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Donoghue, Shank are AWOL on leadership

January 29, 2008

Comedian and filmmaker Woody Allen once said that "80 percent of success is showing up."

By that standard, Del. John Donoghue, D-Washington, has guaranteed that he will fail, because he's announced he isn't going to show up anywhere.

Not only has Donoghue decided to skip meetings between Washington County's General Assembly delegation and local elected officials, but he has also said he won't come to any of the delegation's official meetings.

His no-show attitude is the result of a falling-out with his former protégé, Del. Christopher Shank, the Republican minority whip, who is not blameless in this dispute.

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During the last session, he didn't invite Donoghue to sessions with the Republican governor. Since then, Shank's over-the-top rhetoric has blamed General Assembly Democrats for everything but global warning.

Neither lawmaker's behavior is acceptable, because both seem to have forgotten they were not elected to do battle, but to serve the people of Hagerstown and Washington County.

Nor was a pledge to skip meetings a part of Donoghue's last re-election campaign.

We can't imagine voters re-electing the incumbent if he'd said something like, "I really want another term, but I'd really like to skip some of the job's major responsibilities."

Some meetings produce more progress than others, but it is part of a state lawmaker's job to communicate with elected representatives of the city, county and small towns.

Donoghue has said he can get more done by phone, but doing that prevents the public - including the officials who aren't on the line - from seeing and hearing the discussion.

Even less defensible is Donoghue's announcement that he won't attend official delegation meetings. Donoghue must remember that he ran for a job representing the people of Hagerstown and Washington County.

During the session, some of those people travel 100 miles or more to attend delegation meetings in the state capital, to try to make their case for whatever bill or cause they support.

If Donoghue doesn't attend those meetings, he's showing a lack of respect for those he represents - and the folks who pay his salary and expenses with their tax dollars.

Donoghue's decision to become Mr. No-Show began as a falling-out with Del. Shank.

Despite the fact that they were members of different political parties, Donoghue helped Shank get state scholarship money and stayed neutral in Shank's race against Democratic Del. Bruce Poole.

Shank irked Donoghue by not inviting him to some meetings in 2007 because Donoghue is the delegation's only Democrat.

As a member of the majority party, Donoghue could slap his adversary down quickly, by having the leadership block any bills Shank supports.

Whatever it takes, Donoghue must do it, because in the private sector, employees and managers don't have the choice of skipping work because they're not getting along with a colleague.

Instead, they have three choices: Find a way to fix the situation, try to ignore it or look for another job.

The voters didn't elect Donoghue to be Mr. No-Show. The sooner he does something to shed that nickname - or let someone else have a shot at the job - the better it will be for the delegation and the county residents it is supposed to serve.

Shank can help by remembering he works for the citizens of Washington County first and the Maryland Republican Party second.

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