Dissension in the ranks has led to all out mutiny among members of the Harford County delegation to the Maryland General Assembly in Annapolis, who, within two weeks, re-elected and then booted the chair and vice chair of the county delegation.
An apparent leadership vacuum created by Del. Susan McComas’ reportedly ineffectual role as chairman of the Harford delegation and a verbal tirade unleashed by her vice chair, Del. Rick Impallaria, led to their emergency removal from those roles on Monday.
In a nutshell, pun possibly intended, here’s how we arrived at this moment:
McComas is by all accounts a fine delegate and a much-liked person. I’ve heard the words “good person” used to describe her. But since she assumed chair of the delegation, it has become evident she does not posses the leadership qualities necessary to organize, balance and keep under control a group of 7 other political egos.
Over time, McComas has done a few things that has gotten under the skin of other delegates or left them scratching their heads. These are reportedly very minor things – changing the locks on delegates’ office doors without telling them, moving a frequently-used mirror from the delegation office, showing mild disrespect to the other delegates’ administrative assistants.
On their own, each of these offenses can be considered petty, but when considered as a whole – and viewed as portending bigger problems yet to come – they seemed suddenly not so trivial to her fellow delegates.
During an early session delegation meeting, the Harford officials went into executive session and confronted McComas about these things. After she promised to be more mindful and directly address the issues, McComas was re-elected as delegation chair.
It quickly became evident to most members of the delegation that McComas had not changed her ways. In some cases she might have even made the situation worse. The delegation began questioning if it made the right choice in picking her to lead them again.
Then, just last Friday, the brewing delegation turmoil exploded in spectacular fashion during a very public altercation between Impallaria and Del. Donna Stifler. For whatever reason, the two delegates began arguing in the Cloak Room with a few other people around. Emotions and voices rose until Impallaria let loose with a verbal tirade on par with some of famously-profane comedian George Carlin’s greatest work, according to witnesses. Although, it should be said, Impallaria has offered a much more PG-version of his alleged comments. [Yes, I know what he’s supposed to have said. No, I don’t think I’ll repeat it. Maybe Impallaria will show up here and give you all a little preview.]
So Impallaria cussed up a storm in front of a lot of people. Eventually, police arrived to investigate what they had been told was an assault in the House of Delegates.
With the McComas chair already in question and her vice chair Impallaria apparently drawing a visit by law enforcement, several delegates decided it was time to take care of the matter once and for all.
At the close of session on Monday evening, Del. J.B. Jennings announced that a special delegation session was being called. McComas, Impallaria and Del. Pat McDonough didn’t show. And Jennings and Del. Wayne Norman were tapped to replace them unanimously by the rest of the delegation.
By Tuesday, machinations were already underway to undo or invalidate the delegation vote to replace McComas and Impallaria. There were cries that Roberts Rules of Order was not followed and an Attorney General’s Office decision was requested.
On Wednesday, The Dagger obtained a copy of a letter from the Attorney General’s Office dated Monday, February 2, 2009.
According to the letter, it was written in response to an inquiry from Del. Mary-Dulany James asking “whether a member of the Delegation could call a meeting of the Delegation by announcing it on the floor of the House.”, whether such a meeting would comport with the Open Meetings Act and “whether a member of the Delegation may call for a vote on an issue if both the Chairman and Co-Chairman are absent, or decline to call for a vote.”
The timing of the letter is curious, since Jennings called the special meeting at the end of session at approximately 8 p.m. on February 2 and this letter is obviously in response to a previous inquiry by James.
It calls into question the published reports about Jennings saying he called the meeting to mend fences between Impallaria and Stifler. How can you mend fences with the Co-Chair if you are anticipating his absence? And if you’re not expecting him to be absent, why bother the AG with a question about it?
But if removal really was the intent, the absence of the Chair and Co-Chair comes in handy. That’s because Roberts Rules of Order requires a 2/3 majority vote – a standard the delegation could not meet during its regular Friday delegation meetings with McComas, Impallaria and McDonough all in attendance. Hence the possible urgency to meet on Monday night, rather than wait 4 days until Friday.
Reacting to the inquiry from James to the Attorney Generals office, Impallaria said today:
“Mary-Dulany James’ end game is to get it so chaotic that she and [Del. Dan] Riley will be appointed…Now we know the members of the ‘James gang’: [JB Jennings, Wayne Norman and Donna Stifler]. They are aiding and abetting Mary-Dulany James to try to shake off the mess she’s made on the elected school board to put in place the weakest of the six Republicans elected from Harford County. On the Democratic side, this is ingenious. For the Republicans, it’s a sad day for Harford County Republicans.”
Also today, Impallaria said he contacted the Speaker’s office and had a meeting between himself, Stifler’s aide and Barbara Oakes who is in charge of staff in the Lowe building. He said he had been accused of “abusing and mistreating” Donna Stifler’s aide, although Stifler did not provide specifics, and it escalated.
He said during the altercation he called Stifler a “friggin’ kook” and not the vulgar names Stifler alleges. According to Impallaria, the meeting with the Speaker’s office ended with the conclusion that no abuse of the aide occurred.
Yet, oddly enough, Alexandra Hughes, Communications/Policy Advisor for the Speaker’s Legislative Office, said Wednesday afternoon, “To my knowledge, [Del. Michael Busch] has not met with the Harford County delegation.”
Now, without further ado, the horses’ mouths:
McDonough’s explanations for the overthrow of McComas and Impallaria fall into two broad categories:
– It’s a plot with a quid pro quo: The change in leadership gave the balance of power to the Democrats because Jennings, Stifler and Norman had to give the two Democrats on the delegation (James and Del. Dan Riley) something in return for their vote against McComas and Impallaria. McDonough said three “needed two Democrats to complete their plot. I hope it wasn’t the elected school board.”
McDonough added that the complaints about Susan are a “smokescreen for their ambitions”.
– It’s all Donna: He said Stifler has petty complaints. “Donna Stifler lacks maturity… causes unnecessary trouble…disrupts things. It’s her personality.” He said the removal of McComas was an “insult to women” adding that he believed McComas was the only female delegation chair and she was ousted “without real cause” “Donna Stifler threw her sister under the bus.”
Impallaria’s explanations are about the ambitions of his fellow delegates:
“The goal was to destroy the Harford County delegation and get titles for themselves.” He said there is “no upside for the citizens in Harford County.”
Impallaria said he offered the job of vice chair to Jennings before the vote that installed McComas and himself a few weeks ago. Impallaria said Jennings turned him down saying he did not need the title. After Monday’s vote that put Jennings in as chair, Impallaria confronted Jennings in the hallway and said Jennings couldn’t look him in the face.
Impallaria said, “I couldn’t look me in the face either after” what Jennings had done. Impallaria said he complained to Jennings about the lack of advance notice of the special meeting, saying he and the other delegates were blindsided. Impallaria said there are two sides on the issue, the side that supports the rules and the side that supports no rules. “What side is the public normally going to fall on?”
He says if there are no rules the delegation can vote on a new chair every meeting. “The first time Donna (Stifler) gets mad at Wayne (Norman), it flips the vote and we can vote again.”
Where next? Sources say Jennings has invited the delegates to a private dinner to try to get everyone to come together.
We wish him luck.
I was tired after reading this article! Sounds like this could have been dealt with fairly easily until some of the delegates saw a power vacuum and decided to suck everyone in and many fell for it.
What was Mary Dulaney James doing getting an opinion from the Attorney General before the meeting? That meant she had to know what was going to transpire and was helping Jennings. Why would she help anyone as Pat McDonough said. Does JB Jennings really think she has his back? Scary thought…
I hope the Republicans in this county aren’t conspiring with Democrats to diminish the power of fellow Republicans in Annapolis. We already saw what the Dems did to the taxpayers in this county last November.
Wow. Perhaps if McDonough is so worried about women in power, he won’t mind when a woman takes him and Impallaria out in 2010. Is it normal for a delegate to make such statements about other delegates as the one he made about Stifler?
How is it that Republicans would have had to give away anything? MD and Riley hated McComas and Impallaria just as much as the other three.
Impallaria will be lucky if he does not end up in jail. He is constantly skirting the edges of the law, to put it politely.
In fact, he is known to have entered Harford County Planning and Zoning to throw his delegate title around in order to get the county to compromise. Wait until that one gets out. Not to mention his fights with the Army Corps of Engineers. This guy will end up in federal prison if he isn’t more careful.
Just Smile says
One can certainly argue that Del. Impallaria has brought shame on Harford County. We should be proud of our female legislators–Dels. McComas & Stifler and Sen. Jacobs. We have more female legislators than any other conservative county in the state. We also have great male legislators. Harford County is known for our quality legislators who leave a positive impact on Annapolis with good legislation. Think about the people over the years… Sen. Amoss, Sen. Hooper, Sen. Craig, Del. Harkins, etc. For Del. Impallaria to drop the c-bomb, f-bomb, a-bomb, b-bomb, and a string of orther vulgarities and slurs about one female delegate and one male delegate because he is unhappy is unacceptable. To do so in front of other people and on the floor of the House of Delegates is virtually unheard of in recent Maryland history.
Annapolis is sort of like the dinner table. You don’t yell, you don’t scream, and you definitely don’t curse (unless you’re in the company of a certain leader at the post-session…oh nevermind). You have a polite disagreement and you think about what your parents or grandparents would say if they were sitting there at the table with you. The town itself dates back to Colonial times (Gov. O’Malley noted the Dome was finished in 1788 in his State of the State speech) and so people sometimes get caught up in mimicking that history. And you know what, that mutual respect, even if it is largely fake, is not a bad thing!
Hopefully our delegates can come together to do what is best for Harford. It seems the Senators have wisely stayed away from this battle royale. In the end of the day it doesn’t matter who is chair or who is not chair, it matters that the people of Harford County are aptly represented and that their work gets done down in Annapolis.
Wow, yrself, Harriman. We’ve all heard rumors about local politicians, but that doesn’t mean we ought toss them around like facts. You look like a moron when you suggest federal prison as a liklihood, and you ruin the discussion. People who ruin the discussion will end up in federal prison if they’re not more careful. See how that works?
As for a woman taking a District 7 seat — what’s Paula Mullis up to these days?
Thirdly — remember how Barry Glassman kept this crew in check? By being smarter and better than the rest of them. The only person in the current delegation with that potential for statesmanship is Mary-Dulany, who is a force within the Democratic party in Annapolis, but seems increasingly detached from Harford County (at least where the school board debate is concerned).
Obviously, this is a serious issue since the rest of the state made clear that they will be ignoring our corner of the state so long as our delegation can’t reach agreement on key issues.
At a time when so many budget cuts AND stimulus funds for shovel ready programs are all at stake, having a delegation that has escalated in incompetence from not just disagreeing on a an elected school board to now being unable to perform their most basic job of lining up in an orderly manner to suckle at the teat of Maryland pork is simply ridiculous.
If there are knowledgeable Dagger members, can we get a scorecard published at this time of a) who is in the delegation, b) how long they have been in the delegation and c) when they are next up reelection. Time to begin a concerted bipartisan grassroots effort to rotating these people out of jobs that they are unable to live up to.
The Assembly Line:
Please not Paula.
Those bios are amazing. You have to read them. The one on Impalliria is great.
BS in Psychology has always been my fav degree. BS.
Shovel Ready... says
‘Shovel-ready’ comment….sure sounds a lot like Councilman Dion tax-hike Guthrie (oh wait, sorry, he is now trying to say he opposed tax hikes). The delegation’s problems pale in comparison to the state’s problems; see Governor Martin O’Malley and his shady land deals and other corruption.
Shovel Ready... says
“:Anyway, the rest of Impallaria’s story is that in his younger days he crashed his car into his parents’ front porch trying to kill them, but was unsuccessful. “Everybody has stuff like this in their closet if you look hard enough,” Rick told me at the time. I laughed it off then, but considering his Middle River/Joppatowne constituency, I’m beginning to think he might have a point. As vice chairman of the Harford County delegation this time around, Impallaria is sure to keep things lively.”
From the Dagger link above. HE TRIED TO RUN OVER HIS PARENTS WITH HIS CAR?!?!?! No, everyone doesn’t have that in their past!! That is insane.
From Brian’s Jan. 11 piece. This is hysterical. I laughed for about 5 minutes.
“Anyway, the rest of Impallaria’s story is that in his younger days he crashed his car into his parents’ front porch trying to kill them, but was unsuccessful. “Everybody has stuff like this in their closet if you look hard enough,” Rick told me at the time. I laughed it off then, but considering his Middle River/Joppatowne constituency, I’m beginning to think he might have a point. As vice chairman of the Harford County delegation this time around, Impallaria is sure to keep things lively.”
Steve Mako says
What doe’s beeing appointed have to do with anything? Would that not mean the the whole RCC is behind the choice? Do you think Rick I. would have made that cut? It sounds as if he may be a loose cannon, and hurting the entire process.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I hope for our–meaning the rest of us watching this from the outside–sakes, that the good folks who represent us down in Naplis can get through the ego thing and please get it back together. There’s plenty of real stuff to deal with, and believe it or not we do pay attention. This is starting to look like an SGA story in The Cry Of The Hawk. Thank you.