By Mike Dunn
The writer is president and CEO of the Greater Salisbury Committee.
Like many, the 100+ members of the Greater Salisbury Committee have been watching with interest the goings-on of late with the Wicomico County government. Specifically, regarding the continual disagreements, and how they are playing out in public over what should be a simple matter: two proposed appointments made by the county executive (for positions inside the executive branch) and the process for confirming (or rejecting) those appointments by the County Council.
In short, County Executive Julie Giordano (R) believes she has followed the appointment process as laid out by the Wicomico County Charter (the rule book, if you will). Members of the County Council see it differently; they believe the executive has not followed the charter. As a result, the two sides are at an impasse. It’s that simple.
Opposing legal opinions, one provided by Wicomico County Attorney Paul Wilber, supporting the county executive’s point of view, and the other provided by the council attorney, Andy Mitchell, supporting the council’s view, have further clouded the issue.
Anyone who has attended the council meetings over the last few months, or viewed them on PAC 14, has seen this play out in full view. It hasn’t been pretty.
Who’s right in this charter dispute? For us, at the Greater Salisbury Committee, that question is almost irrelevant. What is relevant to us and our members is this: This story is now being reported throughout the state — in online publications like Maryland Matters, in the local press here in Wicomico County, and on local blog sites. In Annapolis, the “What’s going on in Wicomico?” whispers are no longer whispers. In short: the whole state is now watching, and headlines declaring that the Wicomico County executive is suing the Wicomico County Council are counterproductive.
At every level of government, the leaders of the various branches of government have to do one thing, consistently – communicate and talk to one another. That communication is often stressful, and as often as not, at least at the federal level, unproductive. But it’s communication nonetheless. Recently, Del. Carl Anderton Jr. (R-Lower Shore) successfully convened a meeting between the leaders of our two branches of government: County Executive Giordano, County Administrator Bunky Luffman, and Wicomico Council President John Cannon and Council VP Shane Baker. That was a good first step.
We strongly encourage our Wicomico County elected officials to do a few simple things:
- Each member of each branch of government should avoid public criticism of the other.
- Let the charter dispute just “be” until/or if a judge intervenes. The public does not need to hear any more discussions on this topic at the bi-monthly council meetings.
- Come together to create a clear vision of 10 or so priorities that both the executive and council can work on, collectively, over the next 12 months.
- Bring forward at each meeting of the County Council at least one positive thing that has occurred via cooperation between the two branches of government. Let the public see and hear our positive accomplishments.
We know that all eight of the current elected Wicomico County government officials, one county executive and seven members of the council, care deeply about moving our county forward. We encourage them to ask themselves a couple of questions as things move forward: Is any of what’s going on helping our citizens, our local employers, or our ability to recruit and retain a high-quality workforce? Is any of this good for Wicomico County?