Harford County Council Member "Not Invited" To Inauguration Ceremony


Credit: Jacob Bennet

HAVRE DE GRACE - Jacob Bennet, Harford County District F's newly elected county councilman, was not invited to Monday's Inauguration and swearing-in ceremony. According to County Executive Bob Cassily, Bennet is not permitted to serve as a county councilman due to his employment as a public school teacher.

A post on Bennet's Facebook acknowledges the controversy and places the blame squarely on his fellow councilmembers and Cassily.

"It has come to our attention that there are people in positions of power within our county, more specifically our newly elected County Executive, who wish for me not to serve on the County Council to represent the people of District F," Bennet said.

"It is their understanding that County Charter section 207 prevents any public school teacher from across the state from holding office in Harford County. Because of this understanding of the charter that they have, they have chosen not to include me in today's public swearing-in."

Section 207 of the Harford County Charter says that no member of the county council may simultaneously be employed by the county or the state.

The relevant passage in Section 207 states:

"During the term of office, the Council member shall not hold any other office of profit or employment in the government of the State of Maryland, Harford County, or any municipality within Harford County, except a position held by virtue of being a Council member."

WMAR news received the following response from Cassily's team regarding the decision not to invite Bennet.

"Invitations to the inauguration of the Harford County Executive and swearing-in of County Council Members were sent to those individuals who are qualified to be sworn in and take their seats as members of the Harford County Council. Mr. Jacob Bennett, who was elected to serve as the District F representative on the Council, was not invited to participate in that ceremony. The Harford County Charter plainly states that a person who holds other employment for the state or county is not qualified to take a seat on the County Council."

Bennet says he has spoken with his legal counsel to "look over the charter and confirm I was not in violation of it before I ever decided to run for office."

Bennet won his race by fewer than 100 votes in November, ousting incumbent councilman Curtis Beulah. He was not the only democrat to win in Harford County. Democrat Dion F. Guthrie will represent District A.

In his post, Bennet also cited several laws and regulations that conflict with section 207. He went on to cite examples from across the state of county council members who are also public school teachers.

"Lisa Rodvien is a Music Teacher in Anne Arundel Public Schools and the chair of the Anne Arundel County Council."

"David Marks is a Special Educator with Harford County Public Schools and is entering his 4th term on the Baltimore County Council."

You can read Bennet's full post here.

According to Bennet, he was sworn in "in a private ceremony [Monday] afternoon by the Clerk of Court, surrounded by friends and family."

Tuesday's schedule for the Harford County council includes a section dedicated to consulting the council attorney regarding the situation.

"To consult with Council Attorney and Michael Berman, Esq. regarding whether a sworn member of the Harford County Council can also simultaneously serve as a Harford County Public School employee. If the vote is in the affirmative, following the closed session, the Council will return to open session and thereafter finish the remaining agenda items."

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The Harford County Charter is clear on this rule.  You can't work for the County, State or Municipal Government.  None of the laws he cited have anything to do with Harford County.  Anne Arundel County and Baltimore County have their own Charters.  He knew he would have to resign his teaching position when he started this process.  Anyone else that's confused, just read the Harford County Charter.  

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