- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
Even the polar vortex couldn’t match the chill overhanging the Charles County commissioners’ meeting Tuesday morning as board President Candice Quinn Kelly (D) started off the New Year by asking her colleagues for a retraction of the allegations they lobbed her way in April 2012.
In the process, Kelly also laid bare for the first time publicly the issues underlying those allegations, and their subsequent fallout, which included investigations by a grand jury, the Charles County State’s Attorney’s Office and the Office of the Maryland State Prosecutor, which investigates criminal offenses committed by public officials and employees.
Kelly began by asking for an independent audit to review the “scope of reporting on take-home vehicle usage as it related to reporting taxable income,” as well as the county’s whistleblower policy.
In her request, Kelly noted that commissioners’ Vice President Reuben B. Collins II (D) during the board’s April 17, 2012, meeting had asked for an investigation into whether Kelly had illegally inspected his tax forms and that a month later County Attorney Barbara Holtz ruled the commissioners should not conduct an investigation until the state’s attorney’s office had concluded its own.
Under the impression that all such investigations were completed, Kelly asked that the commissioners begin their own inquiry.
“I want to be clear that documentation has been provided to the county attorney that there are no [ongoing] criminal investigations,” she said.
Holtz confirmed Kelly’s claim that the state prosecutor’s office was done with its probe and was not pursuing charges, but she said Charles County State’s Attorney Anthony B. Covington (D) had not responded as to whether his investigation was completed. The state prosecutor’s office originally got involved when it was referred to the case by Covington, Holtz said.
Without notice that Covington’s investigation was finished, Collins and Commissioner Debra M. Davis (D) both voiced opposition to Kelly’s request.
“This is clearly an effort on the part of certain commissioners, who I might add are licensed attorneys, to continue down this road of what is harassment and intimidation,” Kelly said. Collins and Davis are practicing attorneys.
Kelly also made what appeared to be a number of thinly veiled accusations, from stating that the purpose of her audit request was the find out whether there are “issues related to elected officials not properly documenting their mileage and/or not paying adequate federal taxes,” to questioning why “this pattern of harassment from the state’s attorney continues, and it always seems to always occur during budget time.”
Davis called Kelly’s allegations “improper” and said she was “misstating facts.”
“You’re standing on your soapbox, Candice, and you’re about to tread on some territory that you don’t necessarily want to go to,” Davis said.
“I want this resolved and dealt with,” Kelly said. “Commissioner Collins raised in open session that there were criminal allegations, and it’s very clear that there are two people on this board who are trying to stonewall getting this resolved, and I’m not exactly sure why, but we can all guess about that.”
Kelly also asked rhetorically, “Are we not sure that this isn’t politically motivated?”
“Candice, you are making some tremendous allegations,” Collins said.
“Yes I am, and you made some pretty tremendous allegations yourself, Commissioner Collins,” Kelly said.
Kelly began to reference trips made by two county vehicle during March 2012 before Davis cut her off.
“Now you’re really getting out of hand, Candice,” Davis said.
“That’s why you don’t want the audit,” Kelly said.
“You’ve been told that was personnel matters,” Davis said. “When these criminal charges came down, we’ve been really respectful of not airing your dirty laundry.”
Kelly went on to say there had been “quite a lot of misuse of vehicles,” as well as falsified and hidden documents.
Commissioner Ken Robinson (D) tried to play mediator, stating the commissioners should be able to get a response from Covington without much delay before considering whether to launch their own audit.
The commissioners did not reach an agreement on Kelly’s first request but did vote 3-2 to schedule a future briefing on a resolution superseding one drafted by Davis and passed in April 2012 — a week after Collins asked for the investigation — stripping Kelly of many of her powers as board president.
Kelly took exception to the segment of Davis’ resolution that cited “credible allegations of past misrepresentations of positions taken and decisions made by the Board.”
Robinson and Commissioner Bobby Rucci (D) voted in support of the request, with Collins and Davis opposed. Rucci said he supported the substance of the resolution limiting the president’s power but felt language could be removed that seemed to specifically target Kelly.
“Every resolution should be about policy and procedure and should not be personal,” Robinson said.