Monday, February 10, 2014

Cecil County Drug Abuse Exposed! Part 1

Two years ago I discovered how bad our crime and drug abuse is in Cecil County and have since attempted to address.  What I have discovered during those two years should shock the public especially if you have had family or loved ones exposed to drug addiction.  The very ones who are responsible for addressing these issues have failed us miserably but even worse it seems they have done so intentionally.  Why? At this point I can only assume there is more money for certain individuals and departments in maintaining and promoting addiction than in solving the problem.

This is only Part I and there are other players I  will be calling out.  For now, let’s start with our Local Drug and Alcohol Abuse Council (LDAAC).  This Council was initiated by executive order in 2004 by Governor O’Malley and all of the Maryland Counties were tasked with creating their own LDAAC’s to identify how to best address their local drug abuse and addiction issues.  There was a funding mechanism created and the Governor chose which of the LDAAC’s requests he would support in each of the local strategic plans.  To supposedly ensure these initiatives were effectively addressing local drug abuse, six month reports were required to be submitted to the DHMH showing the progress.

Sounds like a good plan but for the two years I have served on this Council, Chairman John Bennett led us to believe the Council was only advisory, we didn’t have a vote and when someone wanted to serve as co Chair, he stated: “I don’t know where the bylaws are, I don’t know if we can have a co Chair, and I don’t know who the voting members are of this committee.”  That’s when I and other concerned citizens did our homework and demanded information that was being withheld.  After a month we finally received the bylaws, we stumbled upon the real purpose of the LDAAC’s, the strategic plan and the 6 month progress reports which were exclusively submitted by Ken Collins with no vote by the Council.

When one of the members of the Council even suggested removing John Bennett, both Mr. Collins and Mr. Massuli of the Cecil County Health Department said they would never support because he goes to all of the meetings with Collins to represent LDAAC.  Let me point out that the bylaws state the Chairman is not permitted to speak on behalf of the Council unless the Council permits it. I noticed the bylaws stated we would have a secretary and I asked who that was.  Mr. Collins spoke up and said he was the secretary despite there never being a vote to place him in that position.

So in the two years I have served on the Council, I have been able to bring HIDTA (High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Federal Designation) to Cecil County for additional resources to address drug trafficking, I have organized and held over 10 Drug Awareness Forums, and scheduled Marie Allen of Heroin Hurts in our public schools. I have also requested supporting data that our methadone treatment facilities in the County are working and proposed new policies to make it more transparent and effective.

Mr. Bennett and Drug Czar Ken Collins on the other hand have went out of their way to obstruct and block any forward progress.  After the Roundtable in August, many Cecil County departments revealed Cecil County’s drug addiction became much worse after the 6 week waiting list was created due to the shutting down of half the treatment beds at A.F.Whitsitt Center in Kent County. I went down to Whitsitt and confirmed this had a huge impact on access to recovery and that the health department was instead referring everyone to methadone maintenance until their name came up on the waiting list.  Many of those on the waiting list could not qualify for recovery because their methadone levels were too high, the phone numbers no longer worked, they changed their mind, or were arrested.. Mr. Bennett sent me an email discouraging opening the additional recovery beds at A.F.Whitsitt and that was Mr. Collins response as well.

Have they intentionally diverted clients to methadone maintenance facilities?  We were equally surprised to hear DHMH justify that their definition of successful methadone treatment was the longer you stay on methadone.  So a 10 year client on methadone is more successful than one only on it for 5 years?!   We have requested the state stat data that was required to be collected on the methadone facilities to show how many clients have kept their jobs, successfully stayed in recovery, or suffered a relapse.  We were repeatedly promised that information from Nancy Turner of Serenity Health, and from DHMH.  However, I was just informed by a DHMH representative that they stopped collecting that data  due to push back of the private treatment facilities.

The latest collusion has been with Chairman Bennett claiming that the LDAAC at their last meeting supported the initiatives proposed by the County Executive.  This was not true because Drug Czar Collins said he didn’t have a copy of her letter at the meeting so it was never reviewed and no vote taken.  Chairman Bennett wrote a letter to the editor and sent out many emails requesting Cecil County organizations send letters of support to the Governor supporting the County Executive’s initiatives and that he was writing the letter on behalf of LDAAC that voted on and supported the initiatives.

Another important development was the Community Health Advisory Council Meeting which I am supposedly a member but did not receive a notice of the meeting.  I stumbled upon the meeting date after researching what the LDAAC’s responsibilities are.  This is the Council which the LDAAC and the other advisory councils report to with their initiatives. You could clearly see that Director Garrity was surprised to see me there and I invited other concerned citizens to attend so there would be witnesses.  When Chairman Bennett provided the LDAAC Report, both Bennett and Collins claimed that LDAAC supported the County Executive’s initiatives.  It was interesting that the Drug Czar Collins also identified himself as the Director of the Alcohol and Drug Recovery Department which Mike Massuli was supposedly assuming the responsibility for while Collins served under the County Executive.

I spoke up and said that LDAAC never voted or reviewed the initiatives and that Mr. Bennett has misrepresented his position as Chair.  Follow the money - Where is the County Executive proposing to divert the LDAAC Funding?  The methadone maintenance facilities ($100,000 for residential treatment) and the Schools ($275,000) for a recovery high school. These initiatives, however, were never vetted or scrutinized before by LDAAC so how do we know if this is the best recourse for attacking drug addiction in our County?  But even worse, the LDAAC process was put into place to ensure special interests couldn’t get their hands on this recovery money.  What performance measures or data does the County Excutive have to back up $100,000 in additional funding to the private treatment facilities for intensive outpatient therapy? A DHMH counselor has already stated that this doesn't work because the addict needs to be removed from their environment to effectively start recovery.  It has already been identified in the Health Resources in Action Study and from many in the treatment community that the demand or logjam to recovery is for detox and intensive inpatient therapy.  So why would we ignore this fact and invest in treatment that probably won't be effective?  My concern is that two of the main private treatment providers in the County is Serenity Health and the Elkton Treatment Center.  They are campaign contributors to the Cecil Business Leaders for Better Government - a political action committee which supported the Moore/Hodge/McCarthy slate and is now supporting Councilwoman Bowlseby.

If you have a story to tell on how you or a loved one was obstructed from access to recovery, please send me an email at

Monday, February 3, 2014

Letter to the Governor

January 15, 2014

Governor Martin O’Malley
100 State Circle
Annapolis, Maryland 21401

Dear Governor O'Malley,

I am writing to bring an important matter to your attention.

The Cecil County Executive, Tari Moore, has just forwarded to you a list of her initiatives to address our drug abuse crisis in the County.

I was under the impression that there was a process in place to properly vet initiatives to address drug and alcohol abuse.  Your Executive Order in 2008 created the State Drug and Alcohol Abuse Council.  The State Legislature mandated that each county would have their own local Drug and Alcohol Abuse Council (DAAC) to establish their own initiatives and plans to be forwarded to the State Drug and Alcohol Abuse Council and your office for funding.

While A.F. Whitsitt has previously been discussed and researched, other County Executive recommendations have not been vetted through the Local DAAC, the Community Health Advisory Committee (CHAC) and were not included on the goals outlined in our 2 year strategic plan.  The process your Executive Order created was put into place to more effectively assess and identify local needs.   And who best to identify than its own community made up of local stakeholders and concerned citizens impacted by drug abuse.

Examples of initiatives that were never mentioned in our 2 year strategic plan include the Recovery High School ($275,000) and the Lab Analyst ($35,000).  The County Executive brought her requests before the Cecil County Council and questions were asked during that meeting as well as at a previous meeting with the County Executive’s Special Assistant to Drug Policy, Kenneth Collins.  I requested further information on why the four positions were needed at the Recovery High School.  I also requested further information on the lab analyst wanting to verify that this was the best method in funding this position.  These answers were never provided.

It should be noted that Mr. Collins was also the former Director  for the Alcohol and Drug Recovery Center for the Cecil County Health Department so he should be familiar with the process you put into place but yet he advocated spending money on programs that were never discussed by the local DAAC.

While I was concerned that new initiatives were being suggested without input from the DAAC, it was a relief that the County Executive decided to include funding for Whitsitt as the top priority (Attachment 1) after it was pointed out how critical it was to address the six week waiting list for detox. (Attachment 2)  However, the Cecil County Executive’s letter (Attachment 3) and the Cecil County Council’s letter (Attachment 4) failed to point this out and made each of her initiatives a top priority in a different category.   While I objected to that misrepresentation to the Cecil County Council and the statement that the Cecil County Council unanimously supported all of the initiatives, the majority on the Council refused to draft a new support letter with the correct information.

Page 2

Another concern is the manner in which our local DAAC functions.  To determine the Council’s role and responsibility, we requested a copy of the by laws but were told by the Chair, John Bennett, that he couldn't find his copy and that Mr. Collins would provide.  We’ve been waiting over a month and just received them (Attachment 5).  All of the information on how our local DAAC was intended to function we had to locate ourselves and were shocked to find that the designated DAAC for Cecil County was the Community Health Advisory Committee (CHAC) which meets only twice a year.  The DAAC is one of five task forces that report to CHAC.   The local DAAC has not voted upon or reviewed the 6 month reports or strategic plan which are required to be submitted.  We were informed that Ken Collins submitted but it's not clear on where he received the information to compile the reports.  

John Bennett has stated that this Council is only advisory and can not vote. After a member requested to serve as co chair, he responded that he wasn’t sure if the rules of procedure allow for a co chair and even so, wouldn't know who the members are that could vote.  Mr. Bennett also claimed in a letter to the editor (Attachment 6) that the DAAC reviewed and approved the initiatives by the County Executive.  The initiatives were not reviewed because Mr. Collins did not have a copy with him and therefore there was no vote. Even more disturbing is that Mr. Bennett said he only needed the approval of the Cecil County Health Department to submit the editorial. He also took it upon himself as Chair of the DAAC to send emails (Attachment 7) to many organizations stating the DAAC reviewed and approved the County Executive’s initiatives and requested they send in letters of support.

At previous DAAC Meetings, Mr. Bennett had claimed we couldn’t take votes because we were only advisory.  But as you can see from his letters to the editor, emails to organizations to encourage support, and attending other meetings representing the local DAAC he isn’t shy about sharing his personal opinion without seeking direction from the rest of the DAAC.  When I was seeking support to reopen the treatment beds at Whitsitt, he sent an email stating we shouldn’t pursue because it would hurt the political good will established at the Roundtable (Attachment  8).  When a concerned citizen was opening up a transitional house, she encountered zoning issues and requested support and direction from John Bennett.  His response to her was full of political innuendo as to how it wasn’t the time to ask for any support in Cecil County (Attachment 9).

After receiving a copy of the DAAC by laws, there is now no doubt the Chairman has been deficient in the manner he has conducted the meetings. (Attachment 5 Bylaws: 2.2, 2.3, 3.1, 4.1, 4.3, 4.4, 4.5, 5.2, 5.3, 5.4, 5.5, 7.1)   Other issues include that citizens have been removed from the DAAC meeting notification email list as well as requests for monthly meetings have been ignored.  Because our drug abuse problem is at a crisis point, we don’t think quarterly meetings are appropriate.

I have been an active member of our local DAAC for over 2 years.  During that period of time I have organized many forums and workshops (Attachment 10) for the public and within Cecil County Public Schools.  I’ve encouraged the public to participate, researched how to fight drug abuse and implement more effective treatment, and pursued stronger COMAR regulations with support from the County Commissioners and later the County Council.  (Attachment 11)  I have also worked on and helped obtain the HIDTA Designation. (Attachment 12) I’m one person but yet could find so many ways to address our number one problem.

In this pursuit, I have requested that DHMH provide the Statestat information on employment, criminal activity, and relapse to identify how successful the private treatment programs are and was told the information would be provided at the next monthly DHMH meeting.  These were the monthly meetings you authorized at my request at the Round Table in August.  This will probably be the first month to not have a meeting despite my repeated request to have it scheduled.    I believe the reason may be that DHMH promised the Statestat data but now I’ve been told by a DHMH official that in 2008 this information was no longer collected due to push back from the private treatment programs.

Page 3

We have also requested intervention on pill mill doctors from the Health Department as you would  assume these doctors are a danger to public health.  The Health Department has not intervened and it was only after I requested an update from the Maryland Board of Physicians regarding a local Doctor charged in Delaware and Pennsylvania that the website was updated.  After Maryland‘s investigation he was only put on probation for one year.  After reading the report from the panel review, I would have thought his license should have been suspended.
I along with three other concerned citizens have been active in on the local DAAC and in effectively addressing drug abuse in the County.  By comparison, the County Executive and three members on the Council, who blindly support her initiatives, have not.  Mr. Collins has supported Mr. Bennett’s management of the DAAC and has been what can only be called an obstructionist on promoting properly vetted initiatives in Cecil County.  Could this be why our drug abuse, overdose, suicide, crime, and child maltreatment rates are so high?

I don't believe it was your intention to have resources allocated without a proper vetting from the local DAAC.  When the process is followed as was intended, it promotes and encourages community involvement, the opportunity for ideas to be exchanged freely, and the transparency to ensure special interests or political pay backs have not taken control over our limited resource funding.

The DAAC can flourish at the direction of a strong, enthusiastic Chair which includes the community in meetings and in promoting goals and initiatives.  There have already been comments by the Health Department directors that they will defend Chairman Bennett and will never support his removal.  That gives me the impression that all of the obstruction we’ve encountered has been by design which leads to another question - Why?  Our request - mine and other concerned citizens - is that you intervene and support our efforts to have a local DAAC which operates in the manner intended.


Diana Broomell
Cecil County Council, District 4
200 Chesapeake Blvd., Suite 2100
Elkton, Maryland 21921
 Office: 410.996.5201
    Fax:  410.996.1014

Monday, January 6, 2014

Is Cecil County Better off Today?

Letter to the Editor
Cecil Whig

The Cecil County Executive is holding a Town Hall on Monday, January 6 at 6:30 pm in the County Administration Building.   On the anniversary of switching to Charter, this is an opportune time to discuss if Cecil County is better off today than a year ago.

 Cecil County holds the record for the most attempts at Charter.  Why was it voted down so many times before?  Many were concerned with the amount of power provided the County Executive. 

 And for good reason.  Since taking office , the County Executive (1) increased our long term debt by $70 million reaching our highest long term debt of $210 million,  (2) Removed a member of the Ethics Commission because they serve at the County Executive's sole discretion, (3) Switched her party affiliation from Republican to unaffiliated to control filling her own vacancy on the Council circumventing the Republican Central Committee.  If you attend a Council Meeting, you will find that 3 of the members are in lock step with the County Executive which allows her and the Cecil Business Leader Lobby to run Cecil County.  

So on the one year anniversary of Charter Government, we should consider is Cecil County better off today then it was a year ago?  Were the promises made by the Friends of Charter to be cost neutral and more efficient correct?   Better yet, what can we do to improve our government process to make it more transparent, accountable and fiscally responsible for the future?

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Council Members Hodge, McCarthy and Bowlesby Attempt to Censor

Councilmembers Hodge, McCarthy and Bowlesby are doing everything in their power to censor information getting to the public.  Below is the link to the September 10, 2013 audio recording in which President Hodge led the discussion on incorporating consequences which a "majority" of the Council could enforce.

Below link to the audio recording of the same meeting showing how rules are not equitably enforced by President Hodge.  Go to 15 minutes 40 seconds.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Transparency Key in the Basell Deal - Cecil Whig guest column

Posted: Friday, August 30, 2013 4:00 am
Should it be mandatory that everyone profiting from the Basell purchase (Bill No. 2013-09) be disclosed?
When it comes to taxpayers’ dollars, transparency is always a good policy.
In response to my request for disclosure, Obrecht Properties stated: “Appleton Road Business Trust”, is limited to, and comprised exclusively of, principals and employees of Obrecht Properties, LLC and Blue & Obrecht Realty, LLC, as well as a Baltimore physician/real estate investor. No names were provided.
Purchased in May 2013 for $5 million by Appleton Road Business Trust LLC, County Executive Tari Moore and the Cecil County Public School system is now offering $4.2 million above their purchase price, which includes a one year lease of $800,000 to allow the sellers to avoid a capital gains tax. That’s over 60-percent profit for owning the property for just 90 days.
The LLC paperwork was completed by Lawrence Haislip and it should be noted that while Obrecht Properties has other LLCs, this is the only one in which Mr. Haislip submitted the paperwork. Mr. Haislip is also the attorney who negotiated the Artesian deal for Cecil County, a campaign contributor to Cecil County Council President Robert Hodge and retained by Cecil County for the lawsuit against the Town of North East challenging its out-of-town water rates after Hodge was elected.
I questioned the motivation for the North East lawsuit as well as emphatic claims by Haislip and Hodge that the case would be a slam dunk win for the county. It wasn’t and the county and Town of North East lost close to $1 million. I questioned why Hodge didn’t recuse himself since he had properties that were affected by the North East water rates. I’ve also questioned the $4 million road infrastructure overhaul, the $30 million Seneca Point Wastewater Treatment Plant GE Zenon System, and a capital project to lay sewer infrastructure and all would benefit his properties.
In my opinion, Hodge has been using Cecil County as his own personal piggy bank. Moore was his political consultant, when she then owned Moore Strategies, when he was running for office in 2006. She recently requested a bill to be introduced increasing our long term debt by 50 percent. The $70 million bond (Bill No. 2013-10) would include funding for the Basell and GE Zenon purchases. As expected, council members Hodge, Alan McCarthy and Joyce Bowlsbey have no problem with this bill and will probably support it.
The magnitude of this borrowing is unprecedented, irresponsible and does not represent the platform that Moore, Hodge, McCarthy and Moore-appointed Bowlsbey claimed to support. Fiscal irresponsibility is one thing, but taxpayers have the right to know if back-room deals are being made. Maryland Campaign Finance laws mandate that elected officials file personal financial disclosures for the public’s review. These disclosure statements for each of the council members can be viewed on my website at
Demanding transparency keeps everyone honest. Councilwoman Bowlsbey stated she would support disclosing the members of the Appleton Road Business Trust LLC only if 10,000 citizens requested. If they have nothing to hide, it shouldn’t be an issue.
Diana Broomell is the District 4 representative to the Cecil County Council

Friday, August 2, 2013

Governor's Visit Should Not Limit Cecil County's Drug Abuse Discussion

As originally reported in the Washington Post, the Governor's visit is only meant to address the Opiate Overdose Plan and not the recent findings of the HRIA Study of Cecil County's Drug Abuse Issues. However, I have insisted that the discussion be on the drug abuse issues as a whole and how the State has the potential to effect positive change in Cecil County and throughout the State.

At my request, Stephanie Garrity, Director of the Cecil County Health Department, organized a meeting with State Representatives on July 22 to address proposed changes to State Comar regulations for drug treatment clinics as well as to discuss other related concerns. Below is my follow up email sent to the State representatives to request confirmation on the issues the State would agree to follow up on.  It was sent July 28th and Stephanie Garrity has replied and agreed the summary was fairly accurate.  I am still awaiting a response from the State.

State Representatives,

I also wanted to thank you for coming all the way to Cecil County to address our concerns.  I agree that it was a positive meeting and I walked away with a sense that the State wanted to close up the "gaps" in our ability to address drug abuse in Cecil County.

Regarding our request for changes to the AELR Committee, can you please forward the new State Comar Regulations for urine testing standards at drug treatment clinics which Dr. Franklin had referred?  I wanted to make sure the new regulations already addressed our concerns.

Also, from my recollection (which is not always the best), items the State agreed to discuss further included:

1.  Review of the Drug Treatment facilities in the County:
a. To review if treatment services are being unbundled and selectively administered.
b. Review of client counseling records to insure a realistic plan is developed, followed and assessed.
c. To insure Methadone is being used as only part of a Opiate Level I Treatment Plan and includes the
            required counseling with a realistic plan for recovery addressing the reasons for the client's drug
            abuse.(ex. Dr. Stoller's Drug Treatment Program)

2.  Review how to remove a major source of drug abuse, Doctors over prescribing narcotics:
a.  Inform public on how to effectively file complaints with the State providing a timely response.
b.  Intervene in a timely manner to pull State Medical and CDS dispensing licenses and schedule
             emergency hearings because they are a threat to public safety.
c.  Insure Maryland Board of Physicians is reporting on website in a timely manner (1 week?) of
            Doctor's charges and convictions.
d. Make it mandatory for doctors to disclose risk of addiction in using narcotics for pain management
            and to provide non narcotic options.

3. Realistically measure success:
a.  Put into place an effective Drug Treatment State Stat that measures success on relevant criteria:
            employment history, # of clean urine tests, attendance for treatment, discharged after completing
            program, reduction or elimination of methadone.
b. Results reviewed in a timely manner and any weaknesses in the treatment identified and addressed
           with new plans and cont'd review.
c. Results published for the public to review.

4. First steps in establishing a detox facility in the County.

5. Prescription Drug Monitoring Program:
a. August 20 target date - State Stat criteria identified to measure success and improve performance
b. Check with Governor for support of Federal legislation to make it mandatory for adjoining states to
            share PDMP information.
c. Eventually make it mandatory for Pharmacists and Doctors to use.

If this list needs to be corrected, please let me know.  Thanks again and I look forward to continuing our discussion in the near future.


Diana Broomell
Cecil County Council, District 4
200 Chesapeake Blvd., Suite 2100
Elkton, Maryland 21921
Office: 410.996.5201
   Fax: 410.996.1014

Friday, July 12, 2013

Dealing with Cecil County's Drug Problem

The drug problem is Cecil County's number 1 issue. Ninety percent of our crime is drug related; we have the 3rd worst crime rate in the State of MD as well as one of the highest overdose and child maltreatment rates. Social Services, schools, economic development, and quality of life are all affected. Until we start addressing this issue, how can we move the County in a positive direction? 

To address the problem, we need more effective drug treatment facilities, drug awareness education, and more accountability and resources on the State and Federal level.

 Drug treatment facilities should be more effective. I have requested that the State of MD change their comar regulations to require more counseling and more effective drug testing of their clients. 

Dirty doctors should be aggressively dealt with. The Maryland Board of Physicians oversees this issue and they have been criticized for their backlog of complaints. Our local hospital should be adopting protocols to deny doctors with questionable backgrounds requesting affiliation with their hospital. 

We need an effective Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (pdmp). The federal government has required all States implement but MD is one of seven that still has not.

I have requested that our Congressman, Andy Harris, submit laws making it mandatory for adjoining states to share Pdmp information; to revoke prescription writing privileges for Doctors in all States when it's been revoked in one State; and to support Cecil County in obtaining a High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Designation which provides federal resources. 

Keep in mind, the pharmaceutical industry is by far the biggest lobbyist in Washington DC. In my pursuit to address this issue I have discovered that many profit in sustaining this problem and until we stand up and hold our elected, appointed and community representatives accountable, we will not be able to effectively address this issue.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

How did Cecil County Waste $30 Million on Seneca Point?

Why would anyone agree to pay $30 million for a project that should only cost the County $3 million? That’s exactly what happened on May 21st when Council members Hodge, McCarthy and Bowlesby voted to support the Seneca Point Waste Water Treatment Plant Project which incorporates the Membrane Bio Reactor (MBR) Filters. While it’s a fact that Seneca Point is mandated to go to Enhanced Nutrient Removal (ENR), our consultant (GHD) has stated and the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) has verified that the denitrification filter is the cheapest way to meet this standard.

However, the 3 council members voted for MBR despite Director Flanigan’s failure to provide justification and even after the Citizen’s Budget Advisory unanimously voted in opposition and President Hodge had previously agreed Director Flanigan should have to show comparison data.  Also, a concerned citizen, Ron Hartman, who retired from the waste water treatment supply business, conducted research on his own and seriously questioned this decision.

Council members Hodge, McCarthy and Bowlesby claimed Director Flanigan met the burden because he’s the expert and chastised me for questioning his decision. Why wouldn’t they question him after it was discovered that Director Flanigan intentionally withheld information? The Board of County Commissioners and the Council were never provided letters from MDE and our Consultant (GHD) confirming that denitrification filters were the most inexpensive way to get ENR. Instead Director Flanigan advised the Board of Commissioners that there was a $60 million ENR project which MDE was mandating and the Commissioners needed to figure out how they were going to fund it. It was Treasurer Bill Feehley who mentioned the existence of the MDE and GHD letters when he agreed that the MBR Project was unnecessary and costly . (Both the MDE and GHD letters are posted on this website)
After I received copies of the letters in question, I forwarded to Councilman Dunn and previous Commissioner Mullin for their feedback and they emphatically agreed that it shed a whole different light on the cost and true scope of the ENR project.

Continuing his pattern of deceit, Director Flanigan also misled the Council with his statement on April 16, 2013 that the Board of County Commissioners had already committed to the MBR Project on August 16, 2011 during a Commissioner Meeting. To get a more informed idea on what that vote entailed on August 16, 2011, you had to listen to the work session audio in which Commissioner Hodge verified with Director Flanigan that this vote only obligated the County to spend $100,000 to complete engineering design using the GE MBR Zeenon Filter and did not obligate the County to commit to the MBR Process.

Why would anyone support this project if our consultant (GHD) and MDE confirmed that the denitrification filters are the most inexpensive way to get to ENR and would only cost the county around $3 million to complete? Why would the County Executive and the 3 council members not require their expert to provide evidence when so many concerns have been raised that we are wasting $40 million? Developers have already verified that the drastically increased hook up costs will only drive away business and rate payers have strongly objected that they will have to pay increased fees towards these capital costs. But everyone should be objecting because increased hookup fees and rates will not even begin to cover this debt and then it will be all the taxpayers who end up paying the bill.

Ethic Struggles in Cecil County

Mr. Hodge stated his concern that I knew details of the Ethics Commission deliberations.  He already is aware of my efforts on increasing disclosure requirements in Cecil County Government  I have promoted and it’s been passed that Directors of County departments have to provide full disclosures and attorneys and ethics commission members are also responsible for filing the short form.  I agreed with the Ethics Commission when they raised a concern that under Charter, they would operate at the discretion of the County Executive.  Their fear was that the County Executive could remove members at her whim and that actually came to pass recently when County Executive Moore removed Walter Rozanski from the Ethics Commission for comments he made regarding County Council Member, Robert Hodge. 

Walt Rozanski called Mr. Hodge unethical.  I agree that comments like that could be interpreted that Mr. Rozanski may not be able to remain impartial when it comes to deliberating on ethics complaints against Mr. Hodge.  However, did Mr. Rozanski give up his first amendment right when he became an ethics commission member?  Was he ever asked why he believed Mr. Hodge was unethical?  Ms. Moore didn’t but I did.  Mr. Rozanski said his comment was based on Mr. Hodge’s statements regarding illegal bulk liquor sales from Cecil County to New York.  Mr. Hodge thought there was nothing wrong with it because the liquor stores weren’t breaking any Cecil County liquor laws. However, Mr. Rozanski pointed out that the Cecil County liquor stores were breaking federal laws: money laundering and wiretap laws punishable up to 20-30 years in prison and some very hefty fines.

And it should be pointed out that Ms. Moore never spoke out or raised objections to previous Ethics Commission Chairman Burns’ comments when he publicly shared his personal opinions attacking certain elected officials. What is even more troublesome is that Ms. Moore removed Rozanski at a key opportune time: right before a complaint was being answered.  I’m not permitted to speak on this complaint but know about it because I filed it.  I can speak about the comments made by the Ethics Board because deliberations on issues are not private. 

Wasn't it hypocritical for her to remove Mr. Rozanski and then pledge to put in a resolution to provide the Ethics Commission the autonomy from her influence?  Why wasn't he provided a warning or recourse for appeal instead of an all out dismissal? Yes, I would have to agree that Walter is someone I respect and appreciate.  I met Walter at the very first Drug Awareness Meeting I organized two years ago.  He asked me what I was going to do about the crime problem plaguing Cecil County.  I responded with, “Good Question, what do you propose I do?”    I challenged Walt to get involved.  He isn’t afraid to stand up and speak out  and he works hard to try and make a positive difference in the County because this is his home.  On his own time, he attends many work sessions, legislative meetings, ethics commission meetings, drug and alcohol council meetings and interjects on face book comments when he’s got something to say. 

Another issue Mr. Rozanski and other ethics commission members have been concerned about are the registering of lobbyists.  Why is it that in Cecil County we have never had a registered lobbyist?   The County Attorney, Jason Allison, advises the Ethics Commission.  When I asked how he would propose going about getting lobbyists to register, he turned the question around and asked if I was accusing businesses of not properly registering?!

So, once again, the deliberations of Ethics Complaints are confidential but the deliberations by the Ethics Commission on ethics issues are not and anyone can attend their meetings on the 3rd Monday of the month.  Why wouldn’t I ask the Ethics Commission about their deliberations on the issues?  I have always been concerned about the integrity of the ethics process.  We all should be.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

The Comprehensive Rezoning Process and Cecil County Government have been Compromised

On Tuesday, June 4, many residents attended the Cecil County Council Legislative Meeting and were shocked by the arrogance of power displayed by County Executive Moore and supported by Council Members Hodge, McCarthy and Bowlesby. 

County Executive Moore submitted Resolution No. 57-2013 ""Litigation Settlement  - York Building Products, Co., Inc. v. Cecil County, Maryland". 

Why was this case being settled when court proceedings strongly indicated that Cecil County Government would win their case against York Building Products?  In my opinion - and many others - County Executive Moore and the 3 Council members (Hodge, McCarthy and Bowlesby) were acting in the best interest of York Building Products and invalidated the integrity of the Comprehensive Rezoning Process.  I was shocked to find out later that the consent order had already been signed  and time stamped into the record.  It appears to be a done deal and we were told by County Administrator, Al Wein, that we would have to consult with our Council Attorney - thanks to Hodge, McCarthy and Bowlesby just happens to be the County Executive's attorney - to find out if it really is a done deal.

This is just another indication that Charter Government is a complete failure.  Checks and balances have been removed and special interests pretty much have unilateral control of our county.  In my opinion, you will continue to see special interests use Cecil County as their own personal piggy bank. 

Link to my comments during the Legislative Meeting.

Link to public comments during the Legislative Meeting.

Friday, May 31, 2013

The $40 Million Project at Seneca Point

I am very concerned that Cecil County is about to commit to a $40 million project that is not necessary and will obligate the water sewer customers and tax payers to fund a very large bill.
On March 19th the Cecil County Council voted 3 - 2 in support of a revised Consent Order with MDE regarding the timeline that Seneca Point (NEWWTP) become ENR (Enhanced Nutrient Removal) Compliant with the State of Maryland. I (and Councilman Dunn) voted against the consent order because it was based on a timeline that assumed we would be incorporating a $40 million Membrane Bio Reactor (MBR) System into the waste water treatment plant (WWTP) to achieve the state mandated ENR Standard. But we could accomplish the same goal with a $10 million denitrification system according to our consultant, GHD - and an MDE Grant would fully fund the project.  
So the question is why would we spend $40 million to get to ENR if we can achieve it with the fully funded $10 million denitrification system? The justification seems to be in the argument that we need to plan for the future and that there is a possibility we will not be able to accommodate all of the anticipated growth past 2035. 
Why pay $40 million now when we are not anticipated to reach capacity until 2035 to 2040? Why would we pay $40 million when treatment plant upgrades are usually funded through hookup costs?   We are putting the cart before the horse in making the current users bear the costs for the MBR System which is reflected in the water sewer customer increases of 4% for 3 years in the proposed FY 2014 budget.  These increases will not cover the cost which means the rest of the tax payers will have to pay either through increased taxes or taking from fund balance.
Another factor we should keep in mind is that environmental regulations do change and we may have to upgrade to another system in the future even before we utilize the benefit of the MBR System.    
Why would we commit to an expensive system when there will probably be newer and cheaper technology to select from in the future? Just a few of the revolutionary new technologies which are significantly reducing the cost and operations of WWTPs include Biomag as well as a new product developed by Lockheed Martin, desalination graphene filters which won the Nobel Prize in 2010.
Why are we anticipating that the growth will happen on the west end of the county and not the east?  If the demand is located in the eastern area and we've already invested a substantial amount of our financial resources into Seneca Point, it would limit our ability to be responsive. 
I propose that we go through with the denitrification system for now because it’s already been funded and approved by MDE and in the distant future when we get closer to our WWTP capacity, conduct pilot tests and comparison studies to base our ultimate selection on. 
With limited resources, investments should be strategic.  Our priority should be to close up the infrastructure gap on the growth corridor which would attract new businesses and in turn helps fund upgrades to our treatment plants.  How many times do we need to make the same mistakes?

Monday, May 13, 2013

Another Fact Sheet on Seneca Point Waste Water Treatment Plant

1.  DPW Director Flanigan originally presented to the Cecil County Commissioners that the Seneca Point upgrade would be a $60 million project and the Commissioners needed to determine how this project would be funded.  Director Flanigan later agreed that the Seneca Point project could be divided into 3 phases and the first phase would cost $40 million.

2.  Seneca Point Treatment Plant is required by MDE (Maryland Department of the Environment) to go to ENR (Enhanced Nutrient Removal) by December 31, 2016.  *MDE has provided additional time in the past when the County  shows it is making a good faith effort in completing a project.

3.  The Flush Fund Grant fully covers Seneca Point’s upgrade to ENR but does not cover expansion of capacity. Director Flanigan incorporated into the project the expansion of capacity for the treatment plant and wanted to use the flush fund grant towards the expansion project.    

4.  MDE tasked Cecil County Government to hire a consultant to determine the least inexpensive system for Seneca Point to achieve ENR.

5.  GHD, Cecil County’s consultant, identified Denitrification as the cheapest method at a cost of $9.2 million.  *Denitrification could be incorporated by the deadline.

6.  MDE approved GHD’s proposal and included additional funding for a total of $10.9 million.

7.  The Seneca Point project cost of $40 million minus the flush fund grant ($10.9 million) for expansion would fall on the rate payers, new users and the taxpayers.  Because it’s only the first phase, the capacity would remain the same (2 mgd) but would allow for expansion to 4.5 mgd for an additional cost of $18 million.

8.  Seneca Point can be expanded using the Denitrification System up to 7.0 mgd on the current footprint.  However, when Cecil County does need to expand the treatment plant to that capacity, other factors will be need to be considered such as new environvental regulations and new treatment technologies available.
9.  The correspondence between MDE and Cecil County Government relaying this information was never provided to the Cecil County Commissioners.  Treasurer, Bill Feehley, confirmed my concern that the Seneca Point project was much larger than required and mentioned the GHD and MDE correspondence.  He received a copy of the correspondence because the Treasurer collected the Flush Fund Tax and would be responsible for cutting the check to the County for the funding.

10.  Growth in the Seneca Point service area is not anticipated to reach the 2 mgd capacity until 2030 and 2035 so the expansion project could be delayed.  

11.  Waste water treatment plant (WWTP) technology is fast evolving and new environmental regulations mandated by State and Federal Government would make it wise to wait until we get closer to capacity to decide which treatment system would be the most cost efficient and effective.

12.  No pilot test was conducted to compare the efficiency and cost for operations on different filtration systems.   No scientific analysis was provided to back up the selection of MBR at Seneca Point. 

13.  If any investment is made in infrastructure, the priority should be on closing up the water/sewer gap in the growth corridor which would attract growth.

14.  The majority of Seneca Point’s WWTP allocations are from 2007 and therefore do not have a significant impact to the capacity available currently at the plant.

15.  Director Flanigan has claimed that the real cost for construction to go with the denitrification filter system is $21 million but the consultant and MDE has estimated in the $10 million range.

16.  Director Flanigan consistently has not provided information requests in a forthcoming manner.  For a Commissioner and now Council Member to make an informed decision, the facts should be provided.

17.  There is a claim by DPW Director that we took a vote on August 16, 2011 during the evening Commissioner Meeting :to commit to the MBR technology.  However, the audio recording of August 16, 2011 during the work session reveals that we were only committing to a $100,000 engineering cost to GE makers of the specialized ZeeWeed General Electric MBR System.  Sole procurement of a system is expensive due to lack of competition

18.  The information I gathered regarding the Seneca Point waste water treatment project was provided and or confirmed by “experts”. 

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Cecil County Council Meets with Congressman Harris

On April 9, 2013 Congressman Harris responded to our invitation to join us for a worksession meeting so the Council could update him on three very important Cecil County issues: Exelon Relicensing Application of the Conowingo Dam, Pearce Creek Dredge Spoil Contamination, and Drug Abuse.  The meeting was prompted by my request at a previous work session meeting.

Thank you to Al Reasin for taking the time to video record the meeting in its entirety at no cost to Cecil County taxpayers.

Meeting Part 1 starting at 17:30

Meeting Part 2

Thursday, March 28, 2013


At the March 26 Legislative Meeting, Council members Hodge, Bowlesby and McCarthy voted in favor of the Consent Order timeline which was based on the assumption County Government would be introducing the Membrane Bio Reactor (MBR) System into our current system at Seneca Point (NEWWTP).   However, given the information I have been supplied by Director Flanigan and Principal Planner, Tony DiGiacomo, I cannot support the MBR System at this time. At the time of the vote, President Hodge acknowledged DPW needed to provide the information of an analysis to justify this costly investment and that we were not obligated to use the MBR system by adopting this consent order.  Time will tell if he was sincere in pursuing the cost and process analysis.  To implement this system it will cost $40 million to get back to the same capacity we currently have -  2 mgd.  How was this project permitted to move forward?

The impetus for making this costly investment is the MDE (Maryland Department of the Environment) requirement for this plant to go from BNR (Bio Nutrient Removal) to ENR (Enhanced Nutrient Removal).  MDE only funds upgrades to ENR and not for expanding capacity.  DPW hired a consultant (GHD) to research how much it would cost for the Seneca Point to go to ENR and their estimate was $10.9 million to use a denitrification system.  This is the amount that MDE agreed to fund Cecil County and DPW Director proposed we instead use the $10.9 million as a down payment on a system that allows us to become ENR compliant but would also allow Seneca Point to increase capacity up to 10 mgd on the current foot print without having to purchase additional property. While the MBR System does allow for additional expansion, it does so at a very expensive price ($40 million) with no additional capacity for that down payment.  To expand to 4.0 mgd, the cost will be an additional $29.5 million.

What other options are available?

We can become ENR compliant with the conventional ENR Bioreactor with denitrification filter at the current design capacity of 2 mgd approved and fully funded by MDE. The $10.9 million of the Bay Restoration Grant Funding was assessed by the work of our consultant in accordance with MDE direction which researched the most inexpensive method for our plant to go to ENR.

How long before we will use the current capacity of 2 mgd?  The population growth has been reduced from previous projections according to Principal Planner, Tony DiGiacomo.  “For the year 2030, based upon WILMAPCO Traffic Analysis Zone (TAZ) projections and reduced by a coefficient of -0.0558 to take into account the latest, reduced MDP control total, I came up with the following population and household projections for the Seneca Point service area:  Pop: 18,237, and HH: 6,706.”

Assuming that the flow at Seneca Point increases from the present day 1 MGD to 2 MGD between now and 2030, this would represent a growth rate of 4.2% per year. The economy, in general, is expected to grow around 2% in the future, according to many economists.  So a growth rate of 4.2% for the population would be estimated on the high side.

Currently our system has 4,370 active sewer customers.  Averaged at 100 gpd/per person or 225 gpd/per household we should arrive at about 1 mgd current capacity.  Based on the last 18 years of growth at the North East Waste Water Treatment Plant, the projected flows for the years 2030 and 2035 would fall between 1.6 and 2.0 mgd assuming the old growth projection.  But based on the updated population projections for 2030, the flow projections, I believe, fall between 1.5 and 1.8 mgd.

Is there a cheaper, alternative science to the Membrane Bio Reactor?  One option that is currently being used in Carroll and Washington County, the Biomag System.  The cost on average is about 1/2 of the MBR.  While it was relatively new 3-4 years ago, Siemens has purchased the technology due to its promising results.  The Biomag capital costs are significantly lower than MBR and can also expand their capacity on the current footprint.

Because waste water treatment science is evolving, there very well could be a cheaper alternative than the MBR solution if we wait.  What have we lost in the meantime? Absolutely nothing.  We are not required to finance the additional $30 million (which only brings us back to 2 mgd capacity), it appears we have ample capacity up until at least 2030 to 2035, and we have kept our options open.   We may find Meadowview will require increased capacity or upgrades before Seneca Point.  Also, imagine we instead invested the $30 million into closing up the infrastructure gaps on the growth corridor to attract growth.  Wasn't that supposed to be our priority in the first place?  .

To get a more accurate count of capacity at Seneca Point, we need to know the policy for reserving space at the treatment plant.  I requested this clarification from Director Flanigan on February 4 asking if already issued sewer allocations have a 2 - year “shelf life”?  I have also asked how long in his estimation do we have before we reach 2 mgd capacity?  To date, he has not responded.  Until I have answers to these questions, I don’t feel confident in moving forward or feel it’s fair to put the burden on this system on the users, new customers and tax payers since we‘ll probably have to finance the system with a long term bond.

I would propose that we conduct a full scale pilot study to assess the viable options and then provide a cost analysis on capital costs as well as the operation and maintenance costs for each option.   It seems to me this multi million dollar decision to commit to the BMR System should have rose beyond the staff and administration.  But we still have time to gather the information to make an informed decision.

I wanted to point out that while I'm not an expert on Waste Water Treatment Plants, I was able to gather the information from the experts after investing a lot of time and research. Because I am responsible for making informed votes, the Inhouse Auditor could make my job easier and potentially save the county more money than the position would cost.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Was Robert Hodge Stealing Electric?

Below are two documents which were presented at last Tuesday's worksession (January 15, 2013) by Councilman Dunn.  These documents and allegations are so shocking that I expected The Cecil Whig to cover the story.  Instead, Councilman Hodge, McCarthy and newly appointed Councilwoman Bowlesby voted to support the appointment of Mr. Hodge as President and said the allegations were irrelevant because they occurred back in 2008.  No story was ever printed despite many people believing it is relevant.  For the audio of the discussion:
at 6 minutes and 8 seconds.  If this matters to you - or not - I'd like to hear what you have to say.    Please send me an email at with your feedback. 

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

History of Charter

Did you know Cecil County holds the record for the most attempts at passing Charter?  It took six tries because many were suspicious of giving so much power to a County Executive.  But, of course, there were those that were not going to give up their quest and on the last attempt creatively marketed Charter into a bait and switch of Code Home Rule.  The Friends of Charter claimed it would be cost neutral and more efficient.  However, many are already realizing they were deceived and are having second thoughts.  How could Charter get on the ballot despite Cecil County Citizens formally voting for Code Home Rule in a straw poll vote after the taxpayers paid $12,000 for an Alternative Government Forum?  To see how Charter was "pushed" through, I've put together the History of Charter below. 

  • Four alternative government forums were hosted by Victor Tervala who wrote Alternative Forms of Government in Maryland. Paid for by Cecil County Tax Payers ($12,000 +).  (Cecil Whig, 10/25/07) 
  • Straw vote at the last forum held in Elkton Administrative Building showed that the voters chose Code Home Rule over Charter.
  • (Cecil Whig, 12/12/07) (Cecil Whig, 2/4/08)
  • Commissioners ignore voters choice and vote for Charter Government.
  • (Cecil Whig, 3/5/08)
  • Commissioners reconsider Code Home Rule after public testimony.

  • (Cecil Whig, 4/30/08)
  • Commissioners honor vote 4 to 1 to put Code Home Rule back on the Ballot.

  • (Cecil Whig, 5/21/08)
  • Public hearing held on June 5, 2008 documents citizens support for Code Home Rule again.

  • (Cecil Whig, June 6, 2008)
  • 11th hour Code Home Rule effort fails.

  • (Cecil Whig, 8/6/08)
  • Board of County Commissioners decides in closed session to pursue Charter and the first mention of a Charter Board being appointed is when the names are voted on during an evening Commissioners meeting.  (Cecil Whig, 3/6/09)  (County Commissioner Meeting Minutes 3/3/09) 
  • Charter Board schedules meetings with citizen groups to promote. Citizens raise a number of concerns: Charter is a lot more expensive than the Charter Board claims because County Executive has a staff and concerns of balance of power between Legislative and County Executive.  Harford County is a good example of how Charter Rule promotes increased spending. (Aegis 7/25/12)
  • Chairman of the Charter Committee, Joyce Bowlesby criticized for funding Charter initiative with out-of-county developer funds, $12,000. Office of Economic Development chastised for participating in the fundraiser for the Charter Campaign.

  • (Someone Noticed, September 30, 2010) (Someone Noticed, October 20, 2010) (Someone Noticed, October 27, 2010)
  • Joyce Bowlesby makes claim Charter costs less than current form of government. Many citizens attending Charter informational forums critical of claim.

  • (Cecil Whig, April 9, 2010) 
  • County Government employees used to promote Charter (Cecil Whig, 6/24/09)
  • Newly elect County Executive Tari Moore switches her party affiliation to unaffiliated.  (Cecil Whig, December 3, 2012)