Charles County Commissioners 2023

LA PLATA, Md. – In June of 2019, Charles County Administrator Mark Belton, filed a complaint of racial discrimination with the Charles County Human Resources Department concerning a long-running pattern of discrimination and abuse by a County Commissioner.

According to official court documents, the Commissioner repeatedly harassed Belton with multiple oral and written assaults, all because of his race.

After the Commissioner learned of Belton’s complaint, the Commissioner filed a complaint of their own against Belton.

As a result of the complaints, the Board hired Bernadette Sargeant, Esquire, an attorney at the Washington D.C. law firm Stinson, LLP, to perform an independent investigation. According to the documents, Sargeant interviewed seven individuals, including Belton and each of the then-sitting Commissioners; reviewed more than 137 documents; and listened to and reviewed a voicemail message and videotape of relevant portions of an open session meeting of the Board in which Belton and the Commissioner participated.

On May 25, 2020, Sargeant detailed her findings in a 27-page written report. The report detailed that all complaints Belton filed against the Commissioner were substantiated.

All of the claims made by the Commissioner against Belton were found to be not true. Those claims included Belton’s favoritism to the white male county Commissioners and discrimination against African American County employees.

According to the documents, Sargeant presented her findings to the Board on June 9, 2020.

Outside HR Counsel, Eric Paltell, then provided legal recommendations. The Board then voted 4-1 to take Prompt and Remedial Actions against the Commissioner who had harassed Belton. Then the Board took a 4-1 vote to approve changes to the Commissioners’ Rules of Procedures, which would eliminate that Commissioner’s input on anything in regard to Belton, and limit any communication between them.

The commissioners held their first post-election meeting on December 13, 2022, which included newly-elected Commissioner Ralph Patterson. Less than 24 hours before the meeting Commissioner Collins changed the agenda to add a Closed Session discussion regarding two county employment contracts.

Commissioner Gilbert (B.J.) Bowling [D] went into detail about this situation on the December 23, 2022 edition of “Get Real with Chris & Mark”.

“I went to the computer, and I saw that it had been changed very last minute, all they had been wiped off, and I had close session personnel matter,” Bowling explained. “I wanted legal advice before we went to the closed session for personnel matter so we could have the new commissioner review the investigation… they wouldn’t even let us do that.”

Since the only county employee that the Board can hire/fire was Belton, it was obvious who the session would be about.

Commissioner Patterson surprisingly voted against having an attorney debrief the 2020 investigation.

Commissioners Bowling and Stewart knew what was going on. Bowling explained that allowing the Commissioner who had abused Belton to participate in these discussions would violate the terms of the Commissioner’s Prompt and Remedial Action, which would expose the County to substantial civil liability; the County Attorney supported Bowling’s request.

The meeting ended with no vote taken to decide Belton’s employment. Although, it is believed that Commissioners Coates, Collins, and Patterson will again attempt to remove the Prompt and Remedial Action by allowing the Commissioner to participate in the vote.

According to court documents, given the validity of Belton’s initial complaints, any vote to terminate Belton would almost certainly cause irreparable harm to Charles County in the form of several lawsuits.

Commissioners Bowling and Stewart have now filed a lawsuit against the Charles County Board of Commissioners, including Commissioner Coates, Collins, and Patterson for Declaratory Judgment, Injunctive Relief, Petition for Writ of Mandamus and/or Prohibition, and Aiding, Abetting or Attempting to commit a Discriminatory Act.

Contact our news desk at news@thebaynet.com

Join the Conversation

13 Comments

  1. Why didn’t the public know about this discrimination action years ago? I think it would make a difference during the elections. Charles Co has completely gone over the cliff. Can’t wait to get off this sinking ship.

  2. Given the story outlined here, this commissioner needs to be censured from all board activities until their term is up. The initial infraction is one thing… but when a complaint was filed, they counter filed a complaint with false allegations in retribution? These are our elected officials folks. And it appears that Coates, Collins, and our newbie Patterson have no issue with this type of integrity lapse? And I have it on good authority that all 5 of them could care less about these issues of racism… this entire story is all about controlling who sits in the Administrator’s chair. Top notch integrity all around. I wish cancer upon you all.

  3. It is all to offending when we see our board of commissioner ( hire a outside attorney law Frim to investigate our own county commissioner of District 2.)
    Question – can you Produce to the taxpayers The Discovery and The particulars? Show your transparency.

    1. Attend a board meeting or any other activity (very limited as they hide, Rueben in particular) and you will see how ignorant they are and then realize they are spending your tax dollars on trips to other countries on the claim they are building business related to this county, it will make you furious and sick. Where you hiding today?

  4. except for the parts of this that were held behind closed doors [closed session], all of this is available to watch, somewhere, on the countys website.

  5. Yet these same ‘people’ are proposing a ban on carrying within county owned buildings, in their upcoming bill. Oh, except for themselves. Like anyone would want those Bozos carrying while being anywhere near them.

    Bill 2022-14

    ” (C) EXCEPTIONS. POSSESSION OF A WEAPON OR FIREARM IS PERMISSIBLE WITHIN 100 YARDS OF A BUILDING OWNED OR OPERATED BY CHARLES COUNTY GOVERNMENT OR THE BOARD OF CHARLES COUNTY COMMISSIONERS IF THE PERSON IN POSSESSION IS:
    (1) AN ACTIVE SWORN LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICER; OR
    (2) A SPECIAL POLICE OFFICER EMPLOYED BY CHARLES COUNTY GOVERNMENT WITH A VALID GOVERNMENT ISSUED PERMIT TO CARRY A WEAPON OR FIREARM; OR
    (3) ACTIVE DUTY MILITARY PERSONNEL ENGAGED IN THE PERFORMANCE OF THEIR OFFICIAL EMPLOYMENT DUTIES; OR
    (4) A MEMBER OF THE BOARD OF CHARLES COUNTY COMMISSIONERS.”

  6. for those that are not aware of the turn- around, 1 of the commissioners is new, so I’m not sure how much this concerns him. Its the 1 on the far right. [facing us]

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *