Baltimore County’s Clerk of the Circuit Court is an important role that, sadly, is not as visible as some of the flashier posts like County Executive or County Council. The Clerk serves an important function in the county ensuring smooth operations of the Circuit Court. On the Democratic side you have Julie Ensor – a former Orphan’s Court judge who resigned ~9 months before her final term expired. She has the most minimal online presence and recently attempted to make a police case implying that her Republican opponent stole her signs / replaced them with his. With no evidence, the police dropped the case. On the Republican side, we have Richard Reinhardt. Reinhardt is a former law clerk, current legislative aide, and skilled artist who received his Juris Doctor Degree in 2004.
Reinhardt is a 32 year old from Baltimore County who currently serves on the Republican County Central Committee. He’s also a legislative secretary for the Harford County General Assembly delegation and was one of 3 finalists interviewed for the position of Clerk when a vacancy opened up this year. Why did he decide to run for Clerk? I’ll let him tell you in a quote from my interview with him in June:
My decision to run for Baltimore County Clerk of the Court was one that I seriously contemplated following my time serving as the law clerk for the Honorable Robert N. Dugan. Serving as his law clerk from 2004-2006, I had the opportunity to observe, first hand, the clerk’s daily operations. It was quite apparent to me that the Office was in desperate need for a new direction to improve it’s proficiency in every aspect. In essence, the Office has been operating the same way since former Clerk of Court Suzanne Mensh was elected to the position in 1986. The outdated facilities, equipment, procedures, etc., have been contributing factors to the inadequacy and performance of its staff and to the Bench. The increased demands placed on the Office without any annual improvements has further exacerbated the work environment and its productivity which has ultimately resulted to a non-“user friendly” facility for the general public.The major turning point that ultimately convinced me to run was when I began researching the State of Maryland audit reports for the Clerk of the Court for Baltimore County Circuit Court, dating from 1985 through 2008. What was so shocking in my research was learning that the Office of the Clerk of the Court has continually been mismanaged for over a quarter of century as a result of failed leadership and neglect. Every two to three years the State’s Office of Legislative Audits produces an audit report specifying deficiencies within the Office of the Clerk of the Court. These audit reports indicate an average of two to three major deficiencies occur. In some reports, those numbers are greater than the aforementioned average and are frequently identified in every report.
These reports reveal an expansive list of issues that include: failure to verify that all recorded collections were deposited, inadequate controls over the Office’s trust fund checking accounts, accounts receivable owed to the Office were delinquent over extended periods of time, unauthorized purchases of equipment, and theft.
It is without issue that the Office of Legislative Audits has consistently evaluated the Office’s performance as having, “significant deficiencies in the design or operation of internal control that could adversely affect the Office’s ability to maintain reliable financial records, operate effectively and efficiently, and/or comply with applicable laws, rules, and regulations.” – July 1, 2005 to January 15, 2008
Recognizing the problems during my time working in the courthouse and learning of all of the other elusive issues, it was time for someone to take command before the Office reaches the point of no return. Furthermore, no one has ever truly exposed to the general public the seriousness of the Office’s current status, nor has anyone taken a forceful tact to make dramatic changes for the better. Other candidates, much older than I, who are currently running for this position, had every opportunity in prior elections to step forward and make a change, but they never did. It is questionable why they believe that they are the most qualified to become the newly elected Clerk of the Court during this election year rather than in years’ past.
Reinhardt has a number of great ideas for the court that you can read about in my interview and on his official website.
The position of Clerk of the Circuit Court is open this year for the first time in a very long while. Suzanne Mensh, the incumbent, resigned earlier this year under odd circumstances. She was replaced by a Rick Arnold and neither the incumbent, nor Mensh, won the Democratic primary leaving the seat open with two candidates who never served in this capacity. Again – open seats lead to interesting and unpredictable dynamics, especially in a year like this. Again – I think Reinhardt can win this thing and he’s just the kind of motivated Republican the party needs. He’s young, he’s outgoing, he’s charismatic, and he’s excited about the party. You don’t see enough of them, especially those willing to put themselves on the line to run for County-wide office as one of their first bids for public office.
The problem is that he’s up against a woman who 3 times has won County-wide for public office. That said – she is not running a modern campaign in the sense that she’s not online…at all. She’s got a LinkedIn account and her free blog at the Baltimore Sun, but that’s it. Reinhardt is running a smart, savvy campaign with clever campaign advertising and a focus on the issues. I hope the law suit between the two of them doesn’t turn into a media circus that detracts from this great candidate.
This is the third in a series of articles spotlighting races in Baltimore County. All politics are local – let us not forget the important local races. Check out my previous articles on Ken Holt for County Executive and David Marks for County Council District 5.
Cross-posted to Old Line Elephant