Kelly, Davis Clash Over Avalon Meeting Invitation

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Kelly, Davis Clash Over Avalon Meeting Invitation

La Plata, MD - 5/8/2012

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By Andy Marquis

Commissioner President Candice Quinn Kelly (D) and Commissioner Debra Davis (D: 2nd) squared off on Tuesday morning over a request from the Avalon Homeowner’s Association in Waldorf that Kelly and Field Operations Supervisor Ray Shumaker attend an HOA meeting set for May 16th.  The discussion, at times, got very bitter and heated between the two.
The discussion was whether to allow Kelly, Shumaker, County Administrator Dr. Rebecca Bridgett and a member of the Citizen’s Liaison Office to attend the meeting. The Avalon community asked for additional information and support from Shumaker and County Administrator Bridget to be clear on issues with their community.
“I think it’s totally different,” Davis said, when the issue came up. “It’s in Commissioner Collins’ district. Commissioner Collins should definitely be involved. You’re asking staff to leave the office and show up at a meeting and not only staff but our county administrator so it gives the impression that it’s sanctioned by the entire board. If you’re going to be making policy decisions at a meeting, the board should know what policies are being discussed and there should be some sort of protocol or procedure for how that’s done.”
“There have been many questions with this community in terms of how (bond) matters are being handled so they asked to have that request honored,” Kelly responded. “In terms of supporting our communities, it’s the board’s call and it’s a reasonable request. We do it frequently. Our protocol manual says we have to have permission to do it. I will be happy to have information carried back to the board of directors whatever the will of the board is.”
“I don’t think the issue belongs with the directors of Avalon,” Davis replied. “It belongs with the county commissioners. We need to be fully advised as to what is happening, who is there and what the issues are.”
“That would be fine with me,” Kelly said. “That requires the same thing, for example there are many meetings that various commissioners attend with various HOAs that are not discussed or reported to the entire board. I’m more than happy to report to this board of every detail in writing of every meeting that I have with every homeowner’s association and citizen’s group and constituent. I would welcome that from my colleagues.”
“I think the difference is, as president of the board, you give the impression that you’re representing the board,” Davis responded. “If you are, the board should be advised.”
“I would be more than happy to agree to that,” Kelly said. “I would say that anytime any commissioner uses staff, including the citizen’s liaison office, that the entire board should be apprised.”
“The citizen’s liaison was established especially for that,” Davis responded.
“The fact that it’s being brought up here should quell any fears that you’re having,” Commissioner Ken Robinson (D: 1st) said. “I think that anytime any of us have a meeting with a community association, we should let our colleagues know and invite them… Commissioner Kelly is informing us that she has this meeting coming up; I think we should all be invited and choose individually whether we attend. I don’t see this going to a level that, I’m not following.”
“If the county administrator goes, it gives the impression that we’re representing the entire board and the entire board should be advised,” Davis said. “We’re simply asking for a briefing so we know what the issues are.”
“I’m constantly saying I’m just one of five,” Robinson said when saying he doesn’t claim to represent the whole board at meetings with constituents.
“That hasn’t been the history with our president and that’s why we’re in the situation that we’re in and that’s why this has come to the table,” Davis said.
“That isn’t true,” Kelly said. “I take exception to that.”
“You haven’t been going to meetings across county lines saying that you represent the will of the board,” Davis asked. “I’m trying to be nice about it but you keep acting like you’re above reproach here when, this is specifically why we’re sitting here. This is because of what we’ve dealt with in the past.”
“She is asking for permission,” Robinson said. “We’re approaching it the way you hoped it would happen.”
“Let me just say that allegations that are reckless and irresponsible continue to be made from Commissioner Davis,” Kelly said. “People have to own their own conduct. I’m about serving constituents. These folks have come to me, they’ve asked for this meeting, they have some issues that are beyond the scope of what I can reasonable answer and I know that all of us here want to see that our citizens are served so I’m asking for permission and I’ll be happy to honor whatever the board’s will is and I’ll be happy to carry that message back to the residents of this particular community."
Commissioner Vice President Reuben Collins (D), who represents the third district in Charles County, weighed in after missing out on the first round of the discussion between Davis and Kelly.
“I wasn’t thinking about the specifics of it being an issue,” Collins said. “I hope, as we move forward, is that we would refer to language in the protocol manual in its present form regarding constituent concern in meetings. It’s a useful tool regarding requests for commissioners meeting in different districts. I don’t think any of us to want subsequent to a meeting such as that to refer to comments made and we weren’t aware of those particular issues. I would request, because it’s in my district, that the citizen’s liaison attend that meeting as well to be there as it relates to specific questions from residents of that district.”
“The scenario that Commissioner Davis continues to attempt to impose on my 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 said before a vote was held, reading from a prepared statement. “Any actions on the part of this board to restrain, limit, or proscribe speech carries with it a heavy presumption against its constitutional validity. Based on Commissioner Collins’ earlier comments today, I feel certain that he would be the first to agree to the importance of safeguarding my constitutional rights.”
Throughout the entire debate, Commissioner Bobby Rucci (D: 4th) repeatedly said he had no problem with Kelly’s request. The board did vote to allow Kelly to attend the meeting, with only Davis dissenting.

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