In my last column, I asked several questions of candidates for Frederick Board of County Commissioners. Below I have restated the questions and the answers from the candidates who responded. Thank you to those who did and for taking the time to get back to me.
Every election is important and this one seems to have an added air of importance about it both locally and nationally, so please remember to get out and vote tomorrow.
If elected, will you participate in the pension plan? If your answer is yes, why do you feel the taxpayers of Frederick County should pay for your participation?
MICHAEL KURTIANYK: Upon speaking with Mr. (Mitchell) Hose, director of Human Resources), I was informed that there are two pension plans offered to all elected officials. The first, and more popular plan, is a pension that provides fund matching from the county. Apparently, all commissioners, with the exception of Blaine Young, have participated in this plan for the past 20 years. The second plan does not have matching, but does allow employees and elected officials to contribute pre-tax funds and save toward their retirement. If I am fortunate enough to be elected, I will review both plans with my family, and with Mr. Hose, to determine the costs associated with each. I will choose the plan that is in the best interests of the county and my family.
KIRBY DELAUTER: I will not participate in the pension fund. I do not think the taxpayers owe me a pension because I voluntarily ran for office to “serve” the public.
BOB WHITE: No.
BLAINE YOUNG: No, and I do not now.
KAI HAGEN: Every time you write a column you expose how little you know. Or, in other words, you seem to have no concerns about the facts, and no desire to learn them.
That was clear when you wrote that Commissioner Gray was only running for re-election because he wanted a "better pension," and that he only chooses how to vote on issues based on what "will have a better chance of getting him re-elected."
Again, why should taxpayers pay for you to receive a pension for an elected position that you have chosen to seek? If your interest was truly about service to the community, then why not decline to participate in the pension plan and save county taxpayers $28,400 over the course of your term in office?
MICHAEL KURTIANYK: The position of county commissioner is a job that offers a salary and benefits. I will reiterate: if I am fortunate enough to be elected, I will review both plans with my family, and with Mr. Hose, to determine the costs associated with each. I will choose the plan that is in the best interests of the county and my family.
KIRBY DELAUTER: They shouldn’t, and it would save this money. Everyone has their reasons; my personal preference is to exclude myself from the pension and save the money for the taxpayer.
BOB WHITE: Truly a silly question – it's a job, like any other – yes, a service job, an important job, a difficult job...but a job, nonetheless. It's a choice to run – like anyone makes to apply for a job. If an individual chooses to run for more than one term – and the public continues to elect him/her to it, de facto, it becomes a career choice – made jointly by the candidate and the voters. That's the public's choice. Not only that, it is really more than a full-time job (done properly). It pays extremely poorly for anyone who has any talent or ability whatsoever. Taking it at such a salary is doing a public service. A person has a limited time to work in his/her life and to develop a program for retirement – a program that becomes more expensive and less easy to achieve every year. Why would you begrudge someone who is serving you and who is already working for peanuts the ability to accrue a minimal, low-cost pension plan – the ability to at least have something credited toward a modest retirement. Or do you just say – hey knock that four years (or more) out of his/her earning lifespan and let'em suffer penury later. You might try picking on something that really needs picking on...like the U.S. Congress. I guarantee you that a county commissioner works harder for you than your congressman or your senators – more hours and more results for a whole lot less. The budget for members of Congress...for all their salary, benefits, staff, frills and perks...for 2010 was around $5 BILLION. That breaks down to around $9 million for each Senator, Representative or non-voting delegate. Ask Roscoe (Bartlett) what he's doing for us for that amount of money...or Barbara (Mikulski) or Ben (Cardin)!
BLAINE YOUNG: I agree. The pension plan should be done away with. This is service to the community, not a job or career.
KAI HAGEN: Every time you write a column you expose how little you know. It was clear again when you repeatedly felt completely comfortable saying things like: "Mr. Hagen doesn’t care about unemployed people in Frederick County." The entire rant about my serious conflicts of interests because I have connections with folks associated with the "Friends of Frederick County" and share some of their positions and goals was baseless and ridiculous.
It was abundantly clear when you used a so-called "open letter" to commission candidates as a petty, transparent and, again, clueless attack on me and two other commissioners. It would be hard to know where to start, if I was going to bother to dissect all of it, because all of it was both a personal diatribe and very poorly written.
Here’s another request of prospective commissioners, please use your taxpayer-funded expense account wisely. And will you publically pledge to return any unused money from your expense account to the general fund?
MICHAEL KURTIANYK: Unspent money from the expense account should go back into the general fund, or should have been used by going to Annapolis more often and lobbying on behalf of Frederick County.
One of the first legislative acts I would make is to close the loophole so that BOCC (Board of County Commissioners) members would be prohibited from donating moneys to charities from their campaign accounts. It should go into the general fund.
KIRBY DELAUTER: It will go back to the general fund any portion unused. In my case, it will likely be the entire amount.
BOB WHITE: Absolutely. Public monies are the public's money – it is not given to legislators for arbitrary redistribution, but to underwrite governmental programs and activities. Furthermore, for the same reason, I do not support the concept of setting aside money from the county budget to be given to an arbitrary selection of private charities, as has been done in times past. This is, quite simply, an arbitrary redistribution of wealth. If individuals choose to give to a private charity, it is their right. It is NOT the right of county officials to select which charities they wish to gift with taxpayer funds.
BLAINE YOUNG: I will not and have not used any money from the expense account that is available for commissioners. I feel that if something is truly needed then it should be justified and the entire board should vote on it.
I made a motion to reduce the commissioners’ expense account as I felt they were not needed to be funded at the level they are and based on the actions of some commissioners to give the balance away to non-profits and not have it fall to the bottom line.
I also have and will not take the county healthcare plan that is available for commissioners, which is a savings to the taxpayer. I returned the county issued laptop and pay for my county issued Blackberry. I pay for other things out of my pocket such as the MACO conference, stamps, and tickets to events; and I do not and will not ever put in for reimbursement for mileage.
KAI HAGEN: Let me give you a free piece of advice. If you ever want to write for anything more credible than The Tentacle or some other blog with no standards, at some point you are going to have to learn a few things about your subjects, and what you write will have to have some relationship to the facts. Good luck with that...sincerely.