Decision on filling Aberdeen council vacancy pushed to April

Aberdeen officials have, again, postponed voting on a nominee to fill the vacant fourth seat on the Aberdeen City Council, this time because a council member requested a postponement.

Mayor Patrick McGrady, whose previous two nominees, Sean DeBonis and Jason Kolligs, have been rejected by the three sitting council members, said during Monday's council meeting that the vote on his third – and unnamed – nominee would be postponed to the next council meeting, which is scheduled for April 11.


DeBonis tied former Councilman Stephen Smith in the November 2015 City Council race with 655 votes. The seat has remained empty since the election, after City Attorney Fred Sussman and former City Manager Doug Miller determined the city charter does not provide for a runoff election.

That leaves the mayor responsible for appointing a fourth council member, subject to approval by the three sitting council members – Sandra Landbeck, Tim Lindecamp and the Rev. Melvin Taylor.


"I have a council appointment to make, but I'm going to defer that at the request of a council member tonight," McGrady said Monday before quickly moving into the new business portion of the meeting.

The mayor did not say during the meeting which council member requested a postponement, and he declined after the meeting to name the council member.

McGrady also declined to say who his third nominee is; he did not name the person during the previous council meeting March 14, when the vote was postponed to Monday's meeting, because Landbeck was absent.

"The public will learn of the nominee at our next meeting," the mayor said after Monday's meeting.

Taylor also declined to say which council member requested a postponement when interviewed after the meeting.

He noted he is eager to fill the vacant seat, however.

"I have no desire to continue with the stalemate, and the citizens are ready to move on," Taylor said.

Several legislative and judicial efforts are also happening to resolve either the tie or future election ties in Aberdeen at the same time the mayor is trying to nominate someone to feel the seat.

During the March 28 meeting, Lindecamp proposed having the city attorney draw up an amendment to the city charter that would allow for a special election within 40 days of Election Day if there is a tie.

A formal charter amendment resolution must be introduced to the council and will then be available for public view.

Lindecamp said Monday he has been working with "some citizens and some attorneys from other municipalities to get their opinion on our charter."

Harford County Del. Mary Ann Lisanti, whose district includes Aberdeen, is sponsoring House Bill 852, which would require municipalities to develop a procedure to resolve ties in municipal elections via ordinance or charter amendment.


That bill passed the House, 134-0, March 19, and it has moved to the state Senate, where a hearing is scheduled for Thursday before the Senate Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee, according to the Maryland General Assembly website.

Aberdeen resident Barbara Kreamer said she is challenging the validity of ballots cast by two voters in last year's Aberdeen mayoral and council races.

Those voters are former state Sen. Art Helton and his wife, Ann, who claim residency in Aberdeen although their primary residence is in Darlington, according to Kreamer.

Kreamer also was a candidate for City Council last year, finishing seventh among the nine candidates and ahead of Kolligs, one McGrady's previous council nominees, who was eighth.

Kreamer said during the public comment period of Monday's city council meeting that Helton and his wife voted in the Aberdeen municipal election. She said they endorsed Smith for City Council.

"We don't know exactly who they voted for, but we do know that they endorsed Councilman Smith," Kreamer said.

She said she has filed a complaint with Maryland State Board of Elections, which was dismissed. She appealed that dismissal in Anne Arundel County Circuit Court, and that appeal is pending.

She noted a Circuit Court judge ordered the State Board of Elections to turn over documents related to Kreamer's current and previous complaints. She said the court "can compel the State Board of Elections to take some action."

She said has also filed a complaint with the City of Aberdeen Board of Elections.

"There are two votes, however they were cast for City Council, that should be excluded," Kreamer told city officials. "If you are think about there having been a tie, there really wasn't a tie."

Kreamer previously challenged Helton's residency in 2014 when he was running in the Democratic primary for the Legislative District 34 seat in the State Senate, claiming Helton did not live within the district boundaries.

Helton remained on the ballot, but he was defeated in the primary by Del. Mary-Dulany James, who lost in the general election to Republican Robert Cassilly.

Kreamer, a former state delegate and county councilwoman, was the Democratic nominee in the 2014 race for the District E seat on the Harford County Council. She was defeated in that race by Republican Patrick Vincenti. She also ran unsuccessful for Aberdeen mayor in 2009.

Following the council meeting, McGrady said Kreamer's challenge regarding the Heltons' voter eligibility would not affect how he is going about filling the vacant council seat.

"We are fortunate to live under a political system in which the ballots we cast are private," the mayor said.

Recommended on Baltimore Sun