Left to right, Calvert County Attorney John Norris and Calvert County Planning Commission Chairman Maurice Lusby.
Prince Frederick, MD – Here’s a recap of all the drama involving the Calvert County Planning Commission and the Calvert County Commissioners. In a document on file in Calvert County Circuit Court, it was stated that an “adversarial relationship” has existed since January. The acrimony intensified during the summer when the planning commission’s longtime attorney became gravely ill. Also a factor was the proposed zoning regulation for the Prince Frederick Town Center’s “New Town” district. Then as November began the chairman and vice chairman of the planning commission were suspended by a majority of the county commissioners. The ongoing situation has several commissioners accusing the planning commission of not being fiscally responsible and violating Maryland’s open meeting laws. The suspended planning commission officers—Chairman Maurice Lusby and Vice Chairman Mike Phipps—through their attorney, have responded with a civil suit filed Nov.30 seeking a judge’s review of the situation in hopes of reinstatement.
The controversy will apparently remain local for the time being. The Office of the Maryland Attorney General has declined to offer an opinion sought by the commissioners. On Tuesday evening, Dec. 20, the public will get a chance to weigh in on the matter during a hearing at the county courthouse.
The opinion sought from the state’s top lawyer was in regards to the appropriateness of the county attorney—who counsels the county commissioners—also representing the planning commission.
“Our office is able to provide assistance to local governments only when resources allow and when the request calls upon us to clarify uncertain provisions of state law that have ramifications beyond the local circumstances giving rise to the request,” Adam D. Snyder, the Maryland Attorney General’s Office’s chief counsel for opinions and advice stated in a letter to County Attorney John Norris. “My understanding is that the issue that is the subject of your request is more or less unique to Calvert County. While other counties vary as to who represents the planning commission, that variation reflects the fact that planning commissions do not have a uniform set of roles and responsibilities across all counties. Instead, each jurisdiction has some flexibility to adapt the function of the planning commission to local circumstances. Resolving the issue here, then, would likely not be helpful to other jurisdictions.”
Snyder also indicated in his missive that since the issue was the subject of imminent litigation, it was the Attorney General’s Office’s policy not to offer an opinion.
The letter from the Maryland Attorney General’s Office was dated Dec. 1 and received by Norris Dec. 5. On Nov. 30, Amy D. Lorenzini, an attorney representing Lusby and Phipps, noted the state “has declined to issue an opinion with regard to the recent discord between the planning commission and the board of county commissioners. As such, we are requesting an immediate hearing on behalf of Mr. Lusby and Mr. Phipps.”
In a related development, the county commissioners have appointed to alternate planning commission members during the suspensions of Lusby and Phipps. In November, the board appointed Steve Jones, a retired captain with the sheriff’s office who now serves as a liaison officer for the agency and Dominion Cove Point to serve as an alternate. On Tuesday, Dec. 13 the commissioners voted 3-to-0 with one commissioner abstaining and another absent, to appoint Maria Buehler of St. Leonard as the second alternate.
The planning commission’s final meeting of the year will be held Wednesday, Dec. 14.
Contact Marty Madden at firstname.lastname@example.org
Links to previous stories
November 4 County Government Press Release