Nutter strikes back
Disappointed in former commissioner’s remarks on signs
A current county commissioner called out a former county commissioner during his commissioners’ report at Tuesday’s regular board meeting.
“If you allow me a few minutes I’d like to bring what Paul Harvey called ‘the rest of the story,’” said Calvert County Commissioner Pat Nutter (R) before delivering a 10-minute, 10-second diatribe regarding former commissioner Susan Shaw’s recent comments on proposed sign regulations. “I get
really amused how politicians cover themselves. They have a couple [of] paint brushes: They have this brush — the sky is going to fall. Then they have this brush — rainbow colors, ‘look at me.’”
Shaw’s comments in question came during a Sept. 12 public meeting on proposed amendments to the county’s sign regulations, hosted by Calvert County’s Department of Planning and Zoning.
Nutter learned of Shaw’s remarks in a Sept. 13 article in The Calvert Recorder titled “Citizens cry foul on signs,” an article he said “almost looked like a one-sided story.”
“We haven’t even approved the sign regulations, nor has the planning commission,” said Nutter.
Nutter said he loves Shaw, that he bragged about her the whole time she was in office and would have supported her anywhere.
“As I am reading down here, it says ‘I was, in capital letters, THE county commissioner that pushed for redoing the sign ordinance and I am extremely, [extremely] disappointed.’ I guess she forgot that me, Evan and Steve was on that board,” said Nutter, referring to Commissioners’ Vice President Evan Slaughenhoupt (R) and Commissioner Steve Weems (R).
“I guess she forgot that when this [issue] came out it’s because we were business unfriendly. I guess she forgot that I was a zoning officer that did all the work on violations of signs and I knew a little bit about signs,” stressed Nutter. “No. This was part of all of us.”
“I just want to let Susan know we had a hand in this, too,” he added.
The Calvert Recorder spoke with Shaw regarding Nutter’s comments. She decided not to comment.
Nutter later shared that there were times in his zoning career he had to tell a business they couldn’t place a sign in a particular place.
“They would say, ‘Well, Pat, nobody knows exactly what I do without that sign.’ I’d try to work things out,” shared Nutter.
Nutter said these sign regulations were part of how the county can make things go smoother for businesses and for homeowners and took a close look at the zoning regulations and whether they were right, wrong or outdated.
“I feel I am extremely transparent,” said Nutter, frustrated with the assertion that more transparency was needed. “I am extremely easy to get in touch with and I’m extremely open. I don’t know how much more transparent I can get.”
Nutter cited examples from years earlier of himself and county staff making efforts toward greater transparency with organizations such as the League of Women Voters.
“I wouldn’t get up and ask someone to vote for me if I wasn’t going to be honest and transparent. I just wouldn’t do it,” stressed the commissioner.
Nutter said the board began efforts to revamp the sign ordinance in 2011 and the county’s planning department presented revised regulations after constant badgering from him about the process taking so long. Nutter said the first draft was tabled due to a U.S. Supreme Court decision, but staff introduced a different version.
“This program has not been approved by this board or anybody I know of,” said Nutter. “So the sky is not going to fall yet. It may fall if we make a decision somebody doesn’t like, but we haven’t made that decision yet.”
Nutter said there are a lot of questions that need to be addressed. In response to concerns that the ad hoc committee, which contributed to the initial sign regulation process, was not consulted on the new draft, Nutter pointed out that their participation was so long ago that the ad hoc members probably have grandchildren by now, drawing laughs from the other commissioners.
Nutter reported that he was informed that each ad hoc committee member was sent an email “with all proper thoughts in it,” but there was no confirmation of whether they opened the email and read it.
“Oh my God. They are meeting with the small business people. What’s going on with that?” mocked Nutter, of reported concerns of county government meeting regularly with the Small Business Interest Group.
Nutter said every government from the local to federal level meets with business people.
“Not only are they citizens, too; they have a vested interest in this county. So, it would be logical that if you’re telling me that we are not business friendly … that I would sit down with you and say, ‘What can we do to help?’” explained Nutter.
Nutter said the commissioners meet all the time with interest groups and organizations, citing meetings with the Retired Teachers’ Association to find out what’s going on in education and the Chesapeake Ranch Estates in their quest to become a municipality. He feels they are a necessity to keep up to date with the needs of the community and to help them.
What really annoyed the two-term commissioner about the dialogue from the public meeting, as reported in the Recorder, was the statement from Shaw that “there’s a kind of old boy system of corruption.”
“What does that mean? Am I a crook? Are you talking about — am I a crook? Are these guys crooks? Is the planning board crooks? Small business people — are they crooks? Who are we talking about?” rhetorically asked a frustrated Nutter to his fellow commissioners.
Nutter was offended by the implication that he and the board were corrupt and said he had just met with two people quoted in the article on this issue to make a point of his openness. Nutter chose not to disclose their names.
“As much as I love Susan, as much as I thought she did a wonderful job [as commissioner], I am really disappointed. I just truly am,” lamented Nutter.
“So, when you hear these people talk, watch for them paint brushes. ‘The sky is falling.’ Not today. Rainbows.”
Nutter, 74, is a former sheriff’s deputy and has served on the BOCC since he was first elected in 2010. He also served as chief zoning and code enforcement officer within planning and zoning for the county from 1998 to 2003, and was previously the code enforcement officer for North Beach and Chesapeake Beach. In other business, the BOCC: • Held a public hearing to approve a budget adjustment to recognize the rural legacy grants of $2,888,485;
• Held a work session to discuss the fiscal 2019 budget Sstrategy;
• Held a work session to review employee pensions;
• Viewed a presentation on Calvert Library’s final report on the 2017-2037 Facility Master Plan;
• Directed staff to amend the Personnel Code to include compensation for detention center field training officers;
• Authorized a request for sponsorship for the Calvert County Board of Library Trustees for general liability and property insurance;
• Approved the general fund contribution of $12,013 toward benefits and authorized the BOCC president to sign a fiscal 2018 Governor’s Office for Children’s Community Partnership Agreement to support the Calvert County Family Network programs;
• Awarded a unit price contract to Advanced Elevator Corp. of Upper Marlboro;
• Recognized Stefon Ryan and Robert “Bobby” Thomas for rescuing a citizen from Back Creek;
• Recognized Department of Budget and Finance staff for receipt of Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting from National Government Finance Officers Association for the 13th consecutive year;
• Bestowed the Team Excellence Award to Department of Public Works’ Water and Sewer Force-main Project Team; and
• Made appointments to the Employees’ Retirement Savings Plan Board of Trustees and the Sheriff’s Department Pension Plan Board of Trustees.
Calvert Commissioner Pat Nutter (R) addressed criticism of the Board of County Commissioners voiced during a recent public meeting on proposed sign regulations. Nutter’s 10-minute-long denunciation of his critics came during the commissioners’ reports portion of Tuesday’s BOCC meeting.