Testimony addressing the “conflict of interest” or “Ethics” issue related to the Howard County Citizens Election Fund

The is my third article in a series of articles sharing various testimony and statements from the Howard County Council Public Hearing meeting on January 18th about CB 6-22. This legislation would correct the technical error with the Citizens’ Election Fund and allow dispersement of funds now to candidates that have qualified for the “tax payer funded program”.

This issue of a possible “conflict of interest” was brought up by Councilmember Christiana Rigby on January 18th and she stated that she has requested an advisory opinion from the Howard County Ethics Commission to determine whether or not Howard County Ethics Law allows her to vote on this legislation (CB 6-22).

In the video today I am providing four short clips from on this issue: (worry not…the video is just under 3 and a half minutes long)

  • Councilmember Christiana Rigby
  • Councilmember Liz Walsh
  • Sue Geckle, Chair. Citizens’ Election Fund Commission
  • Emily Scarr, Director of Maryland Public Interest Research Group (Maryland PIRG)

I think the testimony from Emily Scarr, Director of Maryland PIRG was the most intersting noting that Montgomery County dealt with this four years ago and voting to support changes was “precedented and important”.

Councilmember Rigby state she “hopes” to meet with the Howard County Ethics Commission before the vote in February and she “believes” they (the Commission) is looking at either January 25th or February 2nd.

Personally the words “Hope” and “Believe” in this context do not give me that warm and fuzzy feeling that this will actually happen. Then there is the question (from me this morning) of what will she do if the meetings on the 25th or 2nd do not happen (you know, because COVID right now and the weather this time of year can change things). Will she choose not to deal with this issue in the scenario that she does not get an opinion before the vote in February?

I believe the vote on CB 6-22 will be scheduled for February 7th at the COUNTY COUNCIL: Legislative Session at 7:00pm: https://cc.howardcountymd.gov/Calendar/EventId/2754/e/county-council-legislative-session-7-feb-2022

All of this ambiguity around a program that seems to have universal support right now is why the Baltimore Sun is writing Editorials with headlines of “Howard County makes mess of campaign finance”

Of everything in that Editorial…this is what caught my attention the most: “Perhaps worst of all in this scenario is the message this sends to other counties (such as Anne Arundel, where a similar measure is on the ballot this fall) that public financing is either unworkable or amounts to a slush fund for politicians who manipulate the system to their benefit

A County Executive and at least four Councilmembers running for reelection this year with that headline and that photo is probably not great for them at the moment…or going forward. I would expect to see this headline in videos, on flyers and in mailers from opponents. It did not have to be this way…and more importantly…there is a quick fix to end this “MESS”.

Jones and Rigby have not made any public statements (that I have seen) in support of CB 6-22 as emergency legislation to correct this issue with the CEF right now (to be fair, Rigby stated she supported the changes in CB-6…I am just not sure she supports them as emergency legislation). Until they do, I will have many more posts like this with important testimony from the community.

I highly recommend that everyone in support of “Fixing The Fund” or “Freeing The Fund” or just asking the Councilmembers to do the right thing on this issue…send your emails here:

councilmail@howardcountymd.gov
ojones@howardcountymd.gov
crigby@howardcountymd.gov

If you want to watch the full video from the meeting on the January 18th…check it out here: https://howardcounty.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=2&clip_id=3177&meta_id=118837

Scott E

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