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The Tentacle


December 7, 2010

Political Cabal

Roy Meachum

Chuck Jenkins’ swearing in happened without me; I saw him afterward at the ceremony for the new commissioners. I wasn’t invited.

 

As every voter knows, the sheriff ran this year unopposed. His first time around it was a different game. In the 2006 primary, he faced worthy opponents: an ex-Frederick County Deputy Thomas Johann; Sgt. Bill Folden, still working in the Sheriff’s Department; and, retired Frederick City Police Lt. Harold Domer, who richly supplemented his pension by using political connections to land the top job at county Animal Control.

 

Mr. Domer and Sergeant Folden’s methods were rather simple; they offered better jobs to police and deputies. Always with an eye to what former associates could bring to his effort, the former lieutenant promised a high-ranking Sheriff’s Department job to retired Lt. Pat O’Brien, for example.

 

One-time police Lt. Kelly Russell was detected spying on the Jenkins campaign; rumor had her headed for a comfortable post if Harold Domer was sworn in. She had the reputation, while in the city department, of being the puppet of Mr. Domer. Incidentally, Ms. Russell is now a Frederick alderman, as of last year’s municipal elections.

 

When he lost the primary, Bill Folden had to be content with extra money for handling security for the Westview Mall. Under Sheriff Jenkins’ predecessor, the deputies the sergeant hired were permitted to wear their uniforms and sidearms, and official county vehicles were deployed; presumably the gas and operating expenses were paid by Westview. (I was once threatened with arrest by a corporal for asking questions about a demonstration that was kept off mall property.)

 

After the election was over, Bill Folden faced the grim situation of no longer being able to employ the uniforms, arms or vehicles; although I noticed the deputies he hires manage to communicate what they do in their “day” jobs. In the warm weather, star embossed civilian shirts are popular.

 

A part of the strength he brought to his political race was his connections with the sheriff’s branch of the Fraternal Order of Police; his latest maneuver is for the county commissioners to deal directly with the union, on matters of pay and pensions, which makes absolutely no sense to me. After all, any police force is by its nature paramilitary.

 

My nearly seven years in the Army taught me that commanding officers must be obeyed. Money derives from the Congress. The thought is downright treasonous that rank-and-file soldiers could deal with Capitol Hill on their official financial situation.

 

My checking with sources within the Sheriff’s Department brings no disciplinary counts against Bill Folden; he still rides wide and high; wheeling and dealing, as is his wont. He continues to draw a sergeant’s pay and enjoys all benefits for the rank plus the Westview security money.

 

On the other hand, word on the street has him resigning to join Frederick City police as a private. Chief Kim Dine’s cell phone went unanswered when I called to ask him about the possibility of hiring the sheriff’s sergeant, in any capacity. I left a message; the chief’s return message said no decision had been made – meaning the word on the street was almost certainly right.

 

I’ve talked to no one officially involved in the switch, but the story touched off a bell from an item reported in The Frederick News-Post.

 

City police Capt. Kevin Grubb talked to several people about his desire to take on Chuck Jenkins in the Republican primary this year. His immediate ambition was shot down by the Hatch Act ruling that since federal funds go into the city police, Kevin could not run for county elected office. Kevin’s announcement said he would respect the decision, but offered he might retire before the 2014 race; that would make him eligible to run.

 

Lying in the bed the other morning, mulling over the political mess; inevitably I came to the conclusion that Sergeant Folden’s willingness to take a pay cut can only be because he hopes to recoup the money in the future. How simple it would be if he returns to his department at a much higher rank?

In the absence of any contrary opinions, I believe strongly that Bill Folden wants to (1) get out of Chuck Jenkins’ purview and (2) enter a cabal with Kevin Grubbs, whom I have known since he was a fresh-faced rookie. Inevitably, the duo would draw in strong partisans in their cause.

 

But the years of our cordial relationship – Kevin invited me when he received his captain’s bars – fail to cloud the judgment that Bill Folden brims with conspiracy; in part because he’s married to the sister-in-law of former Mayor Jeff Holtzinger. As always, conspiracies are convoluted unto themselves.

 

Furthermore, I suspect, without confirmation, that Sergeant Folden’s willingness to step down to a mere officer on the city force stems from an agreement with Kevin Grubbs.

 

This is indeed a stinking mess.

 

As I said at the start, Chuck Jenkins and I are not friendly enough that he invited me to his swearing-in. But, as I’ve said on TheTentacle.com, although we disagree on major issues like immigration, he’s the best sheriff since I started writing a Frederick column 26 years ago.

 



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