When elected government officials expect special consideration from government enforcement officers that is not accorded other citizens, they are asking for trouble.
Carroll County Commissioner Julia W. Gouge was wrong to expect that the county's Bureau of Storm Water Management and Sediment Control would give her preferential treatment when its inspectors requested that she and her husband, Jesse, correct a wetlands violation they found on their Hampstead farm.
The source of the problem is a large pile of dirt that sits next to a stream that runs through the property. A panoply of federal, state and county regulations govern any movement of soil in or near streams and other wetlands. Any disturbance must be done in a manner than minimizes runoff and damage to aquatic life.
In Mrs. Gouge's case, the dirt was dredged from the stream and piled nearby. Since the area is classified as wetlands, the dirt should have been removed entirely and the area seeded and mulched. That's the law.
Carroll County inspectors spoke with Mrs. Gouge about the problem in December but she did not agree to correct it until January. With the spate of cold weather and ice storms, the Gouges have been unable to move the pile, and it is now frozen solid.
Mrs. Gouge complained to Gale Smith, the county's chief sediment control inspector, that her office treated her in a very formal manner. The commissioner was upset that she received the notice through the mail rather than personally. She even questioned the bureau's authority to intervene in the matter.
The storm water bureau did its job and followed its standard practices. Once the office received a complaint, its inspector immediately investigated, notified the landowner with a telephone call and followed up with a letter. When it appeared no hTC corrective action was taken, inspectors contacted the Gouges again. All these actions were appropriate and should have been done.
While Mrs. Gouge is a county commissioner, she is also a citizen subject to Carroll County laws. Mrs. Gouge apparently thought that her position entitled her to special consideration. She could not be more mistaken. Rather than excoriating Ms. Smith and her staff, Mrs. Gouge should thank them for doing their jobs and then apologize for her intemperate remarks.