Commentary

printed 10/12/2018

Maybe the decision required a vote and maybe it didn’t, but however the Worcester County Commissioners agreed last month to waive the fines against Deer Run Jeep Golf for sediment control and erosion violations, they won’t discuss it.

Further, there’s no record of a vote or agreement in the minutes of the Sept. 18 meeting, when the discussion took place, possibly and incorrectly, in an executive session. Either that, or they talked among themselves informally and just said no to the county Department of Environmental Program’s findings.

The concern is not whether Deer Run should or shouldn’t have been fined, or even whether the commissioners’ vote (if there was one) is a rebuke of the department itself. The disturbing aspect of this exercise is that the commissioners made their decision privately and won’t acknowledge that they did anything at all.

Even more curious is that their refusal to record this action on the public record defies not just the state’s open meetings law, but basic common sense. After all, the parties involved in this land use consideration had to be notified of the fine waiver, which they were in a Sept. 20 letter from the county that said the commissioners had agreed that action at their Sept. 18 session.

Further, Deer Run publicly thanked them for this accommodation on its Facebook page.

The obvious question, then, is why officials wanted this handled out of the public view. Was it to shield the department from the embarrassment of having its fines thrown out? Was it because some members of the county board wanted to avoid criticism going into the November election? Was it because they were throwing state environmental laws out the window? Or was it because the commissioners sometimes do business informally and out of the public’s view because they believe they can?

What they did or didn’t do for Deer Run is beside the point. How they did it is the basis of our complaint filed this week with the state’s Open Meetings Compliance board. Perhaps we’ll get some answers, but even if we don’t, the public has the right to know.

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