Elk­ton can­di­date fo­rum marked by miss­ing faces

In­cum­bents talk goals while chal­lengers claim bias

Cecil Whig - - FRONT PAGE - By BRI­ANNA SHEA

bshea@ce­cil­whig.com

— Fol­low­ing claims that the event would not be fair to all in­volved, only two can­di­dates showed up to the Elk­ton Cham­ber and Al­liance’s pub­lic fo­rum for the can­di­dates run­ning for the town’s board of com­mis­sion­ers.

ELK­TON

The event, held at the Pa­tri­ots Glen’s club­house Mon­day af­ter­noon, was open to can­di­dates run­ning for the two open seats, in­clud­ing in­cum­bents Earl Piner and Charles Givens and new­com­ers Bob Gor­man and Chris Zeauskas.

Only Piner and Givens showed up to the event, how­ever, as Gor­man and Zeauskas de­clined the in­vi­ta­tion to par­tic­i­pate in the fo­rum last month in a let­ter sent to Roger Owens, chair­man of the al­liance.

The let­ter stated such rea­sons as the cham­ber ac­cept- ing over $1 mil­lion in town fund­ing over the course of the in­cum­bent can­di­dates’ ten­ure and Owens and Mary Jo Jablon­ski, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the al­liance and a town com­mis­sioner her­self, prais­ing Piner “as “the best com­mis­sioner we have ever had” dur­ing a lun­cheon ear­lier in April as ev­i­dence of the or­ga­niz­ers’ bias.

They also noted that they have pub­licly been crit­i­cal of the Elk­ton Cham­ber and

Al­liance’s in­volve­ment in the town-backed plan to rent down­town space in or­der to block a non­profit from do­ing so, po­ten­tially jeop­ar­diz­ing fu­ture de­vel­op­ment po­ten­tial in the down­town. Zeauskas also made for­mal com­plaints and pub­lic al­le­ga­tions against Jablon­ski two years ago in re­gards to an email scan­dal, which she deemed was a mis­in­ter­pre­ta­tion and ul­ti­mately has yielded no charges.

“Given the nu­mer­ous con­flicts of in­ter­est, pub­lic dis­agree­ments, pub­lic en­dorse­ments, and oth­er­wise stormy his­tory, it is in­con­ceiv­able that the Elk­ton

Cham­ber and Al­liance can project even the slight­est sem­blance of an un­bi­ased en­tity,” the let­ter stated.

Owens acted as mod­er­a­tor on Mon­day, ask­ing the can­di­dates three ques­tions, cre­ated be­fore­hand by the board of di­rec­tors, and giv­ing can­di­dates about five min­utes to an­swer each ques­tion.

While Piner waited in an­other room, Givens an­swered the ques­tions first. The sit­u­a­tion was then re­versed for Piner to make sure nei­ther can­di­date heard the other’s an­swers.

“If elected or re-elected, what is your No. 1 goal for your term in of­fice?” Owens asked.

Givens said he does not have one goal, but many he would like to ac­com­plish if

re-elected.

One of his goals in­cludes chang­ing the im­age of the Elk­ton Po­lice Depart­ment, say­ing he is tired of see­ing me­dia and so­cial me­dia out­lets “an­tag­o­niz­ing” the depart­ment, es­pe­cially when the depart­ment has de­creased crime. Capt. Joseph Zurolo, EPD spokesman, later ver­i­fied for the Whig that crime de­creased by 3.6 per­cent in town in 2015.

Ad­di­tion­ally, Givens said he would like to make down­town more invit­ing to vis­i­tors to town.

His third goal is to have open di­a­logue with cit­i­zens and lis­ten to their con­cerns and is­sues. He added the town needs a recre­ational cen­ter for peo­ple to go and en­joy.

Sim­i­larly, Piner said his top goal is to work closer with de­part­ments, or­ga­ni­za­tions and other groups in the town to learn about their con­cerns and is­sues. He also said he would like to work closer with the po­lice depart­ment.

“So­cial me­dia posts have listed Elk­ton as a dan­ger­ous area. Oth­ers have said the num­bers are mis­lead­ing and ex­ag­ger­ated. What is your re­sponse to that and what would you do the change these per­cep­tions?” Owens asked.

Givens said peo­ple need back­ground in­for­ma­tion when look­ing at these sta­tis­tics, such as know­ing what type of crime is in­cluded, be­cause that can change the in­ter­pre­ta­tion of the data.

Piner said it starts with the po­lice depart­ment. He said the po­lice depart­ment needs to be equipped with the cor­rect per­son­nel and equip­ment to do their jobs prop­erly.

“The state of Mary­land of­fers grants and loans to busi­nesses. What are your thoughts on uti­liz­ing these re­sources for the busi­nesses in the town of Elk­ton?” Owens asked.

Givens said it is an “es­sen­tial and im­por­tant” way to help lo­cal busi­ness. He said grants have “played a sig­nif­i­cant part in the progress” in Elk­ton’s growth.

Piner said he en­cour­ages peo­ple to ap­ply for grants and fund­ing to help make their busi­ness goals a re­al­ity.

“Why wait to say what

we should have, when we could have it?” Piner said.

Fol­low­ing the board’s ques­tions, au­di­ence mem­bers were in­vited to ask the can­di­dates their own ques­tions.

Among those with ques­tions was County Ex­ec­u­tive Tari Moore, who is also a town res­i­dent, who asked how the board could strengthen the al­ready strong work­ing re­la­tion­ship with the Ce­cil County Coun­cil.

Givens said the board of com­mis­sion­ers and county coun­cil should have reg­u­lar meet­ings to keep an open line of com­mu­ni­ca­tion. Piner said he agreed, and it would be a good idea to dis­cuss con­cerns or is­sues dur­ing a work­shop meet­ing.

CE­CIL WHIG PHOTO BY CARL HAMIL­TON

Matt McCoy, his fi­ancee, Tia Danger­field, and their two daugh­ters, Amaya (held) and Aubrey, are sur­rounded by sup­port­ive rel­a­tives and friends.

CE­CIL WHIG PHOTO BY BRI­ANNA SHEA

Roger Owens, chair­man of the Elk­ton Cham­ber and Al­liance, right, asks in­cum­bent Com­mis­sioner Earl Piner ques­tions dur­ing the pub­lic fo­rum Mon­day.

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