Commissioner needs different perspective

Kai Hagen

July 14, 2005

I've written about a lot of local issues, but because I'm also a member of the Frederick County Parks and Recreation Commission, I've avoided writing about specific issues directly related to the Parks and Recreation Department.

Steering clear of the subject hasn't been easy. In spite of the fact that the county parks and recreation staff has done a remarkable job with limited resources and tight budgets, Frederick County is far behind even the minimum standards for parkland recommended to meet the needs of our growing population.

That's something worth writing a column about, but I haven't.

I didn't even write about the so-called "hat incident," when county Commissioner Michael L. Cady, who is the liaison to the Parks and Recreation Commission, attempted to fire a new parks employee who did not remove his hat when being introduced to the Board of County Commissioners on March 17 .

It was particularly hard to resist when Cady, failing in his effort to have the young man fired on the spot, immediately made a motion, which passed, to remove $35,000 from the parks budget.

The "hat incident" became more difficult to avoid when, a few days later, after the commissioners voted to restore the budget cut, Cady issued a statement expressing regret for his actions, but proceeded to wrap himself in our nation's flag and the Pledge of Allegiance and inaccurately recast the growing controversy as matter of patriotism.

Then came the June 2 meeting of the county Parks and Recreation Commission. Between the incident and the June meeting, Cady was the swing vote to deny funding for a much-needed project manager, a position he had recommended the parks department request and had expressed clear support for earlier.

Certainly, he knew, or should have known, he would be asked about his vote at the meeting (a meeting I was unable to attend). When the subject turned to commission items, he was asked in an entirely civil and polite manner.

His immediate reply: "You, uh, want to, uh, consider transferring the funds from the, park maintenance position, that position that you already funded?"

The park commissioners were mostly silent, probably stunned.

There was a civil follow-up question, cut off by Cady's angry response, which included: "I'll be damned if I'll have a man stand at that microphone with a hat on and not take it off for the pledge or the flag, and be disrespectful to county commissioners, and have the supervisor sit there and do nothing about it. That I won't stand for. I'll be thrown out of office for this maybe, and so be it. But I won't vote for it, until that situation is remedied."

That's worth repeating, "until that situation is remedied."

Another short question was asked, to which Cady replied: "I didn't do that. You're asking for additional funds, in the appeal process, and I didn't vote for it. And I won't vote for it. If you like, I'll resign as the liaison, but I'm not voting for it." And then he walked out of the meeting.

A foreseeable question, asked in a civil and appropriate manner, was all it took to push Cady over the edge. He clearly connected his vote to the hat incident. He was the one who got angry, again. He was the one who walked out of the meeting, as he has walked out of other meetings in recent months.

I heard about the meeting the next day, and listened to the audio recording. And still I didn't write about it. Then came the June 14 meeting of the Board of County Commissioners, where the matter was discussed.

In addition to ducking the question of whether he resigned or not, and suggesting he may not attend future meetings, Cady read a statement, mostly outlining his history of support for county parks.

This was his second sentence: "What I was unprepared to handle was the unpublished, planned 'Spanish Inquisition' as to my reasons for not voting to support the budget appeal to hire an additional construction manager ..."

Spanish Inquisition?

Finally, I couldn't resist writing something.

I'm not sure what's worse, that Cady believes a reasonable question or two constitutes an "inquisition" worthy of a tirade, or that he still insists there's no connection between his vote against the project manager position he supported and the fact that the employee who did not remove his hat is still employed by the parks department.

In March, Cady said, "The voters of Frederick County expect and deserve more from their elected leaders."

He's right.

And so I wonder, will this criticism engender more anger, and perhaps retribution, from Cady or will he take a step back, take a good, honest look at recent events, and hold himself to a higher standard? Whether he does or not, we should.

To get in touch, e-mail Kai Hagen at