June 18, 2016 9:57 pm ET
County dodges the facts as scandal spreads among council members
Photo: Members of the Baltimore County Council. Who’s next at taking short cuts with the law?
Folks, what I’m about to lay on the table may startle some, incite others, and cause a certain number to flee from the long arm of the law.
Did that last part tweak your interest? Well, let’s just see how this plays out.
First, let’s look at the two major issues for which I have “pulled back the veil” regarding what I believe are serious violations of the law among council members.
The first is one that I have written about recently—the use of private email servers by council members to conduct county business.
Some of you may believe that is not a big deal, but just ask Hillary Clinton about using private email to do government business. She can tell you all about the “heat” she has been getting from the FBI.
Just to refresh your memory, and give you a look at the physical evidence, here are the the goods, documents, and—above all—the law in a recent blog that I wrote:
I wrapped it all nice and neat for you. Emails don’t lie; they just serve as evidence.
Regarding that subject, I have more copies of these types of emails around my desk from another former Delegate that I’m sure you will remember. (Y’all come back for that one later.)
For now, here is my second look into the darkness of county government—this little ditty is a sour tune for sure.
To refresh your memory, here is what I wrote originally:
With that read, you may remember that I reached out to several of the main players in this mess in an attempt to lock in a response from our leaderless (sorry, my bad) leaders as to some sort of accountability.
At the time that blog was published, I had not received a response. Now, here is some more of that solid evidence I was talking about in the form of an email from the county’s Tom Peddicord, who is the County Council Secretary and Attorney.
Below is your June 10 email inquiry to Councilman Crandell, Mr. Metzger’s email to me of the same date, and my response to him of the same date, all dealing with Resolution 67-16. I assumed Mr. Metzger had contacted you or sent you a copy of my email.
I trust that the contents of my response to Ron are clear. The answer is quite simple. Article 26 has no application at all.
Did you notice how emphatic Mr. Peddicord was in the first paragraph about the date he responded? I did as well. The only problem with that is Mr. Peddicord’s response was sent to me on June 14.
As they say, the plot thickens.
In response to my email, Councilman Crandell’s (citizen of the year) staff member Ron Metzgar conversed with Mr. Peddicord over this Revitalization issue and how the law guides the process.
Here is the rest of that email:
From: County Council District 7
Sent: Friday, June 10, 2016 11:08 AM
To: Thomas Peddicord
Good Morning Tom,
Please review the Email from Mr. Buzz Beeler (Below) and reply to him and our office.
Thank you for your time and attention.
What’s noticeable about this is, once again, the time frame. It’s a sort of “the right hand has no idea what the left hand is doing” situation, isn’t it?
For some proof of that issue, read the following little ditty, after which I’ll translate it into English—a language that is quickly becoming extinct, at least in this neck of the woods.
From: Thomas Peddicord
Sent: Friday, June 10, 2016 1:55 PM
To: County Council District 7
Cc: Bostwick, Thomas
Subject: RE: Web Inquiry
Article 26 of the County Code has no relevance to Resolution 67-16 or the manner of its approval by the Council.
This article was enacted by State law (Ch. 706 of the Laws of Maryland 1979 ) and has never been used. It predates my time with the County, but I have been told that it was an initiative of County Executive Hutchinson. The law gives the County the authority to create a certain type of revitalization district. To do so requires, among other steps, a Council resolution to propose a district, the establishment of an advisory committee, a local referendum, public hearings, Planning Board action, and a resolution of the Council to approve the creation of the district. Once established, the County may exercise extremely broad powers within the district, including the power to acquire, by Eminent Domain, any land or property for revitalization.
Note: If you search the law Mr. Peddicord is referring to, that search takes you to; guess where? Article 26 of the County Code.
The County’s Commercial Revitalization Districts, including the newest one created by Resolution 67-16, are established by Council resolution. The relevant law is Section 11-2-202 of the County Code (see subsection (a) (3) ). Commercially zoned properties within these districts are eligible for a variety of tax credits, loans and grants. The sole reason for the creation and existence of these districts is to enable commercial property owners to avail themselves of these County benefits. The County exercises no additional power within these districts, such as those granted by Article 26.
Now for the translation.
First, in Mr. Peddicord’s email, he tells Mr. Metzger that Article 26 of the county code has no relevance to creating a Revitalization Commerical District.
In doing this, Mr. Peddicord contradicts himself with the following quote, “To do so requires, among other steps, a Council resolution to propose a district, the establishment of an advisory committee, a local referendum, public hearings…”
Let’s take a look at the bill I’m referring to and what it states at the top of the heading, despite Mr. Peddicord’s blunder in referring to public hearings.
· ARTICLE 26. – REDEVELOPMENT AND REVITALIZATION
· TITLE 1. – IN GENERAL
· § 26-1-101. – AUTHORITY TO ESTABLISH REVITALIZATION DISTRICTS.
To me, that is pretty clear. It states the process by which one of these zones is created according to the law.
Plain and simple, right?
Not according to Mr. Peddicord (an attorney by the way), as he lays this on Mr. Metzger, which is he old saying of putting the cart before the horse.
Let’s take a look at the County Code Mr. Peddicord is claiming deals with Revitalization issues.
Here is the title of that section:
§ 11-2-202. – REVITALIZATION PROPERTY TAX CREDIT.
Does anyone else see the words dealing with what comes first, meaning the cart before the horse issue?
I’ll explain that in a moment.
Mr. Peddicord goes on to refer in his email how this section of the code covers (CYA) the Article 26 section.
How is his assessment wrong you may ask?
Let me explain, and I will be direct and to the point.
Here is the section of the code that Mr. Peddicord is referring to:
“Commercially zoned properties” are properties that are:
Located in any of the county’s designated commercial revitalization districts as specified in the master plan or by resolution of the County Council;
The key word here folks are the words, “or by resolution of the County Council;
For those working this crossword puzzle, WHAT THE HELL IS MR. CRANDELL’S 67-17? IT’S A RESOULTION OF THE COUNCIL.
Did everyone hear that? I figured shouting might have the desired effect.
So, what do you need for the council to pass a Revitalization Resolution?
You need this:
Hold a public hearing on the proposed revitalization plan, after thirty (30) days’ notice by publication once a week for two (2) weeks in at least two (2) newspapers having general circulation in the county, giving the time, place, and date of the hearing, and an opportunity for the public to review the plans. The hearing shall be held either in the councilmanic or legislative district within which the plan for the revitalization district lies;
The other question I have for Mr. Peddicord is, “How do you give tax credits to something that has not been created yet until the council votes on it?”
Keep thinking about “the cart before the horse.”
I rest my case, for the moment, because my fingers are tired from tapping on the keys of truth. So while I prepare to follow this up with some names of other council members who skate the law, go grab a bite to eat and, “Y’all come back now, ya hear.