Nut­ter strikes back

Dis­ap­pointed in for­mer com­mis­sioner’s re­marks on signs

The Calvert Recorder - - Front Page - By TA­MARA WARD tward@somd­

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.

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