Mayor Frank Johnson and Deja Vu all over again
June 15th, 2006 by Kevin Dayhoff
Several folks have called this to my attention: "Frank Johnson named Senior Assistant County Attorney/Legislative Director," posted on the Carroll County Government Web site on June 13th, 2006. You can go here and read it.
I have also been reminded of an editorial by the Carroll County Times pertaining to the matter of Mayor – then Council President Johnson, holding two public positions concurrently.
I have found the editorial in my archives. The editorial was written on February 9th, 2003 and it was entitled: “A problem of wearing many hats.”
Since the Carroll County Times does not use permalinks, I will paste the editorial, in its entirety, below.
With respect to the Mt. Airy Ethics Commission; one wonders how it is that the commission was able to make a determination as to whether or not Mayor Johnson holding two positions of public trust and profit simultaneously was an impropriety - and keep matter the confidential.
Although my ear to the ground never indicated that the information was leaked by anyone associated with the commission; it has been persistently alleged to be an open secret that nothing is confidential in
In the previous
Deja vu seems to be the operative word in
Although such meetings may be appropriate, if not necessary, meetings such as this were characterized in the press, among advocacy groups and in the May 1st, 2006 election as inappropriate.
A community certainly has a right to determine for itself what meetings are to be public and not public as long as such determinations are consistent with current
So what has changed - except perhaps, the folks involved in the current meetings? Hmmmm?
Back in March 2006, I wrote a piece on the open meetings issue, or rather the suggestion that “secret” meetings were taking place in
As far as Mayor Johnson holding an appointed position in County government and being the mayor of
Mayor Johnson’s sense of public service to our greater community is to be admired.
However, I believe that I read where he said that he was going to resign from his county position, if – or upon his election as mayor. I just did a quick search of my archives and I cannot find where it is that I read that information. Perhaps a kind reader may have the cite and forward it to me?
The problem appears to be one of consistency. It is a problem that frequently presents itself with legislative bodies and elected officials. It certainly has raised its ugly head in
The other challenge called to my attention in Mt Airy seems to be the matter of the “town administrator” position that has quickly been raised since the election. This issue has also been a hot potato in
Perhaps, if a candidate for the position of mayor, has in mind that they want to hire a town administrator to do their job after they are elected, maybe they ought to disclose that to the voters before the election and let the voters decide if that is how they want their town run.
In Mt. Airy, the concept of having a town administrator run the town appeared out of nowhere immediately after the election. When folks said, hold on here, let’s talk about it, the mayor and some members of the
The very same folks who suggested that this was the approach of the previous administration, are the ones leading the way. What has changed? What is different? It certainly does not meet either the optics test or the smell test and to be perfectly blunt, appears to be situational ethics.
Mayor Johnson said in a letter to the editor in the Carroll County Times, earlier today, June 15th, 2006: “A few days ago, the Times excoriated me for asking the town council to approve a town administrator at the June council meeting rather than tabling the idea… This decision was not made behind closed doors. The proposal was on the pre-announced public agenda for the council meeting, and it was openly discussed. In fact, I answered more than a dozen specific questions. The town council took public comment on the proposal. Even if one takes umbrage at my request for a decision, this all occurred in an open meeting to which the public was not only invited, but in attendance.”
(For more background: Editorial for Thursday, June 8, 2006: “Campaign promises apparently mean nothing to the newly elected mayor and council members of
This response, although certainly plausible for this columnist, was not acceptable for issues in the previous administration. There’s the rub. What has changed? What is different? Why were these things unacceptable in the previous administration, but perfectly fine now?
Read the rest of his letter to the editor, “Government is open in
Things just get curiouser and curiouser in
Kevin Dayhoff writes from
State refuses to help in Mount Airy ethics leak investigation: “The state prosecutor's office has refused to help investigate an alleged leak of confidential information regarding a pending ethics investigation in
Open-government mayor stops taping meeting Publish Date: 06/08/06; By Katie E. Leslie News-Post Staff: “MOUNT AIRY -- Minutes into Monday's public hearing about a new downtown zoning classification, Mount Airy Town Council Secretary Peter Helt realized the meeting was not being recorded.
When he asked newly elected Mayor Frank Johnson why, Mr. Johnson said he made the decision to stop taping after a conversation with town attorney Lynn Board, who was hired by the council following Mr. Johnson's inauguration.
Mr. Helt appeared stunned….”
Read the rest here.
Mt. Airy council resumes taping, Jun. 9, 2006: “After a two-week hiatus the Mount Airy Town Council will resume tape recording council meetings. When a citizen expressed concern about an unrelated proposed ordinance during a public hearing at Monday night's meeting, councilman Peter Helt asked why...” Read the rest here.
“Two public hearings not taped” Thursday, June 8, 2006 by Carolynne Fitzpatrick, Gazette Staff Writer “Mayor decides not to record hearings; reverses decision after realizing it violated town code:” “The public will not have a chance to review the tapes of two hearings that took place on Monday, after Mayor Frank Johnson decided not to continue taping public meetings — a decision that was revoked after council members discussed it….” Read more here.
A problem of wearing many hats
Mount Airy Town Councilman Frank Johnson has been wearing a lot of different hats lately, but the time has come for him to step back and make some realistic decisions about where he believes he can do the most good.
The councilman was instrumental in rallying support and bringing together a Council of Governments in Carroll at a time when communication between the county office building and Carroll's municipalities was sorely lacking. He remains a vocal advocate and is actively involved as the organization gets up and running.
Johnson also took a job as assistant to County Commissioner Julia Walsh Gouge. And while he and others have said there is nothing legally wrong with collecting paychecks from both the Town of Mount Airy and the county, there likely is an ethical issue involved.
That issue is compounded by Johnson's other involvement in
At the very least, Johnson has spread himself too thin to be entirely effective in any one of the positions. And because his many positions span from Mount Airy to Carroll's municipalities to county government, that means the impact is being felt everywhere in the county.
Johnson owes it to the people of Mount Airy, owes it to the towns, cities and organizations that make up the Council of Governments and owes it to taxpayers who pay his salary as Gouge's assistant to step back from some of these responsibilities.
He must assess where he believes he can be most effective, and then concentrate on those areas.
Wanting to help out in as many different ways as possible is an admirable trait, but it does no good if the person is running in so many different directions that it takes away from all of his various jobs and duties.
©Carroll County Online 2003