 4 years in office undoing everything Gardner and her “Dream Team” had done in the previous administration. Jan coined the name “Dream Team” when she and fellow Democrat Kai Hagen ran with and won with Republicans David Gray and John “Lennie” Thompson in the 2006 election.
The sale of the Citizens/Montevue business interest was another of the actions by Blaine Young, while enjoying a 4-1 majority on the board that illustrates his arrogance and persistence in doing what he wanted during his administration, even if it was ill advised.
Blaine began his obsession of selling the county owned land, building and services by first disbanding their board of directors, firing the director and sending a threatening letter to city officials.  A letter I questioned at the time whether it had board approval in a column.  In order to sell the land, subdivision was required and needed city approval.
I also pointed out in another column, there was legal action underway pertaining to deed restrictions and the state had provided a $200,000 loan that meant the state board of public works needed to approve the sale.
I opined it would be best to let the legal issues be decided before approving any sale.  In a meeting, the board of public works agreed.
Stymied, a frustrated Young intent on selling the facilities, received legal advice he could sell the business only interest of the centers with the option on the sale of the land and buildings dependent upon court decisions.
This brings us to present day where Gardner, who made it known during her campaign for county executive she opposed the sale of the facilities.
She has withheld questionable payments negotiated by Young from the county to the Buyer and is undergoing mediation in an attempt to dissolve the contract.
The contract agreed to by Blaine and Company is a poor one for the county and should be voided.  Decisions by the court still have not been made and no action to sell any interest in the centers should have been done by the previous board.
Speculation on the future of the long serving county attorney is rampant because he has provided opinions on both sides of this and other issues over the years, depending upon who was in power.  His credibility questioned, some believe resignation is the best option.
Let’s hope legal rulings will be issued soon and mediation will result in the voiding of this ill advised agreement.  The use of eminent domain to recapture a “business interest” is a stretch and is also not advisable.  It is used to claim land such as property for an airport expansion.  But in this case, the land has not been transferred so there is no need to recapture by use of eminent domain.
Optimistically, the county will retain the business interest, land and buildings. Afterward, a committee should be appointed by Gardner and confirmed by the council to review management options to include the reappointment of a board of directors and to develop financial plans for the future of the Citizens/Montevue senior assisted living centers.
Stay tuned.

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