On Tuesday September 7th at the bi-weekly legislative hearing the Cecil County Council continued their long pattern of disregard for the law surrounding the upcoming Redistricting Commission. As detailed in previous articles, the Redistricting Commission, which is being formed to create a redistricting plan incorporating the 2020 U.S. Census data, has been beset by delays, political squabbling, and Council-created obstacles. Council President Bob Meffley has used, and continues to use, his position on the Council to circumvent the County Charter and influence the composition of the Redistricting Commission, thereby influencing the outcome. This Legislative Meeting was yet another example of Bob Meffley’s attempts to impose the will of the Cecil Business Leaders PAC over the will of the people. As his efforts to appease his cronies are exposed, Meffley’s actions become more obvious and more egregious.
In accordance with the Open Meetings Act, the Council is required to post the agenda of the Legislative Meeting at least 24 hours in advance. The agenda must name the resolutions to be considered and provide drafts of those resolutions for the public to review. This gives the public the opportunity to not only understand what the Council is voting on, but also to allow the public ample opportunity to appear and comment on the legislation. The September 7th Legislative Meeting did not list the resolution introducing the Redistricting Commission on the agenda in advance of the meeting. In addition to this resolution not being listed, there was also no draft of the resolution for the public to view. Since the Council failed to alert the public of their intent to propose the Redistricting Commission and failed to provide a draft of the resolution, the public was unable to effectively provide comment.
Councilman Meffley’s violation of the Open Meetings Act, in the context of his previous actions, illustrate beyond doubt that the steps leading up to the current redistricting calamity can no longer be attributed to incompetence alone. The motives for Councilman Meffley’s failure to comply with the Open Meeting Act became immediately clear once the resolution naming the individuals to serve on the Redistricting Commission were read aloud. As explained in previous articles, the Council is mandated by the Charter to appoint one member to make the Commission an odd number, and they must select a chairman from the members of the Commission. Had the Council posted the resolution, the public would have seen that the Council replaced their appointed member at the last minute. Not only does this mean that the council made a material change to the proposed Commission without any notice to the public, but it also eliminated the opportunity of any member of the public to provide comments regarding this selection.
As if blindsiding the public and shutting out the voices of County residents was not bad enough, Councilman Meffley’s most egregious action came by way of the individual who was selected. It was announced at the Legislative Meeting that the Council appointed member on the Redistricting Commission is going to be failed political candidate Carl Roberts. You may remember Roberts was selected by former County Executive Alan McCarthy to join his transition team in 2016. The same Alan McCarthy that County voters resoundingly rejected last election due to his unprecedented levels of corruption, tax and spend policies, and drunk driving charge. Roberts has also made several donations to candidates and organizations that Cecil County voters have rejected or voted out of office. In addition to Alan McCarthy, Carl Roberts made financial contributions to Martin O’Malley, Cecil Business Leaders PAC, Cecil County Democrat Central Committee, David Rudolph, and failed Gubernatorial candidate and radical Democrat Jain Ashwani. This is the discernment of the man Bob Meffley thought would make a beneficial addition to the Redistricting Commission. Not only are there serious doubts about the judgement of Carl Roberts, but also of the Council members who supported his appointment.
It is not hard to believe that Bob Meffley was able to find support for Carl Roberts among other council members since Carl Roberts also made campaign contributions to Bill Coutz, Al Miller, and George Patchell. When voters are prevented from speaking, money will. It is unacceptable that the Republican Council would choose to hamstring the Republican efforts for a fair plan on the Redistricting Commission by tilting the balance in favor of the Cecil Business Leaders PAC. This is clearly a move to ensure the County Districts remain acceptable to the current council, and not in accordance with a genuine interpretation of the 2020 Census Data. It runs counter to what residents of Cecil County voted for, and it bypasses the provisions of the Charter that seek to make the Council a neutral part of the redistricting process.
The violation of the Open Meetings Act and the silent replacement with Carl Roberts are only the most recent entries on Councilman Meffley’s long list of failures. His attempt to prejudice the Redistricting Commission and shut out public comment is made even more evident by the fact that at the same meeting where the redistricting resolution was introduced, he gaveled down and silenced the only person who stood up to speak out against it. The only way to let the Council know that we are paying attention and displeased by their actions is by holding them accountable at the next Legislative Meeting when they take the final vote on the Redistricting Commission Resolution. On September 21st, residents of Cecil County will be given one last chance to voice their concerns. The Council has refused to hold themselves accountable to the laws of the Charter and the will of the people. It is now incumbent on all of us to show up to the September 21st Legislative Session and make our voices heard.