Maryland Delegates Jerry Clark and Mark Fisher

Delegates Jerry Clark and Mark Fisher

Prince Frederick, MD – The recent suspension of the chairman and vice chairman of the Calvert County Planning Commission was discussed on Tuesday evening, Dec. 13  at the joint meeting of the Board of Calvert County Commissioners and state legislators. The session’s purpose was to discuss local legislative initiatives for the 2017 session of the Maryland General Assembly. As it turned out the controversial topic was a one-sided conversation.

In early November, during a closed session vote, three county commissioners suspend Planning Commission Chairman Maurice Lusby and Vice-chairman Mike Phipps. Reasons cited for the suspension were alleged violations of the open meetings law, violations of the county’s fiscal and procurement policies and procedures; and a denial of due process for a controversial zoning text amendment. A public hearing on the suspensions is set for Tuesday, Dec. 20 at 6 p.m. to be held in the commissioners’ hearing room of the Calvert County Courthouse.

What sparked criticism by two legislators—delegates Jerry Clark [R – Dist. 29C] and Mark Fisher [R – Dist. 27C]—was a proposal to reduce the length of term for a member of the local planning commission from five to three years.

“I am embarrassed by the confrontation between the board of county commissioners and planning commission,” said Clark. “It’s not good for the county.” Referencing the proposed legislation, Clark, also a former Calvert County Commissioners declared “I think this is nothing more than an emotional decision.”

“It’s one thing to have a disagreement with colleagues,” said Fisher. “What’s not acceptable is going on the radio and besmirching two fine individuals.” Fisher told that he was referencing comments Commissioners’ President Evan K. Slaughenhoupt Jr. [R-Dist. 3] made during a recent appearance on the WSMD-FM morning show. 

After both Clark and Fisher spoke their piece, Slaughenhoupt explained that due to “pending litigation” filed against the commissioners in regards to the suspension of Lusby and Phipps, the commissioners had been advised by County Attorney John Norris not to comment on the situation.

Maryland Senate President Mike Miller [D–Dist. 27] also noted the litigation. Regarding the proposed bill to change the term lengths for a planning commission member from five to three years, Miller stated, “I think we might want to see how that turns out before we move forward.”

In explaining the rationale for reduction of term lengths for a planning commission members, Slaughenhoupt explained the idea was “an outgrowth of term limits in general.”  According to the county government’s legislative request synopsis, although used statewide, the five-year term “negatively affects the ability of local officials to implement the vision for the future of the county they were elected to implement.”

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