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Harford County Council harshly criticizes executive for supposedly denying access to information

In a fiery Tuesday meeting, members of the Harford County Council excoriated County Executive Barry Glassman for what they saw as retaliatory behavior for their votes against director of administration Ben Lloyd’s appointment in September.

Councilman Tony Giangiordano, along with councilmen Robert Wagner and Andre Johnson, said the informational freeze-out amounted to retaliation from the county executive for their votes. Giangiordano did not mince words.

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“If this behavior is not resolved, then an immediate resignation is needed by our county executive,” he said.

Giangiordano said he reached out to the county’s economic development office as part of helping local businesses secure county grant funding during the pandemic until two weeks ago, when his access was cut off from the office and his requests were directed to Glassman’s office. He said he helped about 20 businesses secure funding. He had no issues contacting department heads or deputy directors before.

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“Fear and intimidation of losing your position is how the administration — specifically Barry Glassman and Billy Boniface — has been the past six years,” Giangiordano said. “It cannot continue for two more years or the same under a new county executive from this administration.”

Lloyd faced a tough nomination process but was ultimately confirmed as director of administration despite a 4-3 vote against him. Per the county charter, executive appointments require a supermajority 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 erstwhile director of administration Billy 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.

Underscoring that need, Giangiordano said, was the expiration date on federal CARES Act funding by the end of the year. He said he has been trying to get businesses grants and said he hoped the money was not being held for other uses.

In an interview, Boniface said he thought there was a “disconnect” in how the process works and that the county executive was always willing to work with the council. He said the charter makes clear that council communications should go to the county executive.

“If any one of them after the meeting this evening picked up their phone and called the county executive, he would answer the phone and he would speak with them,” Boniface said.

Boniface said he communicated with a liaison between him and the county executive when he was county council president from 2006 to 2014, though he also called the county executive directly. Boniface is the current council’s liaison, and they previously communicated with him. When asked if the council could communicate with him, as their liaison, Boniface said “the county executive would like them to come to him.”

Boniface said he had not had a council member reach out to him in a “considerable amount of time."

Johnson said it was unfortunate that council members were still having issues getting adequate responses from the administration to address constituent issues.

“Certain votes that have been taken on this dais has caused, in my opinion, retaliation to several members up here," he said. “The game-playing on that has become very exhausting... when we are out here, we are all elected officials and trying to do our best for our constituents and the people of this county.”

Wagner reiterated Giangiordano and Johnson’s points, saying that the administration was trying to squelch “our right to the fluid exchange of information.” He said that he would bring something to the council next week that he “hoped the council members would support," suggesting some sort of council action. More information was not immediately available.

“They try to isolate us out and try to freeze us out so that we can not get information from the executive branch, which is our source of information,” Wagner said. “It is all because certain council members exercised their right to vote in the negative.”

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Giangiordano said he called the county executive on Sept. 18 — a few days after Lloyd’s confirmation vote — and left a message. It still has not been returned, he said.

“I still have not have received a callback. I am sure he was busy that week getting ready for his $500 per-person fundraising event,” Giangiordano said. “This has been two weeks; I still have not heard a word back.”

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