Commissioners: Employees Can Pray in County Building at Lunch
Following a commissioner's invitation to county employees to pray in the county office building, the board of commissioners proposed a policy defining how and when employees can use the county office building facilities.
The Carroll County Board of Commissioners, in response to revelations a board member invited county employees to prayer sessions in the county office building, proposed a policy this week allowing such actions but only during off hours such as at lunch or before or after work.
The proposal Thursday came on the heels of an email sent earlier this month by Commissioner Robin Bartlett Frazier. In early May, the county clerk sent an email on Frazier's behalf inviting county employees to pray with her at 12:30 p.m. on Thursdays in the county office building.
Patch previously reported that Commissioner Doug Howard had reservations about the invitation because it used the county email system to send non-business correspondence.
David Rocah, staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland, said once a county government chooses to use its resources for such purposes, it has to make them available to all employees for similar solicitations.
He also said some employees may feel compelled to attend.
But Jim Backlin, a spokesman for the Christian Coalition of America, said, "We don't see any problem with holding a prayer group in a county government building."
The state attorney general's office declined comment.
Howard said in Thursday's meeting that as a result of Frazier using a county office building room for a prayer group, the commissioners realized that there was no formal policy in place that defined how and when employees could use the county office building for their own needs.
Under the new policy, any county employee can reserve a room for use during business hours but only during personal time, such as during lunch or after his or her work day ends.
Carroll County resident Bonnie Grady asked the board to discuss any disciplinary action that might be taken against Frazier over the prayer email, but Howard said he wanted to "clear up a gross misconception” that any such action would take place.
“I don’t know where that notion came from,” Howard said in reference to another news organization's report. “It’s never been discussed."
The county’s communication policy (see attached document) states that "the county’s business communication system shall not be used to promote political or religious causes.”
Frazier told Patch that she doesn’t consider inviting workers to pray a cause and that she did not violate the communications policy by sending the email invitation.
Frazier cited other county communication she deemed more of a cause, including the annual Christmas Tree lighting and the annual Neighbors in Need drive conducted by Human Service Programs. Neighbors in Need is a program that coordinates Christmas holiday "adopt a family" services and gift drives for families in need.
Howard said that a violation of the communications policy by any employee would warrant a warning from a supervisor to end the practice.
At a citizen’s request, the board agreed to wait two weeks before voting on the building use policy to allow public comment.
The Carroll County Democratic Central Committee voted Thursday evening to explore filing a formal complaint with the Carroll County Ethics Commission over Frazier's email.
CCDCC Chair Jackie Jones said the group is researching the best way to proceed but intends to file a complaint about use of county resources by the commissioners for personal and political purposes.