A representative with the Maryland Municipal League — a nonprofit that works to support Maryland’s city and town governments — said the Mount Airy Town Council’s proposed charter changes to shift certain duties of the mayor to the town administrator are not unusual.
The council has been workshopping several proposed charter amendments including two — Charter Amendment Resolution 2022-2 and Charter Amendment Resolution 2022-3 — that, if enacted, would lessen the powers of the mayor. Amendment 2022-2 is listed on the town’s website as a draft charter amendment, and council members have discussed it during public workshop sessions. There is no set date for moving it from workshop to a council vote, according to Mayor Larry Hushour.
“There are an equal number of (cities and towns) that have town administrators as the chief executive plus an equal number that do not,” said Jim Peck, research specialist with the Maryland Municipal League. “It’s not uncommon for the town administrator to oversee the operations or be the chief executive of the town. It’s not abnormal.”
The two amendments were introduced before the May 2021 mayoral election, when Mayor Patrick Rockinberg won reelection. Rockinberg died in August 2021 after serving as mayor for more than 11 years. Hushour was voted into office in November 2021, defeating council member Pamela Reed in a special election.
Hushour has said he hopes the town council rejects the charter amendments since he believes they come close to nullifying the position of mayor.
“I was and am willing to tweak the charter where needed,” Hushour has said, “but it seems some on the council are looking for much broader changes.”
Hushour has said he would like town residents to be more involved in the process of amending the charter if they wish, instead of town council.
Resolution 2022-2 would coordinate the roles of the mayor and town administrator in the handling of the town’s finances, budgets, purchasing and expenditures. The mayor has served as the chief financial officer of the town, and consults with the town administrator regarding town finances.
If approved, amendment 2022-2 would make the town administrator the chief financial officer, responsible for financial administration of town government and preparation of the budget the mayor submits to the council. The town administrator would also approve all purchases and be the person authorizing use of the town credit card. The administrator would issue and sign all checks for payment of salaries or other municipal obligations. Currently, the mayor has those powers.
Resolution 2021-3 deals with the duties of the town administrator, council and mayor, with respect to hiring, firing and appointments. If enacted, the mayor would no longer appoint the town administrator, but instead would nominate a town administrator, chief of police and individuals for advisory commissions, committees, boards and task forces.
With the amendments, the mayor would no longer have the authority to appoint a town attorney with the advice and consent of the council. If enacted, the council would appoint a town attorney.
The council has said the charter amendments are not directed at Hushour, but instead are changes to restructure the town’s government. They have said the charter amendment process is an opportunity to improve the town’s framework of governing.
According to Maryland Municipal League documents from Peck, some Maryland municipalities have strong mayors with numerous powers, and others have mayors with few powers. “If a strong mayor government were at one end of a continuum, and a weak mayor form were on the other end, most municipalities would reflect a variety of elements that would place them at various points along the continuum,” the document states.
In a strong mayor government:
- Mayor is totally separate from the council.
- Mayor serves as chief executive officer and head of the administration.
- Mayor oversees and manages daily operations of the government.
- Mayor appoints department heads who serve at the pleasure of the mayor.
- Mayor creates and executes the budget.
- Council approves the budget.
- Council serves as the policymaking and legislative body and approves ordinances.
- Mayor has the power to veto ordinances.
- Council has the power to override vetoes.
- Mayor is responsible for seeing that policies are implemented, and ordinances enforced.
In a weak mayor government:
- Mayor serves as a ceremonial leader.
- Mayor presides over council meetings.
- Mayor often serves as a member of the council, may vote on issues and has no veto authority.
- Mayor has limited administrative powers and together with the council appoints department heads.
- Mayor and council together create and implement the budget.
- Mayor and council together create and implement policies and ordinances.
In Maryland, most municipalities draw elements from both forms of governments, MML documents state.
The charter for the City of Westminster states that the mayor is the chief executive officer of the government, and is responsible for the enforcement of its charter, code and other ordinances.
Carroll County Breaking News
“The mayor shall be the immediate supervisor of the City Administrator and the City Attorney and have general supervision over all administrative departments and offices of the City government,” it states. “The mayor shall sign all ordinances, charter amendments, resolutions...”
The charter for the Town of Sykesville specifies that the mayor sees that ordinances of the town are executed, and is the chief executive officer and head of the administrative branch of the government.
The mayor, with the approval of the council, will appoint the town manager, treasurer, clerk, chief of police, director of public works and the town attorney, the charter states. The removal of a department head or town attorney is made by the mayor, with the approval of the council. The mayor also prepares the annual budget, which is submitted to the council.
The mayor supervises all disbursement of money, and has control over expenditures to make sure budget appropriations are not exceeded.
The charter for the City of Taneytown states that the mayor ensures that town ordinances are executed and serves as the chief executive officer. The mayor also serves as the head of the administrative branch of the city’s government.
The mayor, with the approval of the council, appoints all committees and the heads of all departments and agencies. All department heads serve at the pleasure of the mayor, the charter states.
Finally, the mayor each year reports to the council the condition of the city, and makes recommendations for the public good and welfare of the city.