Elkton FOP wades into con­tentious town elec­tion

En­dorses in­cum­bents with­out in­ter­view­ing can­di­dates

Cecil Whig - - FRONT PAGE - By BRIANNA SHEA

bshea@ce­cil­whig.com

— In an elec­tion year where two in­cum­bent town com­mis­sion­ers are be­ing chal­lenged by two vis­i­ble and ac­tive out­siders, the Elkton Fra­ter­nal Or­der of Po­lice Lodge No. 124 has en­dorsed the sta­tus quo.

ELKTON

The FOP, or col­lec­tive bar­gain­ing group that rep­re­sents the in­ter­ests of Elkton Po­lice Depart­ment of­fi­cers, an­nounced on May 2 that it is sup­port­ing long­time in­cum­bent com­mis­sion­ers Earl Piner and Charles Givens. The FOP is do­ing so be­cause the in­cum­bents “have a strong re­la­tion­ship with the com­mu­nity and sup­port law en­force­ment,” said Sgt. An­drew Tuer, the lodge’s state trustee.

“We think that they’re tak­ing the town in a good di­rec­tion,” he added.

The FOP has in­vested in its en­dorse­ment as well, putting up yard signs around town an- nounc­ing its stance, man­ning sign-wav­ing ef­forts and tak­ing to Face­book to voice sup­port of Givens and Piner.

“Lo­cal of­fi­cials play a cru­cial role in sup­port­ing law en­force­ment. The Elkton FOP, Lodge 124, is proud to sup­port Com­mis­sion­ers Charles Givens and Earl Piner, in their up­com­ing bid for re-elec­tion,” the lodge wrote in its Face­book an­nounce­ment of the en­dorse­ment. “Both Com­mis­sion­ers have demon­strated strong, en­dur­ing sup­port for the men and women in blue who

pro­tect and serve the cit­i­zens of Elkton.”

But the FOP’s de­ci­sion to wade into the elec­tion cy­cle has not sat well with chal­lengers Chris Zeauskas and Bob Gor­man, who are seek­ing to un­seat the in­cum­bents and note that the FOP made its en­dorse­ments with­out in­ter­view­ing the can­di­dates.

Tuer con­firmed that in­ter­views were not held, but ex­plained that the FOP lodge’s mem­bers picked their en­dorse­ments based on the can­di­dates’ pre­vi­ous his­tory and in­volve­ment in pol­i­tics.

Gor­man said that res­i­dents should take the en­dorse­ment at “face value.”

He re­marked the en­dorse­ment is com­pared to a “beauty pageant,” be­cause the de­ci­sion was based on per­son­al­ity and not facts and re­search.

“I think it’s in­cred­i­bly un­fair,” Zeauskas added in ref­er­ence to the lodge’s de­ci­sion to not hold in­ter­views.

He said he would been fine if the lodge had heard him out first and then chose to sup­port the in­cum­bents.

“I don’t un­der­stand where they’re com­ing from,” Zeauskas said, not­ing that part of his and Gor­man’s cam­paign plat­form is built on a strong po­lice force, be­cause they are es­sen­tial to “get­ting things done.”

Both Gor­man and Zeauskas have cam­paigned on a plan to fill open po­si­tions in the town po­lice force and fund a sub­sta­tion in the Hollingsworth Manor neigh­bor­hood to in- crease po­lice pres­ence and de­ter crime in one of the town’s most trou­ble­some ar­eas.

Tuer said the FOP rec­og­nized Givens’ and Piner’s vis­i­bil­ity and in­volve­ment in the com­mu­nity. He said they at­tend and par­tic­i­pate in events such as the Na­tional Night Out, an event hosted by the FOP and po­lice depart­ment, even dur­ing non-cam­paign years. He said Piner vol­un­teers to be the disc jockey dur­ing the event.

Tuer also noted that the lodge feels Gor­man’s and Zeauskas’ crit­i­cism of the town not do­ing enough to fill eight open po­lice of­fi­cer po­si­tions is mis­guided. He noted that within the past two years, 250 ap­pli­ca­tions were pro­cessed and only seven peo­ple hired due to the back­ground checks and qual­i­fi­ca­tions of ap­pli­cants. The depart­ment must fol­low strict reg­u­la­tions set by the Mary­land Po­lice Cor­rec­tional Train­ing Com­mis­sion, he added.

Piner said that he has long ap­pre­ci­ated the sup­port of the town’s sworn po­lice force. He ra­tio­nal­ized that when peo­ple choose who they want to sup­port, it is usu­ally based on pre­vi­ous ex­pe­ri­ence, as well as sim­i­lar goals and views.

“It’s a positive thing for me be­cause I know their or­ga­ni­za­tion is a good or­ga­ni­za­tion,” he said.

Givens said he is ap­pre­cia­tive of the sup­port from the lodge dur­ing his cam­paign as well.

“It means my work on the board as a com­mis­sioner has not gone un­no­ticed,” he said.

The elec­tion is set for Tues­day at town hall on Rail­road Av­enue.

CE­CIL WHIG PHOTO BY JA­COB OWENS

The Elkton Fra­ter­nal Or­der of Po­lice Lodge No. 124 has en­dorsed in­cum­bent town com­mis­sion­ers Earl Piner and Charles Givens, but not with­out rais­ing the ire of op­po­nents Chris Zeauskas and Bob Gor­man who de­cried the process.

PHOTO COUR­TESY OF FIRST TECH CHAL­LENGE

The BoBots’ ro­bot, far right, bat­tles it out with other ro­bots dur­ing the FIRST Tech Chal­lenge Su­per East Re­gion­als.

(L-R, top to bot­tom) In­cum­bents Earl Piner Sr. and Charles Givens are al­ready op­posed by Chris Zeauskas and Robert Gor­man.

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