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Mayor not allowed to veto fifth commissioner

Ingrid Mezo

Emmitsburg Mayor James Hoover learned last week that his veto of a town board vote to add a fifth commissioner to the board is not allowed by state law.

Hoover rescinded the veto last week, but said he still opposes the wording of the charter change that appoints a fifth commissioner and takes away the mayor’s voting rights on the board.

All four Emmitsburg town commissioners voted Jan. 18 in favor of the resolution to change the town’s charter and add a fifth commissioner. Hoover, who until then had voting rights on the board, recused himself from the vote.

Hoover said he was unhappy with the charter change because it did not clearly define the mayor’s powers.

While Hoover said he supports adding a fifth commissioner to the town board and more clearly separating the executive and legislative branches of government, the resolution takes away the mayor’s ability to vote during town meetings, while leaving the roles of commissioners unchanged.

‘‘We seem to be separating the mayor out of the legislative end, but not defining the executive end," Hoover said in a previous phone interview. ‘‘The legislative body has got themselves wrapped up in the hiring and firing of staff members. This is a sore subject with me. It becomes very clumsy and cumbersome to put an appointment on an agenda. In one meeting you have to recommend someone, and in the second, you have to make your case for that person. The legislative body should not be appointing staff."

Hoover said that he planned to bring up his concerns in future town meetings, which could lead to additional town code and charter changes in sections that define mayoral and commissioners’ powers.

Town officials are hoping that the charter change will go through in time for the scheduled April 25 town election. Charter changes have a 40-day period in which they may be brought to referendum, while it takes 15 days to amend the town’s code. Changes to the town’s charter and town code would be required to add a fifth commissioner, Hoover said.

During the 40-day referendum period for a charter change, residents may bring a petition against it by getting a signed petition with 20 percent of voters. The charter amendment becomes effective 10 days after the 40-day referendum period if no one brings a petition against it. Town officials would vote to change the town code after the charter change becomes effective.

The term of Commissioner Art Elder expires at the end of April. Elder said Jan. 18 that he was unsure of whether he would run for re-election.

So far, former Commissioner Joyce Rosensteel, who served on the town’s board from April 2002 to April 2005, is the only town resident who has publicly stated her intention to run.

Read other news stories related to the Emmitsburg Town Government