Council Members Claim Kamenetz Retaliation Over Pension Vote

Four Baltimore County Council members accused County Executive Kevin Kamenetz of cutting off their access to department heads and of intentionally delaying projects in their districts.


Four members of the Baltimore County Council say County Executive Kevin Kamenetz is retaliating against them by delaying projects in their districts after they voted to table the administration's pension bill last month.

Council Chairwoman Vicki Almond, Councilman Ken Oliver and Councilman Tom Quirk—all Democrats—and Councilman David Marks, a Republican, said their access to county department heads to address constituent concerns has been greatly diminished since the day after they voted March 19 to table the bill.

All said they believe the executive is further penalizing them by withholding money for projects in each of their districts while providing funds to council districts whose members voted to pass the pension bill. Oliver said he was offered funds for a sidewalk project if he switched his vote. 

Kamenetz's spokesman Don Mohler said the Democratic county executive has not retaliated against any council members and that funding decisions for projects have to be examined over the course of an entire year.  

Mohler downplayed concerns about fraying relationships between Kamenetz and the council, comparing them to family disagreements.

"No one agrees or gets along with their spouse or child all the time," said Mohler. "There are ups and downs. There are always going to be bumps in the road and in Baltimore County we work through these things."

Almond said she believes the limited access to Kamenetz's department heads and funding questions display disrespect for the council's job and damage the relationship between the two branches of government.

"We can work together but we need to build a relationship built on mutual respect," said Almond. "It can't be a relationship built on fear and intimidation. We can disagree, we can pound the table, but in the end we have to have respect. We're all elected officials. It's not that hard."

Council members Cathy Bevins and John Olszewski Sr., Democrats who represent Essex-Middle River and Dundalk, respectively, and Councilman Todd Huff, a Timonium Republican, supported the pension bill. Two days after the vote, Mohler, who is also Kamenetz's chief of staff, told them that their districts would receive more than $3 million each for road resurfacing projects, according to an email obtained by Patch.

Mohler confirmed the email, but cautioned against inferring too much from it or the timing.

The fact that a majority of the council, most of whom are from Kamenetz's own party, are publicly accusing the county executive of retaliation highlights a growing division between the two branches of government.

At issue is a vote on a bill requested by Kamenetz and County Administrative Officer Fred Homan that calls for eliminating the ability of some county employees to have their .

Homan and County Budget Director Keith Dorsey told the council the bill would have saved the county $400,000 annually.

The majority of the council said they were concerned about passing such a law at the same time the county was negotiating with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, which represents the affected county workers. Those same council members expressed concern that Homan and Dorsey could not answer questions about the bill.

Almond said the council's freshmen believe they were elected not to be "rubber stamps" but that their job is to be a check-and-balance to the executive.

"Should we not ask questions? Should we not be inquisitive?" asked Almond. "We're not going to always agree and we don't think our districts should be punished for that as a result.

"We want to work together, but we're not going to be worked over," she said. "We don't want to be rebels and against everything but we want to be informed."

Almond said concerns about retaliation by Kamenetz have eroded the relationship with the county executive.

"The trust is gone," Almond said.

Immediate Consequences

Marks, a Perry Hall Republican, said the ramifications for voting to table the pension bill began almost immediately when he stopped getting return calls from department heads contacted about constituent issues.

"We're in a position of having to tell people we can't help them because (department heads) won't talk to us," said Marks.

Almond, Oliver and Quirk said they all have had similar experiences.

Quirk said calls to a number of department heads over the last two weeks have gone unreturned.

"I'm confident they'll be returned—eventually," said Quirk, adding that such actions "are a disservice to the taxpayers."

"Is it retaliation?" said Oliver. "Now what do you think? Of course it is."

All four said they had heard rumors of projects in their districts requiring additional approvals before they can move forward.

Almond, Oliver, Quirk and Marks all said they were not aware of additional money being made available to colleagues who supported the pension bill until contacted by Patch.

Oliver said he was offered money for a project to add sidewalks to a stretch of Windsor Mill Road in return for switching his vote on the bill.

Mohler declined to address Oliver's statement, saying only that he would not "discuss private conversations with individual council members."

"Disappointed by the vote."

Mohler said Kamenetz is not engaging in a pattern of penalizing council members for their votes.

"We were disappointed," said Mohler. "We thought that it was an important vote, but it's not something we're going to harbor and no citizen or area will bear the brunt of that."

Road Rewards?

Mohler did acknowledge writing an email to Bevins, Huff and Olszewski that announced the executive was releasing an additional $3 million for each district for road projects.

In an email obtained by Patch, Mohler writes to an unidentified council member that the money can be used for a number of projects in the respective districts and asks the council members for their priorities.

Kamenetz earmarked $25 million for road repaving projects in the current budget year. The $10 million redistributed to Bevins, Huff and Olszewski for this budget year represent 40 percent of the total that was available.

Mohler declined to address the timing of the email.

"I'll let others speculate about the timing," said Mohler. "There were some funds released. We do projects all over the county. Money comes in at different times of the year."

Mohler cautioned against interpreting the additional road money for districts represented by Bevins, Huff and Olszewski as a reward.

"You have to look at the entire county over the entire year," said Mohler. "I assure you that no district is being penalized."

Mohler said a review of projects completed by the county in the current year would back that up. Such a list was not immediately available, he said.

In the end, Mohler said, Kamenetz and the council would continue to work together.

"One of the things that people in Baltimore County will not tolerate is the kind of petty politics that we see in Washington," said Mohler. "We've never had that before in Baltimore County and we won't have that now."

Buzz Beeler April 22, 2012 at 03:07 PM
Buck I think you are talking about opening a can of worms. This is a gotcha moment for the county. No matter how they slice it especially on the silence regarding the $21 million pension fund mess, the political fallout could be significant. It's a little like taking the fifth in front of congress.
Paul Harvey April 22, 2012 at 03:17 PM
Didn’t everyone read the articles from the work-session? http://towson.patch.com/articles/unions-accuse-county-of-bullying http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/breaking/bs-md-co-pensions-unions-20120313,0,5525816.story http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/maryland/politics/blog/bal-baltimore-county-pensions-balto-co-council-to-discuss-pensionovertime-bill-20120313,0,409075.story http://towson.patch.com/blog_posts/union-head-bill-could-hurt-county-pension-system This bill was wrong and doomed from the start. KK should have done the RIGHT THING and pulled the bill…….…instead he dared the council to vote against him. Instead Almond, Oliver, Marks and Quirk took the highroad and out smarted KK by doing the least offensive option left to just table the bill. KK had up to the legislative session to pull the bill. KK knew he didn’t have the vote so maybe we should be asking KK why he didn’t he just pull the bill?
Buck Harmon April 22, 2012 at 03:18 PM
You are correct Buzz.... lost my mind for a moment there.... thought I was in the bait shop....
Buck Harmon April 22, 2012 at 03:22 PM
Really....de-bate shop.....come on Kamenetz...set the record straight! Right here on Patch..!
jake garmel April 22, 2012 at 03:55 PM
did anyone see our fearless leader on WBAL today. when asked about the pension mess, he fumbled all over himself, sounded like an idiot, and then droned on about the county's AAA bond rating...this is quite a mess that Mr. Homan has dumped in his lap...one response that would encourage citizens would be to let Homan go...he is the one who covered this up, and apparently he didn't even attend the council meeting on the topic......
Buzz Beeler April 22, 2012 at 04:22 PM
Jake, the question I have always had is why is this man still working for the county. I'll never understand why Kamenetz would allow this man to literally destroy anything positive he tries to accomplish only to be dwarfed by another Homan scandal. I still say we need to look at the relationship between the broker and the broke-e.
Buzz Beeler April 22, 2012 at 04:24 PM
Paul, I just filed a FOIA for a blog on the pension issue. It will show the hypocrisy of this shell game.
Ron Burgundy April 22, 2012 at 04:44 PM
Asking for a commitment and getting it is a far cry from "daring" the Council to vote for it. The commitments were made then pulled, fact! End of story, tell me how you'll trust any of them on any issue when you've demonstrated you word means nothing. This is about integrity, you can spin any way you like. The facts are the facts.
Emma Norton April 22, 2012 at 04:52 PM
Where will the WBAL Kamenetz interview from this am be replayed or documented? Can we find it on Youtube or the WBAL website? If you know, please put up a link!!!!!! Those of us following the pension issues would be VERY INTERESTED!
Theresa Hall April 22, 2012 at 05:14 PM
I watched just to see if he would not answer a question without bringing up the AAA Bond rating-LOL. Nope. He did the same thing in the debates during the campaign when he would not answer the question asked, he would bring up the AAA blond rating and take credit since he was on the Council for so longgggg. Also found it weird how he didn't look at the gal asking the questions or at the camera...oh well. Also wouldn't blame Mr Homan, KK is in charge unfortunately. Emma he didn't say anything of substance during his time on air this morning, so wouldn't worry about getting a copy to watch.
Buzz Beeler April 22, 2012 at 05:40 PM
Ron I would be careful on the facts and integrity issues. You might just open up Pandora's Box.
Ron Burgundy April 22, 2012 at 06:23 PM
So your word is no good, is that the way you want to be remembered? If there were issues with the bill, THEN DON'T GIVE YOUR WORD YOU'LL VOTE FOR IT. Why is it you have problems with that.
Jimmy April 22, 2012 at 09:37 PM
I apoligize if I make coments that have already been made. Frankly I got tired of all the bickering. First, I have always been told the pension system is "self funding" and does not cost the county anything. If this is not true, can someone shed some light on this? If it is true, why not let the people that keep our streets free of snow in the winter get a little more in retirement? They get paid next to nothing and work hard. Second, What is wrong with comitting initially to a bill and changing your mind when more information comes out? Cudos to those council members that saw the evil in this pension change.
Jimmy April 22, 2012 at 09:38 PM
Third, to Turnuptruck, THERE HAS BEEN REDUCTION IN SERVICES! The schools reduced their teaching force by over 200 teachers last year. This caused the elimination of certain AP classes and electives for our children. The Police Department reduced their force by many leaders as did the Fire Department. The Police Department put many detectives back in patrol cars and reduced the mumber of detectives investigating homicide, vice, internet crimes, crimes against chldren and other vital areas. The Fire Department no longer investigates fires. They also forced many of their chief officers to retire. Both the PD and FD then turned around and either promoted to those newly vacated positions or are in the process of doing that. The FD is even considering reducing their firefighters by 25% causing the rest to have to increase their work week from 42 to 52 hours. They already require the remaining chief officers to work an additional 20 hours a week to pick up the slack for the eliminated positions. So how can you say services weren't reduced? Just because you don't see it doesn't mean it didn't happen.
Jimmy April 22, 2012 at 09:41 PM
Fourth, the furloughs and AAA bond rating had nothing to do with KK, this was in place long before his REIGN. Fifth, I am not insinuating KK is doing a bad job, I am flat out saying it! Finally, I don't care if they are republican or democrat. I want them to do an HONEST job and look out for the people that put them there. It's all about lining their pockets and fulfilling a personal agenda and this has to stop.
K Blue April 22, 2012 at 09:58 PM
I dont know anything about anyone daring anyone, or anyone outsmarting anyone else, but the facts as I remember reading them were pretty simple: 1. The County was is active negotiations with this particular union for their new contract; 2. The County had tried, without success for many years, to change this overtime policy; 3. The County Executive's office indicated that the savings would be $500,000, then a week or so later the Budget & Finance Director said it would not be $500,000 but close to $350,000; 4. The County Auditor's Office subsequently contradicted both of those figures with a $200,000 estimate; 5. The Council or certain members of it asked for detailed figure information on the proposed savings and how the administration calculated them; 6. That information was either not forthcoming, incomplete or presented in a manner unsatisfactory to answer the questions the Councilmembers asked about the figures and method; 7. The proposed bill affected a single union only, the same union with whom the County was engaged in active negotiations; and 8. The bill was tabled. I dont recall reading anything about any Councilperson committing to any vote one way or the other. I recall Councilman Olszewski suggesting that the effective date be moved to either June or July 1, but thats about it.
Buzz Beeler April 22, 2012 at 10:03 PM
Ron, why are you so obsessed with this bill? All of the stuff going on and you are caught up in semantics. I don't know what went on out there as far as who said what. Who knows what happened behind closed doors. Why do you think things are in such turmoil out there? If a word is given to someone and that someone changes the game plan, then that word in no longer valid. In the end it comes down to the individuals conscience. I just went through that with a person. I gave my word and they did not keep theirs so I wrote my blog. Stuff happens. Human beings what they are, things are not always etched in stone. Jimmy, you would think that if your boat is taking on water you might want to start bailing instead of punching more holes in the bottom.
Buzz Beeler April 22, 2012 at 10:14 PM
K Blue sounds like you know what your are talking about. Generally in politics things are always more complicated than Ron wants to see them.
Ron Burgundy April 23, 2012 at 01:43 AM
If your word means nothing than you would be correct, we are all in deep ,deep, trouble. I again ask you Mr. Buzz, if you were given your word (Fort Howard) and the vote changed at the last minute, would you be so passive? Again, I think not.
Ron Burgundy April 23, 2012 at 01:50 AM
Isn't there an old saying (Buzz ,you're old enough to remember) "you're only as good as your word". What's the value of the the 4 Councilpeople these days. As I have said, if there were questions, DON'T COMMIT, but once you commit, stick to your word.
essexman April 23, 2012 at 02:17 AM
Hey Ron - - - Either you work for the "Exec" as you call him or you are just a moron. Which is it?
essexman April 23, 2012 at 02:18 AM
Ron. Aren't you actually Don Moehler? Deny it.
Ten Speed April 23, 2012 at 03:36 AM
Ron is in bed with the assh**es running Baltimore County! Defend, defend, deny, deny, and if you think your wrong, deny it again!!! He would make a great corrections officer. The director their would love him and promote him for his loyality. KK is going to do the same for him one day, until he disagress with him! Then Ron, you are useless! Please go have another drink, that's what you do best!!!
Ron Burgundy April 23, 2012 at 09:04 PM
I only go to bed with one person and as Chris Christie would say, "that's none of your dam business". And it sure isn't "essexman", who aptly describes him or herself. Here's the point and I think a lesson learned by the fab "4". Don't commit because if you do there are then expectations you will follow your commitment. Forget about this bill, take anything, any bill, when you agree to support, don't support, then go very public with statements about not being treated fairly, who's the person that's been upfront? I'm sorry, I'm one who believes a commitment is a commitment. I would hope in the future, the "fab 4", understand what's at stake when they say they will back something. Otherwise how will voters ever know when they're telling the truth. Call me old fashion, call me naive, but don't call me a flipflopper, when I give my word you have it.
Turnuptruck April 23, 2012 at 11:39 PM
Jimmy, how does eliminating positions mean reduction in services? When a auto manufactorer installs robotic machinery that increases both productivty and quality in lieu of workers, it improves efficiency and reduces costs. I am sure their has been improvements in technology that has allowed someone making less than a 50k+ trained police officer to perform clerical and desk duties so uniformed officers can be reassigned to the streets concentrate on crime enforcement and prevention. I am also sure that staff officers in both police and fire departments are more effective and productive with computers, mobile laptops, GPS and smartphones, allowing to expand their responsibilities and efficency. I do agree those who clear our streets during inclement weather work tirelessly and are performing admirably and deserve our thanks. I don’t agree that if we experience a record year of snowfall and workers have a banner year of overtime, their pension should benefit unproportionally. To have a lifetime benefit calculated on a one year anomoly rather than their past 25-30 years of service and their pay scale is truly abusing the public coffers. I think I remember at least one labor group president being honest enough to concur.
Turnuptruck April 23, 2012 at 11:39 PM
Articles have appeared on the Patch and local news periodicals that exposed the benefits the upper echolon of the police and fire experienced. There have been others who claim to be “forced” to retire, but its hard to swallow that coersion other than monetary was utilized. It is my understanding that only those wishing to retire, summitted a personal request to be considered. Doesn’t sound much like force and in addition I am positive the employee retiring has to sign something stating it is their desire to so. Again all these elimination of positions and reallocation of resources is proposed and approved by Department heads. I have confidence in these experts, the school superintendent, police and fire chiefs that the welfare and safety of the citizens of Baltimore County is their number one priority. They are not in the business of providing employment.
momoftheyear April 24, 2012 at 03:23 AM
I hear Ron Burgundy is Don Moehler. Hey Don deny it. Let's hear ya.
Bart April 24, 2012 at 10:55 AM
Oh, yeah............Ron/Don/Calmdown. Now you must deal with these people you trashed in the light of day without your mask. How will you now do King Kevin's bidding after this trash? He will be so proud.
Jimmy April 26, 2012 at 12:30 AM
Turnup, how would you feel if you were constantly transferred to different areas of the county on an almost weekly basis? Or not given the tools you need to do your job. That is what would have happened to the officers if they did not retire. The 3 year retirement incentive was without a doubt a great motivator, but only those approved by Fred Homan were allowed to take it. Many were refused that incentive. And if the positions were not needed then why are they being filled as we speak? Not all of them but most of them. The FD adn PD cannot be replaced by computers or robots or even civilians at a lower salary. Many DETECTIVES were sent back out on patrol and not replaced. These people specialize on the job they do. Now NOBODY is doing their job, or half the people are doing twice the work. You ask why so many criminals go unpunished, it's because they don't get caught! This doesn't make it any better.
Jimmy April 26, 2012 at 12:40 AM
The fire department has been asking for laptops to help increase productivity in support services for years and are constantly being turned down. The other monetary perk was the drop. only those with over 32 years of service were eligable for that. But why were these drop payments criticized? They are less offensive that KK and Gardina and others double diping with their county council pension. And the Drop money comes from the pension fund, which is self funding and from what I have been told, doesn't cost the county anything. Turnup, you need to crawl back into the field you came from instead of proclaiming you know how to do police work.


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