Town of Chevy Chase Mayor Al Lang and Vice Mayor John Bickerman continue to face questions regarding their roles in orchestrating the stealth write-in campaign for Fred Cecere.
The Town’s Election Board and Ethics Commission were charged by the Council to make recommendations about future elections based on this past election. Indeed, Bickerman actually made that motion (see why that is important below). As part of their research, the Board and Commission asked all councilmembers about when they learned of the stealth campaign and what role they had in it. Three councilmembers immediately responded to the request.
Lang has refused to answer and has been silent on the issue. Bickerman has refused to answer the question publicly (he says he will privately) but has been far from silent on the issue. According to Bickerman, it is none of anyone’s business and he denies that he had any duty to let his neighbors know about the orchestrated campaign even though the Town had sent out an official communication about who was running.
When pressed about whether he had a fiduciary responsibility to Town residents, Bickerman in a public statement said that he does not. Period. This would seem to counter the Maryland Constitution’s Declaration of Rights which states:
That all persons invested with the Legislative or Executive powers of Government are the Trustees of the Public, and, as such, accountable for their conduct.
One must wonder why, even if he feels he has no fiduciary responsibility, he won’t just answer the question about his involvement posed to him by the Board and the Commission. If he believes his actions in the campaign were “ethical” and “proper” rather than shameful, why not disclose fully instead of making technical (and plainly incorrect) legal arguments?
It may be that democracy, while not always pretty, involves a choice between public candidates. And, even he cannot make a case that a sub rosa campaign for a stealth candidate in which only the “right” people were let in on the secret in order to tamp down turnout by others is the right way to bring about change.
Attacking the Election Board and Ethics Commission
So instead of answering the question, Bickerman has repeatedly attacked publicly the independent Election Board and Ethics Commission for investigating the campaign. Funny, as they are doing exactly what he charged them with him when his own motion passed. Now that the questions are directed at his own conduct, he says that what they are doing is “unconstitutional.”
He is also trying to subvert the work of the joint commission by bypassing their work and passing his own set of recommendations before their report is finalized. Moreover, his recommendations–hidden from the public so far–focus serendipitously on rendering the actions he took during the campaign legal, belying his claim that were “ethical” and “legal.”
More Bickerman Disingenousness
Perhaps most incredibly, Bickerman is now defending the seemingly overnight replacement of Election Board Member Anthula Gross by Robert Charrow–done without a public call as was the past Council’s practice. Charrow, by the way, likely gave legal advice to the stealth campaign about the role of the Election Board. Yes, this is messy.
Bickerman neglected to mention in an email to residents defending Charrow’s appointment that Gross resigned only because Lang, an interested party, conveyed that she could well be sued personally for her actions on the Board and that the Town would not defend her acts as a public official. Unfortunately, not the last effort to bully the Election Board, as Bickerman’s repeated jabs at them have shown.
Finally, Bickerman has made another call for a “joint effort to work together.” I assume he means by that that the “wrong” people should just sit back and let the “right” people, and probably the minority of residents, move their agenda forward without making a fuss. If he thinks that is going to happen, he has underestimated the outrage that his and others actions have engendered in the community. It is going to be a long year.