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Harford County Council members say Glassman administration retaliating for dissenting votes on appointment

Harford County Councilman Curtis Beulah, left, and fellow councilman Andre Johnson, two of the four Harford County Council members who voted against Ben Lloyd’s appointment as director of administration last month, said directors of county departments have been told to not answer their questions since the vote.
Harford County Councilman Curtis Beulah, left, and fellow councilman Andre Johnson, two of the four Harford County Council members who voted against Ben Lloyd’s appointment as director of administration last month, said directors of county departments have been told to not answer their questions since the vote. (Matt Button / The Aegis/Baltimore Sun Media)

Harford County Council members who voted against Ben Lloyd’s appointment as director of administration last month said directors of county departments have been told to not answer their questions when contacted.

They believe it is retaliation for voting against the administration’s choice to replace Billy Boniface, who moved from the role to become chief adviser to County Executive Barry Glassman in July.

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Lloyd faced a tough nomination process but was ultimately confirmed despite a 4-3 vote against him. Per the county charter, executive appointments require a super majority of five negative votes of the seven-member council to stop.

At two hearings, council members questioned Lloyd’s qualifications for the job overseeing the county as well as the possible political motivations behind his appointment — believing it served Boniface’s governmental ambitions more than it did citizens of the county. Boniface has made clear his intentions to run for county executive in 2022 but has not begun actively campaigning for the post.

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Councilman Tony Giangiordano said directors of county agencies, who he previously could call and ask questions, have declined to speak with him since the Sept. 15 vote. Giangiordano, who represents parts of Bel Air and Forest Hill, along with Councilmen Robert Wagner, Andre Johnson and Curtis Beulah, voted against Lloyd’s appointment.

Giangiordano said Glassman ordered directors not to speak with council members during a conference call.

County spokesperson Cindy Mumby said there is at least a 20-year precedent for council members contacting the county executive, or a council liaison, to get information from the executive branch. She said Glassman was just following the county charter, which states that “neither the Council nor any member thereof shall give orders either publicly or privately to any subordinate of the County Executive.”

“This administration is following not only the history, but the charter,” she said.

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Mumby said Glassman has reminded county directors of the process several times, including recently during a conference call. The conference call was not scheduled solely to remind them of the procedure.

As constituent concerns mount, the coronavirus lingers and the deadline for spending federal CARES Act money by the end of the year approaches, Giangiordano said the council needs information to make informed decisions and serve its citizens.

“I do not know how you can run a county and expect your directors to not talk to the people who represent the people,” he said.

Mumby said the Office of Governmental and Community Relations takes citizen’s civic concerns — about 300 a month — and encouraged residents with issues the county can resolve to reach out directly.

Wagner, representing Aberdeen, Churchville and parts of Bel Air, said the process for council members getting information from the administration was tedious before the vote, but now even simple requests for information answerable by county agency directors are being routed to Glassman’s office.

He, too, has not been able to speak directly with directors of departments.

“That was bad, this is worse. I think they have some idea of freezing the council out,” he said. “If you do not vote with me, I am going to shut you out; that is what it reads.”

Johnson, who represents the Edgewood and Joppa areas, said this was not the first time the administration has punished council members for going against its wishes. He agreed that the move hinders the council’s ability to serve citizens.

"We are not talking policy, we are not talking political theater, we are talking about people and constituent issues that the county needs to address so that I can do my job,” he said. “They are playing these childish, immature games.”

Beulah said that his legislative aide was told, without explanation, that the usual process of contacting Jane Walker in the office of Governmental and Community Affairs with constituent concerns was stopped. In an email, Walker asked the legislative aide to direct the citizen’s concern to the countyexecutive@harfordcountymd.gov.

“I do not see how this is making the most effective use of the county executive’s time,” said Beulah, who represents Havre de Grace, Belcamp and parts of Abingdon and Aberdeen.

Council President Patrick Vincenti said that he has not needed to reach out to any directors since the vote was taken, but his colleagues told him that their access to directors of county agencies was being restricted. He had also heard of the administration striking out at council members who do not support its agenda.

“That was one vote, one day; tomorrow we have another vote and the outcome is different," Vincenti, who voted in favor of for Lloyd’s appointment, said. “Just because they have a day that they do not agree does not give the administration an excuse to point that out and isolate them.”

Vincenti said he expected the other council members to touch on the issue at Tuesday’s council meeting.

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