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Tensions between the Charles County commissioners erupted again Tuesday morning when commissioners’ President Candice Quinn Kelly (D) asked permission to accept an invitation to talk to a Waldorf homeowners association. Commissioner Debra M. Davis (D) denied it.

Also, Kelly shouldn’t bring county staffers to a May 16 meeting with the Avalon Homeowners Association because her presence might suggest that the meeting is sanctioned by the board, Davis said. Kelly wanted County Administrator Rebecca Bridgett and Planning and Growth Management Supervisor Ray Shumaker with her to help answer residents’ questions.

Ultimately, the board voted 4-1, with Davis dissenting, to permit Kelly to attend with three county staffers. Immediately beforehand, Kelly read aloud a prepared statement declaring that Davis was interfering with her constitutional right to expression.

“The scenario that Commissioner Davis continues to attempt to impose on me constitutes an unreasonable and unconstitutional restraint on me as an elected commissioner president who is duty-bound to exercise discretion, voice my opinions and represent the county and my constituents,” Kelly read, adding that an attempt to limit her speech “carries with it a heavy presumption against its constitutional validity.”

“In that case, I don’t think staff should be allowed to go,” Davis said when Kelly finished.

The discussion began in the morning, but the board opted to return to the matter in the afternoon, when Commissioner Reuben B. Collins II (D), who was absent, could participate. Collins’ district includes Avalon.

During that session, Collins said he consented as long as Scarlett Mower, head of the county citizens’ liaison office, attended the meeting and briefed him on what happened. Kelly agreed.

Bitterness continues

During the morning discussion, Kelly noted that the Avalon board had invited her, but Davis said that wasn’t enough.

“I don’t think the issue belongs with the board of directors of Avalon. It belongs with the board of commissioners,” Davis said.

In response, Kelly suggested that all commissioners commit to informing the entire board of commissioners about any constituent meeting.

“Commissioner Davis, that is absolutely fine with me, but you would have to do the same thing. There are many meetings various commissioners attend with various HOAs that are not discussed with the entire board,” she said.

Commissioners Ken Robinson (D) and Bobby Rucci (D) said they had no objection to the meeting. Kelly was trying to be accommodating by informing her colleagues in advance, Robinson said.

“I’m trying to be nice about it. You [Kelly] keep acting like you’re above reproach when this is exactly why we’re sitting here” for mediation, Davis said, referring to a weeks-long conflict about Kelly’s powers as president.

“Then what’s the issue? Because she is asking for permission. We’re addressing it like you were hoping would happen,” Robinson said.

Kelly also defended herself, saying she didn’t know exactly what she was accused of doing and blasting “allegations that are reckless and irresponsible [that] continue to be made from this dais.”

“To this day, other than a letter to the editor written by Commissioner Rucci, I have no idea what these, quote, credible allegations that led to resolution 2012-18 are. I’m certainly hopeful that in mediation, a controlled environment, we’ll have an opportunity to discuss those,” she said.

emitrano@somdnews.com