Donald Dell's Brazen Power Play


For sheer political cynicism, it is hard to top the events surrounding the appointment of Robin B. Frazier to the Carroll County Planning Commission. Commissioner Donald I. Dell's crafty political maneuvering would have made 16th century philosopher Niccolo Machiavelli proud.

Mr. Dell has never liked the county's zoning laws. He believes that the 1978 zoning ordinance stole value from landowners, particularly those -- like himself --whose land received the agricultural designation. His efforts to dilute the zoning code and supersede the planning commission have gone nowhere. So, Mr. Dell has attempted to place people who sympathize with him on the planning commission.

Despite Mr. Dell's protests to the contrary, appointing his campaign treasurer to this position is nothing more than a political payoff. Elected officials at all levels of government do this all the time, and returning political favors is expected behavior.

The timing of this appointment is especially breathtaking. Instead of waiting until after the election, just eight days from now, Mr. Dell made sure this appointment got through. Truth be told, it was only made possible because Commissioner Elmer Lippy went along with Mr. Dell's brazen power play by nominating and then voting for Mrs. Frazier. Even if Mr. Lippy could not get his candidate -- current commissioner Louis Pecoraro -- reappointed, he could have withheld his vote. That would have prevented any action from being taken until after the Nov. 8 balloting.

Mr. Dell has gone to great pains to point out that he did not initiate Mrs. Frazier's appointment. It was first suggested by a group of prominent businessmen several months ago, according Mr. Dell. Let's not be coy. These businessmen are also his political supporters. For the sake of appearances, which count a great deal in public policymaking, Mr. Dell should have told them to find a less controversial candidate. Or he should have found one himself.

Now that Mrs. Frazier has a seat on the planning commission, she must demonstrate she is not there, as many suspect, simply to do Donald Dell's bidding. She will have ample opportunity to decide important planning, development and land-use issues on their merits rather than on the preferences of her political patron. Carroll countians will be paying close attention.

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