CHESAPEAKE BEACH, MD - AUGUST 03: Freshly caught Maryland Blue Crabs sit in a basket aboard the commercial crabbing boat "Foxy Roxy" on the Chesapeake Bay August 3, 2005 in Chesapeake Beach, Maryland. The Maryland Blue Crab has been in decline in recent years but crabber Bobby Abner of Abner's Crab House says this year the crabbing has been better than recent years. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
Anne Arundel County Council members are on a seafood diet. When they see food, they bill it -- to taxpayers.
Council members may hold jobs and services in their claws, but that didn’t stop them from spending more than $1,100 on crabs and booze at a waterfront Annapolis restaurant -- just hours after approving a slashed budget with 12-day worker furloughs.
The council signed off on the budget, which cut workers’ pay and county services, then headed on down to Mike's Crab House, where they spent $1,169 on a seafood feast, which they charged to a county credit card, according to the Baltimore Sun. When found out, the folks responsible for the county’s math lamely said they used the card to avoid having to work out who owed what on the massive bill, and that they had planned to pay it back all along.
But the Baltimore Sun reported that the council has had similar soirees at least twice in the past year, and has not reimbursed taxpayers. Those two meals came to a total of $1,125.
Council Chairman C. Edward Middlebrooks, who was not at the crab feast, said there were no rules against using the county card, but that $147.84 for alcoholic beverages including beer, margaritas, and Bacardi and Cokes should not have been charged.
“It's always been the policy that if we had food purchased, for whatever reason, alcohol was never charged. … It's uncalled for," Middlebrooks told the Sun. "I'm surprised by it.”
Maryland Taxpayers Association President Herb McMillan argues that whether the council broke the rules is beside the point.
“People are being furloughed, people are having a tough time paying their property taxes, a record number of foreclosures. … Pack a lunch or order a pizza," McMillan said. "Why should the taxpayers be paying for it?”
Not surprisingly, bipartisanship was achieved when personal pleasure was on the agenda -- both Democrats and Republicans chowed down at Mike’s. As the Sun put it, “all involved possess a strong sense of entitlement to ward off indigestion, or at least a high tolerance for hypocrisy.”
Voters should be feeling crabby about this. Maybe some of the council members will find themselves tossed off the pier at the next election.