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What's that smell? [Editorial]

When July began, long-sought pay increases for many Harford County government employees took effect.

Many of those getting raises – especially teachers and deputies – were in line for $1,000 annually.

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Harford County Executive Barry Glassman got a $25,847 raise, from $105,136 to $130,983.

Less than a year ago, when it was obvious to all but the most politically naïve, Glassman was counting down the days until the voters anointed him county executive. In a county that votes overwhelmingly Republican, Glassman was the GOP's chosen one. And he held form, winning easily over a nondescript Democrat.

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While the campaign was raging, Billy Boniface was finishing his second four-year term as Harford County Council president. Boniface not only chose to not run for a third term, but also to keep his future plans private. In the face of growing rumblings that he was going to be Glassman's right hand man as soon as the election was over – no one questioned how it would turn out – the lame duck council president stuck to his oft-repeated line that he was only working to get his friend [Glassman] elected.

The other thing Boniface was doing was making sure Glassman got a big raise in his first year as county executive.

Boniface, and Democratic County Councilwoman Mary Ann Lisanti, started pushing a bill for raises for the county council and the county executive. Neither Boniface nor Lisanti was seeking re-election to the council so they fashioned themselves as the perfect ones to advocate for raises for the next council and executive.

Some council members seeking re-election were squeamish about asking for votes at the same time they were voting raises for themselves, or their potential replacements. Boniface didn't have the council's support, so he withdrew the bill. That's where the matter of raises should've ended for the time being.

Undeterred, Boniface pushed on and got the raise for the "next" county executive passed. Boniface went so far as to call a special meeting of the council, after then-county executive David Craig vetoed the legislation, to make sure the veto got overridden in time so the raise could be awarded to the next executive, presumably, Glassman.

That's exactly how things turned out. Glassman was overwhelmingly elected. Boniface, surprise, surprise, was named Glassman's director of administration. Boniface was only able to give up his low paying job of county council president – about $40,000 annually – to a new, high paying job as director of administration – about $129,000 annually because of a voter-approved charter change in 2012.

The county council passed a measure that eliminated what had been a mandated two-year waiting period for council members to become employed by Harford County government after they had left the council. Voters approved that charter change, giving final approval for Boniface to roll directly into government employment.

The maneuverings Boniface has been in the middle of that gave him employment and his new boss a healthy raise from $90,000 per annum to $130,000 have not only been completely legal, but also OKd by the voters.

That doesn't make it right. There is a train of thought in some circles that is most appropriate in these specific Boniface-Glassman matters: Just because you can do something, doesn't mean you should.

The end result – Boniface being so well compensated to do bidding of a better-compensated Glassman – in and of itself may not be wrong. Each has been strongly favored by the voters every time they have sought political office. And, even at his new rate of pay, Glassman's compensation is sort of in the middle of the pack of county executives in the state. He is also paid about $80,000 less per year to run the county government than Barbara Canavan is paid to run Harford County Public Schools.

Boniface, as the former head of the county council, may be as well positioned to be director of administration as anyone need be.

But just because the outcomes may be the right ones, and there's room for debate about that, doesn't mean what has been done is right.

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If something smells bad, it usually is bad. And what transpired to make sure Glassman got a $130,000 annual salary and that Boniface got his new job and its $129,000 annual salary, sure doesn't smell good.

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