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Carroll County commissioners to be briefed on charter government options

Commissioner, home rule or charter? The Carroll County Board of Commissioners represent the first form of county government in Maryland, but on June 11, they will be briefed on all the options.

This educational forum will be open to the public and held at 7 p.m. in room K100 at Carroll Community College, and will feature three presentations on how county government does, and could work. The meeting will also be streamed on the county’s Youtube channel and accessible through the online meetings portal.

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“One of them will be [Gov. Larry] Hogan’s Secretary of planning, Robert S. McCord, another will be Leslie Knapp, Jr. from [the Maryland Association of Counties] and then [Maryland Chief Solicitor] Victor Tervala,” said Carroll County Commissioner Eric Bouchat, R-District 4. “They will all inform us as the commissioner board as to what our options are in the future if we want to change our form of government.”

That very discussion was instigated by Bouchat, who also plans to hold a public question and answer session on a date to be announced following the June 11 forum.

“This is my baby,” he said. “I am a political science guy. I love this stuff.”

Carroll County currently functions with a commissioner system of government, with five commissioners making budget and other decisions, but unable to pass legislation on their own, instead relying on Carroll’s delegation in the General Assembly to get laws passed. As an example, Carroll’s gaming bill that allowed fire companies and other nonprofits to use casino type games as fundraising efforts passed in 2015 after seven years of dying in the Maryland General Assembly.

In January, when Bouchat first broached the topic of discussing charter government, one of the alternatives to a commissioner form of county government, he told the Times that commissioners were a holdover from the times of British rule.

“For me ... this is about an independence movement,” he said, “declaring our independence [as a conservative county] from the [largely Democratic] General Assembly.”

If the county were to move in that direction, according to Bouchat, the commissioners would appoint a nine-person board to draft a charter, which would then be voted on by the county in a general election.

“We are up against a tight time frame,” Bouchat said. “Katherine Berry of the County Board of Elections informed us this week that July 27 of 2020 will be the deadline for us to submit a referendum to be on the general election ballot.”

And that’s why, according to Bouchat, he wants to begin holding public forums and question-and-answer sessions now.

“I am all about getting the public interest, I’m beating the bush trying to drum up support,” he said. “It is such a critical issue for our citizens to be fully aware to be able to make an educated vote on it.”

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