A Harford County Circuit Court judge ruled Wednesday morning that County Council member Jacob Bennett may not serve on the council while employed as a Harford County Public Schools teacher.
Judge Richard Bernhardt delivered the ruling following a Tuesday hearing in which he stated a quick decision was needed on the matter.
Before delivering the ruling, Bernhardt said no matter the outcome, “No doubt, there’ll be future review.”
In a Facebook posting after the ruling was announced, Bennett said: “We are incredibly disappointed by today’s ruling and are preparing our appeal to the Supreme Court of Maryland. It is shocking to hear the judge rule not just that he views me as a county employee and potentially also a state employee, but also that there is an inherent incompatibility of office by being a school teacher in the county I serve.
“It is our hope that the Supreme Court of Maryland recognizes the faults in this ruling and will recognize that school teachers are neither employees of the county or state government, but rather a separate body governed by the board of education.”
The Morning Sun
Harford County Executive Bob Cassilly said in a statement after the ruling: “I took an oath to uphold the Harford County Charter, which clearly states that a Council member may not also be employed as a teacher for Harford County Public Schools. Today’s ruling affirms this fact. This case was never about Mr. Bennett personally, it was about upholding the law.”
The county sued Bennett on Dec. 9 over a county charter provision that the county argued would preclude Bennett from serving on the council while remaining an HCPS teacher.
The county’s original suit sought to disqualify Bennett from serving on the council. Bernhardt said that “disqualify” felt like the wrong term because that would insinuate that Bennett was at one point qualified to serve on the council.
The provision in question states that a “council member shall not hold any other office of profit or employment in the government of the State of Maryland, Harford County, or any municipality within Harford County.”
Much of the argument between Bennett and the county focused on whether the Harford County Board of Education, Bennett’s employer, was a state or county government entity, which would prevent Bennett from serving on the council.
The county’s legal term said that the board was either a county or state government entity, while Bennett’s team argued that the board was a government entity, but not a state or county government entity.