Happy Hour just ended, and Terry Hanley is making his apology.
A large crowd still remains on this Friday night at Sean Bolan’s in downtown Bel Air, among them town commissioners Hanley and Dave Carey. Hanley has excused himself for a moment and pulled Carey aside to say a few private words.
Later, Hanley will decline any comment on details of the brief conversation, other than to say he sought to explain himself to Carey and apologize.
It’s the first in a series of explanations Hanley, 47, will have to give, continuing this morning with his scheduled trial on a theft charge relating to a car deal and a campaign to hold onto his seat in the Bel Air town elections scheduled for Tuesday.
But before that election, Hanley is still clearing the air from the one two years ago.
“I regret it today,” Hanley told The Dagger in his first media interview since the charge was filed Sept. 7. “I got wrapped up in that crap. I betrayed someone I consider a friend.”
The friend is Carey and that crap, Hanley said, was backing two candidates, Greg Adolph and Ricky Davis, against incumbents Carey and Robert Preston in the 2009 town elections. Preston won handily and Davis fell behind, but Adolph came within a handful of votes of knocking off Carey.
Now Carey, for the first time in more than a decade, is watching an election unfold as a spectator rather than a candidate. Hanley, meanwhile, may be the instrument of his own destruction with Adolph running against him for one of three available seats, alongside fellow challenger Susan Burdette and incumbents Eddie Hopkins and Rob Reier.
Hanley took his seat on the roller coaster two years ago with his support of Adolph and Davis in a strategy which could have given him control of the town board. The gambit failed and, he said, caused a rift with Carey, who he recalled once entertaining at his home from time to time.
The electioneering was also an apparent stepping stone to higher office. Through late 2009 and into the following year, Hanley weighed his options to seek higher office, eventually deciding to challenge longtime County Councilman “Capt’n” Jim McMahan for the District C seat last fall.
In an interview with The Dagger shortly after announcing his candidacy, Hanley spoke as if the sky were the limit, saying that Democratic political operatives had approached him and offered to back his bid for higher office if he would switch parties.
“For the last year and a half, I’ve had people say I should do this, or I should do that, and I’ve had a lot of options,” he said, later adding, “We’ll see where the ride takes me.”
The ride, as it turned out, took him to defeat by more than a 16-point margin, 2,800 votes to 2,018. Knowing what he knows now, Hanley said he might not have jumped into that race so eagerly.
“That’s a tough, tough question,” he said. “Being me, and who I am, I would have to give it a hard look.”
It was business as usual for much of the following year, until Hanley made headlines in September when he was charged in Cecil County District Court with one count of theft under $5,000 in connection with a used car deal he allegedly made in February.
According to charging documents, Hanley allegedly withheld $5,000 in cash from the sale of a vehicle made at his former employer, Ramsey Ford of Elkton.
The documents state that Hanley allegedly sold a Ford Focus vehicle for $14,500 in cash, but that he only turned over $9,500 to the dealership and recorded the trade-in value of the customer’s Chevrolet Lumina as $7,320.38, while police said it was worth approximately $2,000. Hanley allegedly intended to sell the vehicle to a wholesaler.
On June 15, a day after police began investigating the case, Hanley allegedly paid Ramsey Ford with a personal check in the amount of $3,500, and the dealership withheld a bonus check to Hanley worth approximately $1,600.
Hanley told police that his actions were “in the best interests of the customer,” and that the money was accounted for throughout the transactions. However, according to the documents, Cecil County Sheriff’s Office Det. Cpl. Andrew Tuer, the officer investigating the case, doubted Hanley’s explanation, saying he did not believe Hanley would have given the money back until he was confronted, and that he believed Hanley knew he had acted wrongly.
The case is scheduled to go to trial Wednesday at 8:30 a.m. Though he refused to delve into specifics Friday, Hanley said he was confident the matter would be sorted out at trial.
“We’re gonna put that baby to bed,” he said. “I mean, I’m not the judge, but that’s what I hope will happen.”
So far, Hanley has been a non-presence in the Bel Air election, saying he has been “running quietly.” He’s posted no signs and previously granted no interviews, as many of his competitors have. Should the case go his way, he said he’ll begin a brief, aggressive campaign which—based on his comments Friday—will be centered around his record in eight years as town commissioner.
“I’ve been extremely outspoken, probably too outspoken. It’s better than doing nothing,” he said. “I do what I think is right for the voters first, and the town.”
Still, some regrets clearly remain.
“It was a perfect time two years ago,” he said. “The economy was booming, I was on the Ed Norris [radio] show once a week as a political commentator. I was very visible, and I took advantage of it. Some things you do, you pay.”