Calvert County Commissioners
Prince Frederick, MD –
On a 3-to-2 vote the Calvert County Commissioners decided Maurice Lusby’s 31 years of service on the county’s Planning Commission are over. For the past decade Lusby has served as the panel’s chairman. The vote was taken during the commissioners’ Tuesday, Jan. 10 meeting. The board also voted 3-to-2 to offer Planning Commission Vice Chairman Mike Phipps a role as an alternate member. Should Phipps decline, he too would be expelled from the planning board.

The votes come two months after the suspensions of Lusby and Phipps were announced and 21 days after a lengthy evening public hearing where a majority of speakers defended the planners and chided the county commissioners for their actions. Both planning commission officers were accused of incompetency and misconduct by a majority of the commissioners, who claimed Lusby misappropriated public funds and denied due process to a zoning proposal. Both officers were charged with Open Meeting Laws violations.

Commissioners’ Vice President Evan Slaughenhoupt Jr. [R – District 3] made both motions, each time contending that violations occurred. “The board should never have been placed in this position,” said Slaughenhoupt. “Both should have resigned.”
Slaughenhoupt also took time to answer critics of the board’s majority, including two local members of the Maryland House of Delegates, who have been extremely vocal in their criticism of the suspensions of Lusby and Phipps. “Everyone may have an opinion, even if they are uninformed,” said Slaughenhoupt.

The accusation of misappropriation of funds stemmed from the planning commission officers’ insistence that the panel be represented by separate counsel. The issue arose when longtime Planning Commission Attorney John Yacovelle became gravely ill. New attorneys were recruited at a cost much higher than what Yacovelle had billed the county. Slaughenhoupt indicated the commissioners wanted County Attorney John Norris to serve as counsel to the Planning Commission but Lusby and Phipps “continued to expend funds” even though they were told to stop. They “thumbed their nose to following laws, rules, and regulations,” he said.

“When you break the law you have penalties to pay,” said Commissioners’ President Tom Hejl [R – At large], adding “I don’t believe either of these men are bad people.”
Commissioner Mike Hart [R – District 1] also voted in favor of both motions. “I hate things like this,” said Hart, who spoke to the constituents when he added, “I refuse to carelessly spend your money.”

Commissioners Pat Nutter [R – District 2] and Steve Weems [R – At large] voted opposed. “I see this as a domino effect,” said Nutter, who added, “all this started when we were labeled ‘not business friendly.’ ”

Earlier in the meeting, during the public comment segment, several business people spoke in favor of the commissioners’ pending action. Calvert County Chamber of Commerce President/CEO William Chambers thanked Lusby and Phipps for their long service on the Planning Commission. He quickly shifted focus and observed, “Calvert County has not enjoyed the uptick” in economic development that the rest of Southern Maryland has and “future tax increases could be a reality.” Chambers said he supported term limits for all county boards, especially the Planning Commission.
“I think that you’re doing the right thing,” said Dunkirk businessman Eddie Logan, adding that commissioners were making “the hard decision.”

“This board [of county commissioners] is trying to fix the problems,” said homebuilder Anthony Williams. “Everything this board has done the Planning Commission is trying to stop.” Williams made reference to the ongoing controversy on how to develop the parcel in the Prince Frederick Town Center known as Armory Square. The proposal to local a big box home improvement center on an adjacent parcel has been at the center of the controversy. While Lusby has declined to participate in the discussion since he owns a hardware store in Prince Frederick, Phipps has been critical of the plan, stating it likely was “spot zoning” and therefore, illegal. “Our county needs Armory Square,” said Williams. “We’re asking for one nice area to go to. It’s in an area that’s supposed to have growth.”

“I’m happy to hear somebody say something pro-business without fear of repercussions,” said Hart at the conclusion of the public comment segment.

Both Lusby and Phipps have filed suit in Circuit Court in an effort to be reinstated to the Planning Commission.

Contact Marty Madden at