Nordstrom apologizes for affidavit request
(Oct. 4, 2019) Concerns regarding speculation that the county commissioners quietly support cutting Snow Hill and Pocomoke City in for a share of Ocean Downs casino revenue surfaced at the Worcester County Commissioners meeting Tuesday, as southern district Commissioner Joshua Nordstrom’s attempted to have Commissioner Bud Church pledge his backing in writing.
On Sept. 3, the commissioners agreed to postpone until May discussing Nordstrom’s request for a grant based on table game revenue from the casino on Racetrack Road.
Nordstrom advocated giving cash-strapped Pocomoke and Snow Hill a piece of the action like Ocean City, Ocean Pines and Berlin receive through “impact grants.” The difference, however, is that the impact grants were created to help these communities deal with the effects of the casino’s growth and legalized gambling in northern Worcester County, while Snow Hill and Pocomoke are unaffected but need the money.
In what appeared to be a run-up to some political horse trading, Nordstrom initially held up a measure that would have increased the room tax, but eventually did vote for it, leading some to conclude a deal had been struck.
During the Worcester County Commissioner’s meeting on Tuesday, however, Commissioner Chip Bertino expressed frustration that the public and media had been led to believe that all the commissioners supported the table game revenue grant.
“When I read … the votes were there to pass something, when we didn’t even have a debate, to me rings a little bit hollow,” Bertino said. “If the votes were there, I suspect that particular issue wouldn’t have been tabled and the vote would’ve happened. Thus and then, government would have moved forward. It did not.”
He reiterated that he never promised to vote a certain way on the table game revenue grant and that no single commissioner speaks for the rest. Commissioner Jim Bunting reported similar sentiments.
Though neither named the commissioner they believed had indicated an agreement was in place, Nordstrom clarified that it was he about whom they were speaking.
“When I speak to the press or anyone else, I speak for myself, not the rest of the commissioners,” Nordstrom said. “I believe I make that clear to the reporters.”
He went on to say that other commissioners may not approve of his actions or his way of getting funding for Pocomoke and Snow Hill, but that he has never done anything illegal or immoral. Nordstrom further expressed his displeasure that Bertino and Bunting did not bring their concerns to him personally before commenting during the public session.
Commissioner Bud Church then said he was offended by Nordstrom’s request that he sign an affidavit pledging his vote in favor of the table game revenue grant.
“You don’t try to force a commissioner to vote your way by having him sign an affidavit to a vote,” Church said, adding that Nordstrom was out of line.
Nordstrom reiterated his apology and said he thought it was the right thing to do at the time. Commissioner Ted Elder said the open county meetings have made it clear that there aren’t any deals being made regarding votes.
“Many times, I don’t have my mind made up until I’m sitting here and listening to what’s going on,” Elder said. “I just want people to know there’s no backyard deals or backyard politics going on.”