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Monday, July 10, 2017

Wilson City Alderman Candidacy Raises Concerns

George Wenschhof
Roger Wilson
I recently sat down with Democrat Roger Wilson to discuss his run for alderman in The City of Frederick election this year.
In 2014 he ran for state delegate in district 3-a. I interviewed Roger several times and found him to be affable with a strong desire to serve in elected office.  While, I supported his candidacy, I had opined Democrats Karen Young and Carol Krimm would likely prevail in the Democratic primary and win in the general.  I would be correct.
After Democratic candidate Jan Gardner would win the Frederick County executive contest also held in 2014, she would appoint Roger to a new position serving as government policy/affairs and liaison to work with government entities.
I would write columns on Gardner’s appointments, Changes in Personnel Rules Needed to Cover Gardner Appointments dated 12-5-2014 and Is Gardner Overreaching Her Authority? on 12-11-2014.
Basically, this position, along with a handful of other at-will plum positions were created and filled by supporters of the county executive before personnel changes had been made or the county council had approved.
I expressed to Roger the concerns about conflicts of interest he would face working as a high salaried at-will employee for the county executive and serving city voters when city-county issues would come before the board of alderman. Rumors had been deliberately circulated Roger would be running for mayor and I also asked him why he chose to run for alderman instead.
He indicated he had discussed staying in his position while running and serving, (should he win election), with county attorney John Mathias and had decided to run for alderman.
When I asked Roger if he would inform the voters he would recuse himself from the vote when it came to city-county issues, Roger would tell me “it is a little early to say that, adding I am not elected yet.”  I would say I felt it was important for voters to know his position on potential conflicts of interest prior to casting their ballot in the election.
When I spoke to county attorney Mathias, he told me he had informed Roger he could run for either position but it would be problematic to serve as mayor and stay in his current position.  Mathias would tell me he had reviewed the state constitution and the ethics ordinances in both the city and county and did not see where Mr. Wilson could not run.  However, he did say there may be occasions, should Roger be elected, he would have to recuse himself from the vote.
On November 24, 2014, I would publish Growth Battles Continue with Young Appointment.  I questioned the legality of Republican Board of County Commissioner president Blaine Young, who had lost the county executive race to Jan Gardner, being appointed to the Planning Commission while still serving as county commissioner.  County Attorney Mathias would defend the legality of this action to me in a phone interview.  I would opine "But, when looking at the appointment of commissioner Blaine Young to the planning commission, the state constitution spells out a person cannot hold two positions in which they receive compensation.  A planning commission member does receive a small amount of compensation.”
This appointment received opposition and intense legal scrutiny that was followed by Blaine Young resigning from his position on the Planning Commission.
I asked former president of the Board of County Commissioners and Maryland state delegate Democrat Galen Clagett how he viewed the city alderman candidacy of Roger Wilson while he was in an at-will position serving at the pleasure of county executive Jan Gardner.
Clagett responded by saying "Roger should have stayed out of the race. He has a problem, a real problem. It is a sticky wicket. There is a potential conflict of interest for him, especially in water/sewer issues, fire/rescue issues, tax equity.  I do not see a problem with him running necessarily, but I see a problem with him serving."
Local columnist Harry M. Covert told me "for a county official to seek a city aldermanic seat is opening a questionable matter. I believe this candidacy could well end up in court.”
Covert added "No doubt Mr. Wilson wants to serve. However if he wants to be successful he should resign his county post and put all of his time and talent seeking the city post."
I share the concerns expressed by Galen Clagett and agree with Mr. Covert, that Roger Wilson should resign from his county appointed position.  City voters would then be able to clearly hear his views on issues that matter to them.  A campaign distracted with legal challenges and concerns about conflicts of interest will not serve Mr. Wilson or the voters well as he campaigns for city alderman.
Stay tuned.
Editor’s Note: The City of Frederick primary election will be held September 12, 2017 and the general election November 7, 2017.

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