Fire fighters in Frederick County, Maryland say county officials are misusing taxpayer funds to promote a ballot question that would weaken collective bargaining and public safety.
Frederick County, Maryland Local 3666 vowed to file a complaint with the Maryland Board of Elections accusing county officials of misusing taxpayer money to launch a ballot initiative. Question A, which is on general election ballots in Frederick County, would change wording in the county’s charter to clarify that the County Council has the final say in bargaining disputes between the county and its career firefighters.
Local 3666, with the strong backing of the International, believes it is inappropriate for a government to use public funds to wage a political campaign. If voters approve Question A in November, professional fire fighters and paramedics would have a weaker voice in important public safety matters.
“Our focus is public safety for the residents of Frederick County. County funding should be used to make the residents safer – not for political materials like ads and videos,” said Local 3666 President Stephen Jones.
“We call on the Frederick County Council to investigate this misuse of public funds and we intend to file with the appropriate bodies to shed light on this unethical behavior,” he continued.
Question A, if approved by voters in November, would effectively change a ballot measure approved several years ago. Question D, approved in 2018 by nearly 73 percent of Frederick County voters, granted the county authority to appoint a neutral arbitrator for labor disputes between the county and its career firefighters. Any ruling by the arbitrator would be binding for the county executive.
Question A would give the Frederick County Council a final vote on the county budget, which includes funds for fire fighter pay and essential equipment.
In addition to the formal complaint with the Board of Elections, Local 3666 intends to file a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request seeking documents and other information related to the county government’s campaign in favor of Question A.
In their campaign against ballot Question A, Local 3666 discovered the county had created a political committee in September called “Frederick County Government” with county officials listed as campaign staffers.
Local 3666 is not alone in its concerns that county officials are improperly using taxpayer money for political purposes.
“The county has done this multiple times, and it is completely inappropriate,” said Maryland State Senator Mike Hough. “If you want to run a political campaign, do it the right way. Go out and form a PAC (Political Action Committee) and raise money. Don’t take taxpayer dollars to do it.”
Meanwhile, U.S. Representative David Trone issued a full-throated statement in opposition to Question A.
“In 2018, the voters overwhelmingly supported the fire fighters and approved binding arbitration for contract negotiations with the County. Question A on the ballot this year would undo the will of the voters by effectively making their decision on binding arbitration agreements null and void. I was proud to stand with the fire fighters in their efforts to secure fair contract negotiations in 2018, and I am proud to do so again this year. I urge voters to vote no on Question A and reaffirm their support for the local fire fighters in Frederick County.”
Local 3666 has endorsed Trone in his bid to keep his House seat representing Maryland’s 6th District.