Howard County Councilmember for District 4, Deb Jung, Responds to Misinformation from the Howard County Executive’s Office

Photo of Deb Jung at the River Hill 4th of July parade in 2021

The following is a press release sent to Scott E’s Blog from the Deb Jung Campaign on January 17th:

Howard County Councilmember District 4, Deb Jung, would like to address the misinformation being communicated from the County Executive’s Office to emails from residents urging the Ball Administration to release State-approved public matching funds immediately and support emergency corrective legislation. In response, the Deb Jung re-election campaign issued the following statement:

“The Committee to Re-Elect Deb Jung is aware that the Office of County Executive has responded to emails from residents urging the County Executive and Finance Director to free our matching funds now. The response from the County Executive is riddled with misinformation. This misinformation transcends my campaign effort since it will damage the entire Citizens’ Election Fund system in Howard County and efforts to expand the use of public financing statewide.

The County Executive’s response makes the unfounded assertion that the Finance Director is prohibited from disbursing matching funds until next August 2. Clearly, the County Executive either does not understand the catastrophic effect that his position has on public financing committees, or worse yet, that he intends to inflict damage on CEF candidates and thus on the CEF system itself.

The County Executive Office assertion that the County is absolutely prohibited by law from freeing the funds now is misleading and contrary to County Solicitor Gary Kuc’s advice in a short email to Deb on December 22 that “there are several ways the Section could be interpreted…Ultimately, the CEF system imposes the duty on the Finance Director to decide how to apply the section regarding distribution of public funds.”  In other words, the Finance Director does have the discretion to interpret the ambiguous provision in the law that furthers the legislative intent and promotes fundamental fairness and equity. The County Solicitor never stated that the Finance Director was expressly prohibited from releasing matching funds during the primary. He strongly urged corrective legislation and we all agree that the language should be fixed.

“The Finance Director previously stated in his email to us of January 7 that any primary campaign not facing opposition on August 3, 2021 cannot as a matter of law receive matching public funds. Such an outcome has the absurd effect of making the CEF a nullity for primary campaigns since a CEF candidate would have to file a certificate of candidacy almost 7 months before the State primary filing deadline. There would also need to be a primary opponent who has filed a certificate of candidacy that far in advance of the State filing deadline – something totally out of the control of the CEF candidate.

Further highlighting the absurd consequences of his Administration’s hyper-literal interpretation, the County Executive in his response switches gears and offers an entirely different claim that no public funding can be disbursed until August 2, 2022, the first Tuesday in August prior to the General Election. It would have the nonsensical effect of denying candidates like Deb who face contested primaries access to public funds until shortly before the General Election. The Primary Election will be held on June 28, with early voting starting earlier. Deb could possibly lose a bruising primary fight, unable to use the public funds she has qualified for. Or, she could win – powered by outraged voters.

“If Deb wins and is subsequently in a non-contested general election (she has no Republican opponent yet), she would be required under the CEF law to return unspent public funds to the County. Under the unfair scenario that could arise from the Administration’s position, Deb or a similarly situated candidate would never receive a penny of grassroots-fueled matching funds. There is nothing in the 2017 legislative record to indicate a legislative intent to establish a CEF program that is as irrational and unfair as this.

Just as misleading is the erroneous insinuation by the County Executive that his decision was mandated by the CEF Commission. This is a wholesale distortion and could not be further from the truth. Nowhere has the Commission indicated that public funds should be withheld from certified candidates in contested primary elections. In fact, the CEF Commission voted unanimously on Monday, January 10, 2022, to urge the Finance Director to free the funds due and urged the County Council to enact needed changes to the law on an emergency basis. No one other than the County Executive and his Finance Director have said or implied that withholding public funds from certified candidates in contested primary elections is required or intended by the original 2017 CEF legislation.

The County Executive and the Finance Director were apprised of the problematic statutory language at the same time in October as the County Council. They had abundant opportunity to address and resolve the critical issues presented here. They could have freed the matching funds (which can still be done) and additionally advocated for emergency legislation. Instead, the Administration has silently hung back and is now “monitoring” non-emergency Council Bill 6-22.”

For your convenience, here are links to:

The County Executive’s Response.

CEF Commission Statement

###

See the original press release in PDF format here: Deb-Jung-Release

Here is more information about the Howard County Council Legislative Public Hearing on January 18th where CB 6-22 will be discussed: https://cc.howardcountymd.gov/Calendar/EventId/2749/e/county-council-legislative-public-hearing-18-jan-2022

It already appears like there might be a number of people set to testify tomorrow based on this notice I received today:

Be sure to tune in…I expect it to be an interesting meeting.

It could be a long meeting tomorrow…so I may not have my update on the Blog until Wednesday morning early.

Scott E

Also…if you missed my interview with Common Cause MD and Maryland Public Interest Research Group on this topic (Citizens’ Election Fund in Howard County) be sure to watch it here.

 

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