The Taneytown Mayor and City Council are expected to vote Monday whether to reprimand Councilman Donald Frazier after he allegedly violated the city’s code of conduct by refusing to refund the city more than $1,000 it advanced him.
This would be the third time the city censured Frazier for violating its code of conduct for elected officials.
The mayor, council and city officials discussed the resolution at their monthly workshop Wednesday. Lawmakers do not vote at workshop sessions, but do discuss items that are on the agenda for the following council meeting.
Frazier, the city says, signed up to attend the 2018 Maryland Municipal League Summer Conference in Ocean City. The city paid for Frazier’s registration to the June 10-13 conference, dinner tickets for Frazier and his wife, and hotel reservations, Resolution 2018-10 details. Frazier did not attend.
Resolution 2018-10, if adopted, censures and condemns Frazier’s alleged actions “in the strongest terms” and includes a provision stating that the city will not advance money in any capacity to Frazier until he repays the city in full for the costs associated with his MML conference absence.
Mayor James McCarron noticed Frazier’s absence from the conference when he called the councilman to invite him to dinner, McCarron told the Times in a phone interview before Wednesday’s workshop. During the conversation, Frazier told him he’d decided not to attend the MML conference, the mayor said.
Frazier, the resolution says, requested to stay at the Clarion Hotel as opposed to the Princess Royale, “which is the customary hotel for Taneytown city officials.” The city was able to recover two nights’ worth of hotel costs, but accrued the cost of one night at the Clarion, the resolution details.
The city sent an invoice of $1,048.38 for the one-night hotel expense, dinner tickets and registration fee to Frazier in late June. Frazier has yet to respond in any way, McCarron said before the meeting.
At the public meeting Wednesday, Frazier admitted there was a “lack of communication,” and pleaded that his fellow lawmakers authorize acting City Manager Jim Wieprecht to write a letter to the municipal league asking it to refund the cost of Frazier’s registration.
“One error that I did make was … I never sent an email to the office saying I wasn’t intending [to go],” Frazier said. “I could have done a better job of communicating.”
He added that if the city could get a refund from MML for the registration, he’d be willing to pay the city for hotel expenses.
“The city’s already been in contact with MML,” Councilman Bradley Wantz told the Times. “There was not a refund available.”
Councilman Joe Vigliotti rejected Frazier’s plea, saying the councilman had plenty of time to resolve the situation.
“It perplexes me that it took the threat of censure for you to come around,” he said at the workshop, emphasizing that Frazier balked on his commitment and that it cost taxpayer dollars. “That violates the trust you’ve received from the citizens of this town.”
Vigliotti added: “I don’t think it’s wise that we try to get in touch with the MML to try to get the MML to pay back you for a commitment that you failed to live up to.”
Frazier then denied that he formally signed up for the MML conference.
“What evidence do you have?” he asked his colleagues. “I never said this year that I was going to MML even though on Feb. 7 there’s a verbal discussion that’s referred to, there were no discussions of going to MML since that date with me.”
“The crack in that story is that reservations were made for you and your spouse at the Clarion Hotel in Ocean City, when are traditional hotel is the Princess Royale,” said McCarron, refuting Frazier’s claims.
“If I were to pay the amount in the registered letter today, would there be any action on this censure on Monday?” he asked.
“The censure will go forward,” Wantz responded. “What will stop will be the discipline that it puts in place.”
After the workshop meeting, Frazier told the Times, “When they get really mad, they censure me.”
“They hate me,” he added.
Wantz, however, said the council acted appropriately.
“I don’t believe he provided an appropriate defense for it,” Wantz said after the workshop. “He never had any intention of paying back the city. He knows what he did is wrong.”
McCarron had approached Frazier about addressing the matter as a council at a closed session before the Aug. 13 council meeting, the resolution says.
“We gave him the courtesy to discuss it at a closed meeting,” McCarron said. The closed session was to proceed directly after the council meeting Aug. 13.
Frazier was the only council member to vote against going into a closed session after the public council meeting, according to city records. The closed meeting began at 8:25 p.m.
“Councilman Frazier left the session at 8:30 [p.m.] after stating that his attorney [had] advised him not to go into closed session,” the city’s record of the closed meeting Aug. 13 shows.
Frazier was discovered 10 minutes later “standing outside the door to the council chamber in the stairwell” when the city police officer assigned to the meeting unknowingly opened the door into the councilman while “securing the building,” the record details.
Later in the closed meeting, Wantz proposed that city staff prepare a public censure, the document says. The remaining council members — Frazier was not present — voted 4-0 to instruct city staff to prepare the censure, according to the document.
Council will vote on the measure Monday at the monthly council meeting, which is open to the public and begins at 7 p.m.