Between The Lines

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The controversy surrounding at least two ranking county employees openly campaigning for Commissioner Jim Purnell over challenger Eddie Lee on primary election day deserves an investigation, although it will probably never happen.
Three different people confirmed this week Lee’s accusations that Jail Warden Buck Shockley and Assistant Warden Garry Mumford were strongly urging residents to vote for Purnell at the polls on primary day. Whether they want to admit it or not publicly, the men were asking for Purnell votes. That’s a fact, and I see no problem with that, so long as the county employees did not do it on the public’s dime. The key question is: Did these men take a vacation day or vacation/sick hours to work the polls?

If they did not, some sort of disciplinary action is needed. Even if they did not take vacation hours to campaign on at the polls, the chances are they did retroactively after Lee took his ethics concerns public. When asked last week about the situation, Shockley told Staff Writer Cara Dahl he didn’t know what Lee was “talking about,” and told her to tell Lee to come see him. That’s interesting.

The problem is these folks at some point likely campaigned for Purnell on the county’s dime. Other unsubstantiated claims offer some crude reports of certain jail officials actually trying to intimidate some folks with family members in the prison to vote a certain way. That’s wrong if it happened on any level. Shockley and Mumford can support whomever they want in any race. That’s their right, but it’s a bad move to do it while working for the taxpayers, who may or may not support the same candidate. They are not being paid to play politics when they are supposed to be working.

What’s most disturbing about the situation is the county will likely do nothing about it. It will be clouded over by the guise of a personnel matter and that will be that. I hope I’m wrong, but the chances are little will ever be heard of this situation again.

Once again, it appears the date of the Ocean City Air Show is a subject of concern. This year, the event was moved from the second weekend in June to the first, immediately followed Memorial Day weekend. It came on a weekend full of other events, but most reports were it went off without a hitch, aside from the unavoidable traffic nightmares. Most businesses said it helped avoid the post-holiday business letdown.

This week, it was learned the unofficial date for next year is the second weekend of June. The dates are being advertised on the event producer’s website and seems to be set in stone, no matter if the Mayor and Council has another weekend in mind. The producer told the council the date would only change if there were conflicts with the performers.

Ocean City Mayor Rick Meehan is making it look easy. He was re-elected to his third term on Tuesday at 5:01 p.m. when the filing deadline came and went. This was not a surprise, as most have no problem with the job Meehan has done while in the mayor’s office the last four years. He’s unquestionably the leader of the city and works closely with City Manager Dennis Dare and Council President Joe Mitrecic on the business of the town. The mayor’s role in Ocean City is primarily to serve as a figurehead for the resort. The mayor is essentially the face of the town, and Meehan is secure in that post for another two years.

The fact the mayor’s seat is unopposed will likely result in another low turnout in Ocean City. I hope that’s not the case, but history shows when there’s no mayoral contest or weighty referendum matter voters take little interest in the election. In the previous two elections, when Meehan was unopposed, voter turnout came in just 25 percent. In 2004, when then-Mayor Jim Mathias was challenged by Vince Gisriel, turnout was 50 percent. In 2000, when Mathias was challenged by Bonnie Gisriel, turnout was 45 percent. Going back even further, 72 percent of the electorate came out in a 1985 special election to put Fish Powell in the mayor’s seat vacated by Harry Kelley’s death.

Before being a conservationist and environmentalist was all the rage around these parts, there was Tom Patton, who more than likely would have cringed at being called that today. That was just his way. He was not one to boast and seemed to prefer working behind the scenes rather than in the spotlight.

Patton died yesterday after a prolonged illness, but his impact on the region will live on. When I first heard yesterday about his passing from a co-worker, I immediately recounted a dozen or so conversations with the soft-spoken Patton at the post office in Berlin. Most conversations dealt with the Rackliffe House restoration project, a passion that he worked diligently on for at least the last decade of his life. On occasion, he would also give me the proverbial business about an editorial I penned or an article a staff member wrote.

No matter the topic, we would have a respectful debate and always shake hands as we parted. I don’t know what he was thinking as he drove away after our talks, but I know I always respected his views, even if we weren’t of the same mindset on that particular day. He will be missed.

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