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Walbreaker resignation as Commissioner stuns Emmitsburg

Pamela Rigaux
Frederick News Post

Commissioner Walbrecker's resignation letter

(3/23) Commissioner Dianne Walbrecker announced her resignation Monday. The resignation takes affect April 28.

It comes in time for the April 26 election. There are now two seats available for the next election. The commissioner elected to replace Ms. Walbrecker will serve out her three year term ending October 2007. The other term ends October 2008.

Ms. Walbecker read the first part of her resignation letter in a flat tone of voice. But halfway through, tears sprang to her eyes and ran down her cheeks.

"While I have enjoyed the last year, I have decided that I can no longer serve you adequately as a town commissioner," she read.

When she ran for office last year she traveled occasionally in her job as a management consultant and author. But since then, her travel schedule has intensified.

"This requires me to miss town meetings, so I am not available to vote for or against important issues facing us. This is not fair to you. This was an agonizing decision that I made only after careful thought about what would be best for you, the citizens of Emmitsburg."

Ms. Walbrecker's statement was met with stunned silence. Then board members, town staff and members of the general public, stood up and gave her a standing ovation.

As the applause receded, Commission President Bill O'Neil Jr. said, "It's been an honor and pleasure to serve with you. You have worked diligently and hard. I'm amazed at your energy and your ability to take your ideas around town."

Ms. Walbrecker has been leading the charge to revise the town's comprehensive plan. One duty as commissioner has been to serve on the Planning and Zoning Committee. She said she wants to remain active in the town' and would like to be considered an alternate on the planning and zoning committee.

"I'll miss her," Commissioner Joyce Rosensteel said. "She and I worked really well together. We were on the parks and recreation committee last year before she became responsible for planning and zoning."

During the commissioners' meeting Monday, the board unanimously approved a motion to require the Ethics Committee submit the procedures it intends to use to the board at the next town meeting on April 4.

Mr. O'Neil made the motion.

He said because he is being "investigated," his motion could be perceived as a conflict of interest. "But legal council advises me to."

Because the board is responsible for supervising the commit-tee, Mr. O'Neil said if the ethics committee isn't following procedures, the board could be liable for the committee's actions.

Ms. Walbrecker said she called the chairman of the ethics committee, Ted Brennan, Friday, and was told procedures were being followed. For instance, copies of sworn complaints were on file.

"I have to comment on what Commissioner Walbrecker said," Mr. O'Neil said. "The documents presented to Commissioner Elder and myself were unsigned."

He then asked his attorney, Rosemary McDermott, if she has any signed complaints.

"No, I do not," his attorney said. "Breach of confidentiality" is the gravest issue the board could be liable for, she said. "No one should ever have known" who was being investigated.

In other business:

Commissioner Art Elder said at the request of Mayor James Hoover, a statement explaining the town's "incremental" billing system will be included with the next water bill.

The statement does not break down the minimum $30 fee that in-town users pay. But Town Manager Dave Haller said he would break the costs down so that it is understood. On Tuesday, the town's spokeswoman, Pat Feeser, sent an e-mail that said:

"$14.40 is the cost for 6,000 gallons of water; $15.60 is overhead costs — billing, service calls related to meters, etc.

"Note: This $15.60 does not always fully cover these costs. Many times property taxes are used to cover these costs. That is why out-of-town customers pay $40.00 minimum. They pay no tax to the town."

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