ELKTON — The Cecil County Ethics Commission appointees were once again a hot topic of discussion Tuesday night as the Cecil County Council voted to approve the appointment of four of the appointees, while a motion to approve the fifth member failed for lack of a second.
After hearing from over two dozen county residents during their regularly scheduled meeting Tuesday night, the council took up the matter of approving ethics commission appointees offered by County Executive Danielle Hornberger.
As during previous meetings, several speakers voiced approval of Hornberger’s appointees, while others voiced displeasure in the process of the removing the prior commission to replace it with five new members.
The county council had originally rejected all five of Hornberger’s appointees without interviewing them by a vote of 4-1 in January. The reason for the rejection was given by Council member Bill Coutz (R-District 2) due to what he called “lack of proper procedure being followed.” Specifically Coutz referenced the fact that Hornberger fired the entire previous ethics commission without consulting with the council, as one of the issues he had with the process.
The original rejection by the council was followed up by the council making a decision to later reconsider Hornberger’s nominees. Part of this was due to a concern that by rejecting the resolutions introducing the five appointees in January, the council had not actually rejected the appointees themselves, and that the five would effectively become members of the commission 30 days after their appointments.
Last week, the council took time during its Tuesday work session to interview each of the five appointees, prior to holding a vote on them this week.
One specific appointee garnered both support and displeasure from some who spoke during Tuesday’s meeting. Several residents voiced support for Pastor Andrew Goins, while others questioned his qualifications to sit on an ethics committee, specifically with respect to Goins’ position on LGBTQ issues.
Those who spoke in support of Goins gave examples of his work in the community and their belief in his ethical standards based upon years of their own experiences with him.
Goins, along with appointees Janet Pope, Joseph Graf and Charles Kelso, were all approved by the county council. Council Vice-President Jackie Gregory (R- District 5) made a motion to approve the fifth appointee, Heather O’Rourke, but that motion failed for lack of a second.
During the meeting, several residents voiced concerns about O’Rourke due to the nature of her political allegiances. According to the county charter, the ethics commission is to be made up of no more than three members of the same political party. Three of the appointments are registered Republicans and two are registered Democrats, but it was discussed during the council legislative session by several of those speaking during the public portion of the meeting, that O’Rourke had transferred her registration to Democrat just prior to being appointed to the post.
When O’Rourke’s appointment came up for vote, her qualifications were not discussed, the motion to approve her nomination simply failed because none of the other four council members in attendance seconded Gregory’s motion.