Wicomico Council to discuss executive process Friday

Two weeks ago, the Wicomico County Council set a Sept. 14 deadline for applicants to the vacant County Executive position, so it could discuss next steps when it convened again on Sept. 15.

When Tuesday’s meeting came, however, no discussion occurred.

Council President Larry Dodd confirmed that two applications had been submitted in the search to replace late County Executive Bob Culver.

State Delegate Carl Anderton, who previously fell one council-member vote short of winning the post, has applied again. Joining the contest is the county’s General Services Supervisor Pate Matthews, a longtime local government employee.

Dodd said two other application packets had been handed out, so the council would wait to see if any submissions arrived by mail with a Sept. 14 postmark.

That was all that was said aloud.

After meeting in a closed session Tuesday afternoon, the council released a statement that it would meet in a public session this Friday. Again, the statement offered no details.

This will be the second Friday in the last four in which the council held a surprise meeting to discuss the process. In a consensus-vote discussion Aug. 28, the body decided to extend the process another 45 days. That would seem to put the new deadline at Saturday, Oct. 24.

Culver passed away from liver cancer on July 26.

The only talk about the hiring process came from Salisbury businessman and financial adviser Bruce Robson, who used the public comments portion of Tuesday’s meeting to blast the council’s continued discretion and “lack of respect for the system.”

“I feel like the way this has progressed really leads to a lack of trust,” Robson said. “We hear so many people saying ‘What’s going on behind the scenes — we hear nothing’. And what we do hear is so weak as to encourage the thought that something is going on here that is not good.”

Robson said that when members of the public rose at a previous meeting to vent their concerns, they were told the forum wasn’t the time or place for such questions.

“Where is the place to debate the integrity of this group? If you lose the trust of this county then governering is very difficult,” Robson said. “I would like to hear your reasons for not talking about it.”

Later, when the council had an opportunity to make public comments, nothing on the County Executive matter was said.

The County Executive is responsible for crafting the county’s annual $150 million budget, orchestrating its vast bond borrowing and overseeing the county’s roughly 1,000 employees.

The County Executive form of government has been in effect since 2006 and only two men have served in the post: Republican Culver and Democrat Rick Pollitt.

Wicomico Director of Administration John Psota is serving as Acting County Executive until the County Council can appoint a successor. The charter gives Psota, who formerly served as Fruitland city manager, all of the powers that Culver had while in the position.

The seven-member council has a 4-3 Republican majority, but all members get to vote on the selection.

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