Wednesday, 13 February 2019

Wicomico County Executive Letter To Council President John Cannon To Step Down

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Dear John, 

Over the last 30 plus years I have been before County Council with my businesses, and over the last eight years as a Council person or Executive, I have never been more embarrassed for Wicomico County as I was for the Council’s behaviors last week. Led by you, you proclaimed the Executive’s office did not show to answer questions on Poplar Hill and we were stomping our feet and not showing up because we did not get our way on another request. You continued to proclaim that this was such a tragedy for the citizens of Wicomico County and it was no fault of the County Council. Furthermore, you continue to place blame on the Executive’s office. 

When we found out Thursday evening that you placed Poplar Hill on the agenda for a work session, Wayne Strausburg called Laura Hurley to have it removed because we were not ready to go public. You were also aware that we were still awaiting a response from the State regarding the lease and other questions that we had proposed to the State. Laura explained to the Executive staff that you were asked twice to remove this from the agenda and that if we did not go through with this that you would be very upset. Once again, this proved that you were not looking out for the County residents’ best interest, rather you instead wanted to chastise the Executive’s office for not keeping you informed on public television. 

We have been glad to keep you abreast of all things regarding Poplar Hill as we have found out information along the way. If you remember, when you met with me for 1.5 hours a couple weeks ago in my office, we talked about Poplar Hill and I answered every question you had. I also told you that we wanted to know what the state requirements were going to be before going public. 

I hope you notified other Council members of our meeting and all subjects we talked about. Wayne and I explained that my choice was not to put ourselves in a position of not giving out complete information. However, that did not seem to stop you and other Council persons from criticizing. Did you tell the Council members what we talked about in its entirety? 

We also invited the Council to the property site and shared our ideas for the facility from day one. Since that day, despite overwhelming support from the Governor, you and other members of the Council have sought to undermine the project, making untruthful and reckless comments. We have repeatedly advised you that there were many details that needed to be investigated before we could have a meaningful dialogue with the public.  And yet you persisted with empty, negative rhetoric designed to undermine trust.  You have succeeded.  We no longer trust the Council under your leadership as a working partner to improve this County.  Rather we view you as an entity almost solely focused on undermining me and my administration.  

Another thing that needs to be straightened out is this last audit on the Election’s office. First, it was not in the plan of the yearly audit to be completed. There was no resolution for this audit. The charter requires a resolution for special audits. Who authorized it? The audit was the worst written, incomplete audit that I have seen produced. Neither auditor has any relevant experience that would enable an objective report. The auditors spoke to the Director of Elections about room sizes and bathrooms, when in fact the Director and Board of Directors had the plans for over 6 months and worked with the Executive’s office on layout. Furthermore, the auditor violated the Council’s adopted legislation (bill 2018-06) by not allowing management response within 30 days before internally releasing it. This is not the first audit that has violated this legislative action. I see these audits as hatchet jobs by Council directed towards the Executive’s office. 

Over the past several years, you have taken it upon yourself to interfere with the Executive functions, directly violating the charter (section 314). At one time I had invited Council persons to speak directly with County Department heads to help initiate clear communication amongst Executive and Legislative branches of government. However, you have no right to approach board members or department heads and ask them to resign or they will not be confirmed because you disagree with their professional decision making. Before Christmas, you and Laura approached the County Attorney and asked him to resign stating that he also would not be confirmed. A similar action was taken against the Ethics Commission Chair after you stated that Council did not agree with the Ethics Board’s ruling. 

In order for Wicomico County to move forward with the critical work and accomplishments, the Executive and County Council need the ability to work together and communicate.  The continuous attempt to spar with the Executive’s office over trivial matters is counterproductive.  While Council pronounces to be the “watch dogs” over Executive actions, we question Council’s confusion over charter authority.

Over the last several years: a) there have been continuous leaks from Council’s closed sessions; b) legislative actions are continuously being designed to circumvent the charter and reduce the Executive’s authority; c) there has been no communication with the Executive other than letters clearly written by the Council’s Attorney; d) there is a weaponized Internal Auditor that clearly lacks independence in preforming his job duties; e) a repeated Council interference in the Executive function; f) a continuous effort to ignore the advice of highly competent experts and decisions based on ignorance accompanied by a refusal to learn; g) the repeated public commentary designed to belittle the Executive and administration are not trustworthy or truthful; h) you preach transparency while not exhibiting any what so ever in your actions, and; i) it is clear that your decisions are grounded in personal differences with me rather than the best interest of the County. 

Based on the actions above, I have little confidence that these situations will change under your leadership. I request that you step down as Council President and allow another member to step into your role to better accomplish the business and goals of the Wicomico County citizens. If you find this a harsh request, then maybe we can refer this matter to the Ethics Commission for resolution.

Bob Culver 
County Executive 





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