Washington County Commissioners Vote to Remove Meinelschmidt Over Ethics Stir, Suit to Follow

The Washington County Commissioners voted to dismiss fellow Commissioner Cort Meinelschmidt from his seat, after a recent ethics matter. The action may end up in court, with authority for the move not fully clear.

Cort Meinelschmidt, elected as County Commissioner in 2018, was removed from his seat by a vote of the other sitting Commissioners this week. Their action came in the wake of ethics concerns arising from a fledgling business connected to Meinelschmidt receiving support from a county program, on which Meinelschmidt had participated and voted in his Commissioner capacity.

From coverage in the Herald-Mail:

The ethics commission report was on the agenda for Tuesday’s commissioner meeting. Jeff Cline, president of the commissioners, opened the floor for discussion, but none of the commissioners spoke for several seconds.

They agreed to let Robert Kline speak on Meinelschmidt’s behalf.

And after a silence of several seconds, Commissioner Wayne Keefer made the motion “to remove Cort Meinelschmidt as a member of the Washington County Board of County Commissioners effectively immediately.”

Terry Baker, vice president of the commissioners, seconded the motion. Commissioner Randy Wagner and Cline also voted in favor.

The legal facets of the matter were addressed in a letter from the Office of the Attorney General, issued last week. Such a letter of advice represents a legal interpretation of current law, but does not preclude further legal action – and news reports have indicated that the matter will become the subject of a suit. Also from the Herald-Mail:

Cort Meinelschmidt is asking a court to declare that his dismissal as a Washington County commissioner “was without basis in law” and should be “deemed null and invalid.”

The lawsuit, filed Wednesday by attorney Robert Lorenzo Kline III of the Cooke & Kline law firm, also seeks monetary compensation and other damages “as the court deems appropriate.”

Michael Sanderson

Executive Director Maryland Association of Counties