The Chestertown Equity Advisory Committee, established last year to implement Mayor Chris Cerino’s 16-month plan to educate and unify the town on race, is under fire for shutting out voices in the community that could partner with the committee.
Kent County Local Management Board Director Rosemary Ramsey Granillo lamented last week that she had great difficulty trying to present to the committee.
“Just as a member of the local management board, a county department that is ready to partner and assist, we found ourselves going through a pretty byzantine experience trying to get on the agenda,” Granillo told the Chestertown Council at the Feb. 16 meeting. “We just felt it wasn’t the spirit of the committee or its work.”
Ward 3 Councilman Ellsworth Tolliver said Granillo was extremely upset that the LMB was struggling to present to the EAC.
“Our goal was to introduce ourselves to the committee so they were aware that the Kent County Local Management Board can be a resource and a partner,” she said in an interview with the Kent Pilot. “The LMB has been developing services that can address basic needs in the county such as transportation, housing and access to food.”
“What we’re looking at is a potential violation of the [Open Meetings Act],” Tolliver said during the Feb. 16 meeting. “A group should not have to jump hurdles to [present] to a committee that is supposed to advise the council. The council can’t make sound decisions if we don’t have all the information.”
Tolliver said he hoped the issue of access will be remedied in the future.
Ward 1 Councilman David Foster agreed.
“My understanding is [the EAC] is an advisory organization and not a gatekeeper,” Foster said. “I think it’s an important distinction and we need to reinforce that.”
Tolliver said two organizations so far see the EAC as a “gatekeeper” and a “separate organization” from the Town Council.
“That is not the case and it really needs to be clear,” Tolliver said.
Granillio said there were email exchanges for over a week “to never be able to get on the agenda.”
“For the third meeting of a new committee I don’t really feel that is the spirit of the process at all,” she said.
EAC Chair John Queen said the emails went back and forth for a week because replies were not coming back quickly enough from the LMB. He said he put the LMB in touch with individual EAC members.
Mayor Chris Cerino said that many of the members of the committee were new to serving on a “public facing” committee and that so far it’s been a learning experience for them.
“There’s some growing pains that we’re all going through,” Cerino said. “I hope everybody realizes that we’re all trying to do the right thing.”