A bill that would have affected Carroll County Government’s purchasing limits will likely be put on hold for a year, and one commissioner is pointing the finger at Del. Warren Miller for “meddling" in county affairs.
Mike Fowler, legislative liaison to the General Assembly for Carroll County, told the Board of Commissioners Thursday that House Bill 610 would need to be withdrawn this session if the amendment put forth by Del. Miller, R-9A, was not removed. Del. Haven Shoemaker, R-5, who chairs the Carroll delegation in the House, withdrew the bill Friday after hearing complaints from Carroll County officials.
The bill sought to increase the financial limit of contracts and purchases that the county’s departments can approve without going through an advertising process.
The cap currently stands at $25,000. Contracts and purchases greater than $25,000 need to be advertised a week in advance via public notice that state the time, place, and date the bids for that expense will be opened. Through the bill, the commissioners sought to increase the limit to $35,000. Roberta Windham, county administrator, said the change was sought to keep up with inflation.
“That $25,000 limit is in there because you all cannot be consumed with all the small purchases that are made by your employees during the year," Fowler said to the board. "That limit is in there to prevent that from happening.”
Miller’s amendment to the bill, which was already approved by Carroll County’s delegation, would have made it so every award of a purchase would need to be advertised on the county’s website, which would create an “administrative nightmare,” Fowler said in an interview.
Commissioner Stephen Wantz, R-District 1, was displeased with the amendment.
“My problem is, there should have been no amendment put in at all because if anyone doesn’t know by now how good our staff is here, and how transparent Carroll is, more than any county in the state, then they need to get out from under their rock," Wantz said at the board meeting. “I’m saddened that one of the delegates decided to meddle in something that they really didn’t understand.”
Commissioner Ed Rothstein, R-District 5, said there was a lack of understanding. He suggested Miller had the right intent, but produced the wrong outcome.
The bill was cross filed in the Senate as Bill 995.
Sen. Justin Ready, R-5, who chairs the Carroll delegation in the Senate, amended the language of Senate Bill 995 to make it so awards of procurements and bid contracts would need to be posted on the county website, narrowing the scope of the Miller amendment so it would not apply to every small purchase, while increasing the purchase limit to $35,000. It passed the Senate 45-0 Saturday, according to online legislative records.
But since the House version was withdrawn and the General Assembly is focused on critical legislation before it ends the session early on Wednesday, Fowler said he’s planning to try getting the bill passed in both chambers next year instead.
Shoemaker wrote in an email Friday it was too late in the session to have the delegates from Carroll meet again so he withdrew the bill. He also said it was unfortunate that Wantz “decided to throw Delegate Miller under the bus."
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In an interview Thursday, Miller, whose district comprises part of southern Carroll and Howard counties, said his intent was to increase transparency.
“So to hear that I’m meddling or that I’ve done something to harm one of their bills at the very least is shocking to me,” Miller said.
The delegate said he was told Carroll County already had a website where the public can see what the government is buying.
“So the limit I proposed was to put this simple language in to say that, for these purchases accounted for under this bill, the county would have to report them in a transparent way on their government website," Miller said.
After the news about the amendment came to light early last week, three commissioners reached out to Miller with concerns. He said he spoke to Rothstein on Wednesday and received an email from Wantz but had not been able to respond to it right away because the delegation worked late into the night. On Thursday, Miller got a text message from Eric Bouchat, R-District 4.
Miller did not say he had a different opinion after communicating with the commissioners.
“I stand by the fact that we thought it was good government we voted for already," Miller said. “And it’s really not up for me to say what the delegation should do.”