Tag Archives: Robert Charrow

Bickerman Denies Fiduciary Responsibility

BickermanJuneVice Mayor John Bickerman

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.

Disclaiming Responsibility

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 Cecere Junewill 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.


Election Board Member Resigns after Pressure

Anthula Gross, one of the three members of the Town of Chevy Chase Election Board, has resigned. Apparently, she was subjected to very strong private pressure, including from a current sitting member of the Town Council. that went so far as to warn of personal legal liability, in the wake of the election (emphasis added):

Much to my dismay, at the close of the election on Tuesday, May 5, several supporters of the write-in candidate questioned our integrity and ability to provide a fair and accurate vote count, even though the responsibility for that count lay in the hands of the impartial League of Women Voters who had no ties to the Town. We were there to oversee them and certify the vote count which we did.

After we certified the vote count, we realized that we could not certify the election immediately because of the discrepancy in the requirement of the State mandated financial disclosure statement. There is an inherent conflict between the requirements and limitations placed on a declared candidate and those of a write-in candidate in the Town’s election procedures. The procedure for the ability of Town residents to vote for a write-in candidate predates the requirement of the State mandated financial disclosure statement and no adjustment to the Town Charter had been made. Therefore, we requested the Ethics Commission to clarify the situation and be the final arbiter.

In the interim, while the final decision was in the hands of the Ethics Commission, I did not appreciate calls and e-mails from Town residents urging immediate certification of the election, that we had exceeded our mandate, and that we were suppressing voters’ rights and trying to overturn an election. One present member of the Town Council also urged immediate certification and that we could be in violation of Federal Law (The Ku Klux Klan Act). It was not our intention to suppress anyone’s vote or to deny anyone of his First Amendment Right. We just needed clarification.

I was further disheartened at the first Town Council meeting following the election where more talk was raised of the possibility of legal liability on the part of Town volunteers, hardly an incentive to make one want to volunteer.

Despite Anthula Gross’ willingness to stay on the Board until it submitted its recommendations after the election, Mayor Lang accepted her resignation and moved to fill the vacancy.

Replacement Involved in Election Dispute?

Mayor Al Lang appointed Robert Charrow to fill the vacancy with the support of Councilmembers John Bickerman and Fred Cecere. Besides serving on the Council, Lang is also the CEO of Coteva, Inc. while Attorney John Bickerman is a professional mediator who heads the two-person Bickerman Dispute Resolution firm and teaches dispute resolution at Cornell. Fred Cecere is a retired physician.

Some are wondering if Charrow gave advice to Ed Albert’s stealth write-in campaign that led to Cecere’s election and Bickerman’s reelection during or after the election. Charrow was quoted on the Town’s unofficial listserv as stating “It’s none of your business” in response to question on the matter–an answer that seems unlikely to quell suspicions.

In short, there is now open speculation (at least on the Town listserv) that Lang with Bickerman and Cecere’s support has now appointed a lawyer who gave legal advice that helped result in our new Council and Mayor to the Town Election Board–an action described as reducing “confidence” in both institutions.