For about a dozen people at Monday night’s Anne Arundel County Council meeting, chairman Michael Peroutka’s resignation was high on their Christmas wish lists.
The calls for the Millersville Republican’s resignation were in response to Peroutka’s ascension to the county council chairman position. He was voted chair in a party line vote at the Dec. 4 meeting. About 40 people in the audience supported the speakers, applauding and standing after comments were made.
The speakers brought up a myriad of concerns, including Peroutka’s support of Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore, who lost the December special election against Democrat Doug Jones. Several women have accused Moore of sexual misconduct, saying the former judge pursued and dated them while he was in his 30s. At the time the women were aged 14 to 18.
They also raised concerns about Peroutka’s former involvement with The League of the South, a secessionist group that advocates for a free and independent South. Peroutka was criticized in 2014 for his participation in the league. He left the organization shortly before the 2014, saying he discovered some members opposed interracial marriage. In 2017 he denounced racist comments made by the league’s president, Michael Hill.
“I’m here to remind our elected officials that now is not the time for business as usual,” said CJ Meushaw, an Edgewater resident. “…Out of love we ask you to step down.”
The meeting was standing-room only with Peroutka’s chairmanship as well as controversial bills generating strong community interest. A bill that would seek to protect feral cats had the most speakers signed up in advance.
During the parade of calls for his resignation, Peroutka sat and listened quietly. He thanked each speaker and tried to enforce the two-minute speaking limit, though some speakers continued past Peroutka’s requests for them to stop.
On several occasions he had to bang the chairman’s gavel as the audience applauded after speakers or people from the audience laughed or spoke over the comments of others.
Peroutka did not respond to the calls for his resignation. He offered one brief statement after more than 50 minutes of public comments.
“I would make this one comment,” Peroutka said. “I do not and have not and would not support anyone who practices or engages in pedophilia.”
Peroutka did have support from a few speakers. Annapolis resident David Whitney, who also writes on Peroutka’s website The American View, defended Peroutka.
“We have a call again to overturn rule of law,” Whitney said. “We reject mobocracy, it is not the rule of law.”
Another of Peroutka’s defenders, Baltimore resident Adrian Phair, stoked the audience’s anger when he used the words “skank” and “paid prostitute” to describe women accusing Moore of sexual misconduct with minors and young adults.
Those comments led County Councilman Pete Smith, D-Severn, to say he would never use those words to describe women speaking out against sexual assault and violence.
Peroutka agreed with him.
In other business, the council discussed ordinance 95-17, which was tabled until January after that discussion at the county administration’s request.
The bill would create an optional retirement plan — the Employee Retirement Savings Plan — that vests faster and is more flexible but comes with lower employer contributions. It also requires the employee invest their retirement money instead of putting that responsibility on the county. The county’s contribution in that plan would be 8 percent, compared to 9.4 percent in the active plan — the Employee Retirement Plan.
County Executive Steve Schuh’s administration put forth the bill to give employees the choice between the two retirement plans. It could attract younger employees who don’t plan to stay 10 years or more. The county’s current retirement plan vests after 10 years.
But it also takes the pressure off the county to grow the individual’s retirement income through investment. The current plan has the county invest the pension money, with the county enjoying economic investment booms but filling the gap when investments fall below expectations. The county is on the hook to pay for the pension no matter how well or poorly the economy is doing.
The county’s labor maintenance employee union president, Mike Akers, said he supported the legislation.
It benefits the shorter-term employees, Akers aid.
County Councilman Andrew C. Pruski, D-Gambrills, raised concerns the new plan would eventually take place of the county’s current pension system.
A representative of Schuh’s administration assured him there was no plan to do so.
The council rescheduled legislation that would delay development near schools at more than 95 percent capacity. It was amended at Monday’s meeting and will be heard again at the January 2 meeting. The county’s current rule is delaying development near schools at 100 percent capacity.
An amendment passed on Monday sets a January 2020 deadline on the legislation until the county updates its 2009 General Development Plan. If either of those stipulations are met, the bill is then automatically repealed. The GDP is used by the county to guide future development decisions. Schuh’s administration has opposed the legislation, which was introduced by County Councilman John Grasso, R-Glen Burnie.
The county’s school system has supported the legislation.
Another of Grasso’s bill has generated strong community interest, with more than 20 speaking up in support and opposition to the bill.
The legislation would aim to reduce how often feral cats are euthanized, promoting what is called trap, neuter and release programs. These programs, practiced in Baltimore City, encourage people to get feral cats spayed and neutered along with rabies vaccinations. The cats are then released back into the wild, where they sometimes have caretakers who put out food or shelter for them. The county currently euthanizes cats deemed feral. Cats brought to county Animal Control who are deemed adoptable are held as long as possible.
Supporters of the bill said the program in Baltimore City and Washington, D.C., has led to slower growing free-roaming cat populations and would reduce problems associated with the cats, such as strong smelling sprays and the caterwauls of cats in heat.
Opponents to the bill said it wouldn’t solve the problem and would lead to larger cat populations. Those cats would harm and kill birds and other small animals.
After several amendments that tweaked language in the bill, but kept its mission the same, the council delayed a vote on the legislation to Jan. 2.