A charter change that would allow for the removal of office based on public demand was subject to scrutiny Monday by the Mount Airy Town Council.

In addition, the council reviewed its ethics law, as well as a proposed agreement involving the municipalities and the Carroll County government to pay for stormwater management costs.

Advertisement

The town council introduced a charter amendment earlier this year which allows for the recall, or removal from office, of any elected official based on public demand, and discussion of the matter continued Monday with no final action being taken.

Councilman Scott Strong put forth the amendment with seven potential reasons for recall — such as a conviction of a felony or misappropriation of public funds — but Councilman Chris Everich said the amendment should not have any limitations to the reasons for recall.

"I have an issue where elected officials determine what the citizens can and cannot do," Everich said Monday. "I fundamentally disagree; it's a democracy, the voters should get to choose."

Another proposed change considered for inclusion in the amendment would eliminate the need for the council to take action on a public recall effort. At present, such a petition goes through the council, so in a sense it has to be approved by the council, Everich said.

"It's terribly biased," Everich said. "I'm hoping if the issue gets reported on, the light of day will make for a better democracy."

A petition for recall has to have some reason behind it, Everich said. Councilman Bob King said he believes when elected officials are voted into office, their terms are a contract between the official and the residents, while Everich said they serve at the will of the people.

Everich said he wants an additional section allowing residents to recall an official for whatever reason they want. As stated in his proposed amendment, "a recall may also be initiated for any reason not defined in [the current amendment]. A petition... shall provide a detailed description supporting the reasoning behind the recall."

Strong asked Everich what other reasons could warrant a recall. Everich responded saying it is not up to the council to determine what the people believe is worthy of recall.

Everich amendment failed to garner the support of a majority of the council, though several people in attendance disagreed with the council's decision.

A council majority did, however, agree with Everich's idea to eliminate the requirement that a recall effort be subject to council approval and the proposed charter change is to be updated to include the sentiment.

Ethics update

On the subject of the town's ethics ordinance, which had been re-introduced for consideration in August, council members said they didn't like a provision that allows anyone access to financial information about not only elected officials, but also the relatives of elected officials. Everich said the ordinance could also be a deterrent to people considering running for office.

"We want to make it easy for people to run for office, we want to encourage that," Everich said. "Why should you have to sacrifice your personal privacy to run for office?"

The ordinance was enacted because in 2011 it was determined the town's existing ordinance did not comply with Maryland law where it pertains to conflicts of interests, according to Dick Swanson, chairman of the Ethics Commission.

Advertisement

None of the council members agreed with the financial disclosure aspects of the ordinance, but they had no issues with the ethical requirements laid out.

Discussions resulted in the passing of an ethics ordinance that was amended so financial information requested by a member of the public would be provided by the affected council member rather than through the town office.

Stormwater agreement

The town council also authorized Mayor Pat Rockinberg to sign an agreement on proposed by Carroll County under which the county and the eight municipal governments will work together to meet stormwater requirements set by the state.

The agreement has been reviewed by each of the attorneys for the eight municipalities, according to Town Attorney Thomas McCarron.

"It is not a perfect document, but it is one that addressed most of my concerns, and I would say that it is true for most of the municipalities," McCarron said.

The agreement is a memorandum between the county and the municipalities to work jointly to meet the state stormwater requirements. The county is offering to pay 80 percent of remediation efforts over the five-year period of the agreement. The town would pay an initial fee of $67,600 for the first year, and that figure would increase each year by 5 percent. The initial fee is based on the amount of paved, or otherwise impervious, surface in the town.

In other news, a public meeting has been scheduled for 7 p.m. Nov. 3, prior to the next town meeting, where amendments recommended by the Planning Commission to the town's master plan will be subject to public review.

Reach staff writer Wiley Hayes at 410-857-3315 or email him at wiley.hayes@carrollcountytimes.com.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement