Board or Committee Meeting
Monday, August 21, 2023 - 6:00pm to 8:00pm


Board of Appeals

375th Meeting- SPECIAL

Monday- August 21, 2023- 6:00 P.M.


In-Person Meeting

Council Chamber- Laurel Municipal Center


  1. Roll Call
  1. Appeals Application No. 947- filed by Jeffery W. Mills, seeking to appeal the decision by the City of Laurel Board of Election Supervisors declaring him ineligible to run for elective office in the 2023 general election. 
  • Public Hearing on Application
  • Final Action
  1. Adjourn





***This meeting was conducted in person in the Council Chambers ***


Convened: 6:00 P.M.


Board Members Present (During Roll):


Frederick Smalls
Marlene Collins
Michelle Keating
David Johnston


Staff Present:


Robert Love, Director, ECD

Brooke Quillen, Senior Administrative Assistant, ECD

Lawrence Taub, City Attorney

Sara Green, City Clerk


Citizens Present: Approximately: Forty (40)


After the roll call, the next agenda item was for Appeals Application No. 947, filed by Mr. Jeffrey W. Mills, 14409 Sandy Ridge Lane Laurel, Maryland 20707.  Mr. Mills seeking to appeal the decision by the City of Laurel Board of Election Supervisors declaring him ineligible to run for elective office in the 2023 general election.  The Board of Appeals asked the applicant to present his case.


Mr. Jeffrey W. Mills, 14409 Sandy Ridge Lane Laurel, Maryland 20707, thanked the Board of Appeals for their time and read an opening statement, asking what “benefit of the doubt” means, he then explained the definition of this term and examples of when this term could be used. Mr. Mills stated on July 24, 2023 at the Board of Elections meeting, the Chairman used this term when referring to another candidate’s packet, which was missing an expenditure form. He noted the term “benefit of the doubt” was used and caused curiosity and anger in the room among the attendees. Additionally, the Chairman of the Board of Elections yelled and cursed at those same attendees, no apology was ever given. He added his candidate book did not have all the forms and had copies of email communication with the prior city clerk, Ms. Kim Rau. He also stated an email was sent to the Chairman of Elections at the beginning of summer, from a concerned citizen reporting another candidate had been campaigning since February using funds prior to May 1st. It is believed those funds were used to gain a lead in the election, furthermore, no response was ever received to that email. Moreover, another candidate had been informed from the current city clerk, Ms. Sara Green, that it is illegal to campaign before becoming an official candidate. He admitted to filing the campaign financial report late due to the Covid19 pandemic, however, he has paid the fine. Mr. Mills stated it seems if a person is not friends with the members of the Board of Elections that person is subject to fines. He explained there is raised concern from citizens the Chairman Mr. Kish and another member, Mr. Wellford of the Board of Elections claimed not to be professionals, only volunteers, which was stated the same night of the July 24, 2023, meeting. Mr. Mills explained councilman Martin Mitchell is being fined for signs in the Right of Way but asked Chairman Smalls of the Board of Appeals if he was ever fined for his signs that were placed in a Right of Way when he had run for office in the past. Mr. Mills stated he believes a “benefit of the doubt” was given in that case. He added the failure to file financial reports has given the Board of Elections an opportunity to exploit him. He then read sections of chapter six (6) Elections of city code sec. 6-35. (Penalties for Certain Prohibited Conduct). He suggested the Chairman of the Board of Elections step down from his position. Mr. Mills also read parts of the letter he received from the Board of Elections. The letter he received stated a section of the code 6-36, however, there is no 6-36 in the city code. Lastly, he wishes to appeal the Board of Elections decision and asked the Board of Appeals to please not violate his first amendment rights to run for office.


Board of Appeals member Mr. Johnston asked the applicant why it took so long for him to file the reports and added that is why the fine was so high, it had increased over time.


Mr. Mills went through the process of when he received is 2021 candidate booklet. He informed the previous city clerk some documents were missing when he realized it, it was the second and third financial forms. He had emails from the previous city clerk regarding the missing forms and fines that were due, they were dated October 27, 2021, and December 14, 2021. He claims on February 7, 2022, he finally received the forms he needed from the previous city clerk, he then filled out and turned them in the same day. He also stated he let the Chairman of the Board of Elections know he received the missing forms. He is confused as to why the Board of Elections uses sec. 6-35. (Penalties for Certain Prohibited Conduct) for every offense.


The Board of Appeals Chairman Smalls noted to the applicant that once he discovered the documents were missing, he should have made more of an effort to contact the city clerk regarding the items, since he has run in elections before he is aware of the process.


Mr. Mills stated he did not recently pay the fine because he knew he had a debt with the city, he paid the fee as a business transaction. It was not paid in a act of admitted guilt, he believes there is no penalty in the crime he is accused of by the Board of Elections.


The Board of Appeals Chairman Smalls asked if anyone from the Board of Elections would like to speak.


Mr. William Wellford, 513 Prince George Street Laurel, Maryland 20707, explained Chairman Kish could not make it tonight so he is present in his absence. He briefly described the review process for election applications, then everything goes to the Board of Ethics for review and is then referred to their legal counsel to confirm all election laws are met. Mr. Wellford stated after all the reports are done, the final decisions are then made. Furthermore, this year is one of the biggest campaigns he has ever seen since he has been on the Board of Elections for the past 25 years. There are approximately 16 people who have turned in candidate packets to run.  He added the Board of Elections tries to make everything fair (in his opinion) and they did the best they could with the task. He noted that for a outstanding fine of this nature there is a clause that states one would not be able to run for office for approximately four (4) years to ensure instructions get done if that was not in place nobody would do it or pay the fine. It is to help people follow through on the rules.


Board of Appeals Chairman Smalls expressed concern on the severity of the clause, stating he believes it to be too harsh and after the fine is paid you should be clear to proceed in the process and not wait another four (4) years to run for office. Chairman Smalls doesn’t understand where the fine meets the penalty. He asked where the adequate information is on the law that allows for this type of penalty.


Mr. William Wellford, 513 Prince George Street Laurel, Maryland 20707, stated he does agree the penalty is severe, however, the Board of Election rules and procedures had already been established and that is what they go by when making their decisions to certify someone or not.


Board of Appeals Chairman Smalls asked the city attorney to clarify or explain in more detail what the code means regarding municipal infractions as the city code doesn’t layout what those infractions are or could be.


City Attorney, Mr. Lawrence Taub, O’Malley, Miles, Nylen & Gilmore, P.A. 7850 Walker Drive, Suite 310 Greenbelt, Maryland 20770, read sections from city code sec. 6-35. (Penalties for Certain Prohibited Conduct), explaining a misdemeanor is a criminal offence which is not determined by the City of Laurel authority, that is only through the judicial sector of the State of Maryland. References of municipal fraction is correct, however, which could be a penalty/fine through a violation a section of the code, furthermore, if the fine is not paid within the due time, then the city could take them to circuit court and it could turn into a misdemeanor case at that time.


The Board of Appeals Chairman Smalls opened the public hearing at 7:00 p.m.


            Mr. Thomas Matthews, 15016 Laureland Place Laurel, Maryland 20707, identified himself as a 62-year-old resident and explained he has run in a city election before, he believes the Board of Elections is run in an intimidating way and they are not welcoming. Mr. Matthews commented he thinks everyone should be encouraged to run for office. He has filed many complaints and responses were always there was no violation found.


            Mr. Adrian Rousseu, 1001 Fifth Street, Laurel, Maryland 20707, stated he has also run for office numerous times and have been charged with many violations that were found to be mistakes but he has always been recused to run. First, he understands the rules and regulations and supports them however, he feels we should have the rights to give everyone an opportunity to correct the issues and move forward. When there is no opportunity, its clear there is a problem. Mr. Rousseu stated he runs the Boys and Girls club, and he teaches there is a price to pay for everything, but he does not take away opportunities because he cares about his community. He still volunteers his time because he cares. Mr. Mills will come and plow his parking lot without asking. Secondly, he had to sue the city to put an election booth in ward two (2) as they never had a ward two (2) before then even his parents and neighbors didn’t know they were in the city limits. He stated everyone that truly cares should work together. Mr. Rousseu asked the Board of Appeals to inspire everybody to make a difference like he did as a volunteer, as he himself cares about his community and the kids.


            Mr. Veny Deoliveira, 7641 Woodbine Drive, Laurel Maryland 20707, stated he respects all the candidates in the election however he is supporting Councilman Martin Mitchell. He believes Councilman Keith Sydnor started campaigning before he was technically allowed to.  


The Board of Appeals Chairman Smalls asked Mr. Deoliveira to keep comments on topic with the agenda for tonight.


Mr. Veny Deoliveira, 7641 Woodbine Drive, Laurel Maryland 20707, stated it seems like the rules only apply to some people. He explained that he has made some complaints against others, however, they were never addressed. He believes it seems targeted, but it should be in fairness.


Mr. Troy Griffith, 9483 Muirkirk Road Laurel, Maryland 20707, stated he is speaking up on behalf of a freedom of speech issue, he explained that we all know if it went to court voting and elections are a matter of freedom of speech. He stated he doesn’t know Mr. Mills and has no connection to him. Mr. Griffith then read a Mark Twain quote: “But in this country we have one great privilege which they don't have in other countries. When a thing gets to be absolutely unbearable the people can rise up and throw it off. That is finest asset we got; the ballet box.” He added this is a freedom of speech issue, and suggested the Board of Appeals tread lightly.


Mr.  Raul Mirza, 14216 Westside Ridge Boulevard Laurel, Maryland 20707, thanked the Board of Appeals for letting him speak and also thanked Mr. Mills for all his public service work and dedication to the community. Mr. Merza stated he has known Mr. Mills for approximately (2) two and a half years, as his neighbor. He has observed Mr. Mills dedicate his time making everyone in the neighborhood feel welcome by hosting events at his home. He added it should be recognized how Mr. Mills treats the public. Lastly, he asked the Board of Appeals to take strong consideration in allowing him to run in the election, it seems there are inconsistencies in the process.


The Board of Appeals Chairman Smalls closed the public hearing at 7:24 p.m.


Mr. Mills, 14409 Sandy Ridge Lane Laurel, Maryland 20707, read his closing statement, explaining he believes all his expenses should be reimbursed and his requests should be granted. Mr. Mills asked why the attorneys haven’t addressed the penalties section in the city code. He asked the attorneys to show him the penalty section he believes doesn’t exist. Lastly, he stated he hopes it is not decided to not let him run in the election because he will take it to federal court.


Board of Appeals member, Mr. Johnston asked the city attorney what the history of section 6-36 is and if and perhaps it was deleted at some time.


City Attorney, Mr. Lawrence Taub, O’Malley, Miles, Nylen & Gilmore, P.A. 7850 Walker Drive, Suite 310 Greenbelt, Maryland 20770, stated he is unaware of the history of this section of the city code but added it is clearly a typographical error in this case and Mr. Mills stands correct, however, Mr. Mills was notified back in October of 2021, therefore, it took almost two (2) years for him to pay the fine, which is probably why the Board of Elections took it so seriously. He added the section 6-31. (Election reports to be filed by treasurer) does refer to a requirement to file reports in a timely manner, moreover, since the fines have been paid, he would now meet the qualifications in his opinion.


Chairman Smalls made a motion to approve the Board of Appeals Application No. 947, Ms. Collins seconded Chairman Smalls motion. Ms. Keating voting “No” and Mr. Johnston case the final vote “Yes”. The motion to appeal the decision by the City of Laurel Board of Election Supervisors was approved on a 3-1 vote.


Board of Appeals Vice-Chair Ms. Keating stated while she agrees with the typos needing to be fixed in the city code it is clearly written in other sections of the code that if you have a fine you can’t run for (4) four years, and he was notified of that. She stands with what the Board of Elections originally recommended.


The Board of Appeals Chairman Smalls thanked everyone for their attendance. He added this topic is not something that anyone took lightly, it is very serious but, in a democracy we have certain rights and responsibilities, the people have the power to correct inconsistencies, irregularities or what we strongly believe in. With this experience the eligibility to run is a right however as a candidate you have a responsibility to be honest and straight forward to the people you want to serve. If you agree or not with the rules that are established, those are the rules you should follow and that is what he believes in and what carried him through the 17 years as a city councilman. In closing, he wished Mr. Mills luck with his campaign.


Adjourn: 7:26 P.M.



APPROVED:  Brooke Quillen                 DATE: 9/29/2023

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