The proposed charter amendment to expand eligibility for public office among public employees on the ballot this coming election is a noble idea. We’d like our elected representatives to be the finest of our community, and draw from the largest talent pool. I know Cecil County employs many experienced people with leadership qualities.
However, I see some drawbacks to this initiative. Our elected representatives are tasked with oversight of County programs and budgets. The professional staff on payroll are meant to execute the policies created by our County Council and Executive. If they are one and the same, we have destroyed a check on the possibility of misdeeds. If we blur the line between elected officials and those they supervise, we create the kind of insider situations opaque to public view which enables corruption. If we breach that wall, it is not hard to imagine a future councilman and paid member of the Public Works Department unduly influencing how contracts are let. Or a future librarian/council person creating dodgy programs to line their own pockets. Or a planning and zoning/councilman pedaling access to developers. These are certainly hypotheticals, but there are real examples of human frailty every day in our press.
If the proposed amendment had a clause making recusal mandatory when voting on matters related to their employment I would feel more comfortable that we had a safeguard in place. Unfortunately, that is not the case. I think this notion should go back to the drawing board. Please vote no on the charter amendment until we have stronger guarantees against the insider cronyism this measure is likely to engender.