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Mayor will veto charter change
 to add fifth commissioner

Ingrid Mezo

(1/26) Whether residents in Emmitsburg will vote for two commissioners or one during the town’s next scheduled election on April 25 remains uncertain.

The town board voted to add a fifth commissioner to its ranks and remove voting privileges for the mayor from the town charter during a meeting Jan. 18, but Mayor James Hoover said Tuesday he would veto the measure.

While the intent of the resolution to amend the town’s charter seems to have been to allow residents to vote for the fifth commissioner during the town’s April election, the date is not spelled out in the resolution officials voted on last week. The other possibility would be to hold a special election to add the fifth commissioner on another date.

The resolution also would increase the number of town board members required to vote to expel a member of the commission from a meeting for disorderly conduct or a violation of its rules from two to three.

Hoover was the only official who abstained from voting on the resolution — all four commissioners voted in favor of it.

In addition to not providing an exact date for the election of the fifth commissioner, the resolution passed Jan. 18 does not clearly define the mayor’s powers, Hoover said. While Hoover said he did not have a problem with adding a fifth commissioner to the town board and more clearly separating the executive and legislative branches of the town’s 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. ‘‘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."

The commissioners can either override the mayor’s veto by voting unanimously in favor of keeping the resolution, or they can introduce new legislation that states the date the fifth commissioner would be elected and more clearly defines the mayor’s powers. The board also unanimously voted Jan. 18 to clarify the number of days the mayor has to approve or veto legislation. The resolution will change the charter to specify that the mayor has 10 calendar (rather than business) days to act on a measure passed by commissioners. If he fails to act, the measure becomes effective.

If the mayor vetoes legislation, he has to inform board members of his reasons for the veto in writing by the next town meeting. The commissioners then have 30 calendar days from the date the mayor vetoed the legislation to overturn the veto.

Town officials may run out of time to add the fifth commissioner during the April election if they do not act quickly. 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 board had considered making the charter changes at several town meetings in the last several months, but commissioners opted not to vote until they could consider all changes together.

The upcoming election will also be the last time the town will hold an election in April. In October 2003, town officials decided to switch from April to October elections to give new board members an opportunity to get acquainted with their position before having to make budget decisions.

‘‘...Somebody fresh off the street would have to give a budget report within 30 days of coming into the office [if they are elected in April]," Hoover said.

In addition, switching the elections to October takes some of the pressure off the town clerk, who has to work on both the budget and nominating election judges during the April elections.

While the general term length for the mayor and commissioners in Emmitsburg is three years, any board members elected to office in 2004, 2005 or 2006 will stay in office for a term of three years and five months to accommodate the switch to October elections.

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.

‘‘There is more I want to do for the citizens of Emmitsburg," Rosensteel said in a phone interview Monday. ‘‘I just want to give the town back to the citizens, and I want the person that’s going to be elected commissioner to act in the best interest of the residents."

Fixing the town’s infrastructure problems is the top issue in the town, she said.

Town election

The next Emmitsburg town election is scheduled for April 25. Residents will vote for at least one town commissioner post — Art Elder’s term is up, and town officials recently voted to add a fifth commissioner to the board, who would likely be voted for during this election as well.

  • Deadline to file for candidacy: 4:30 p.m., March 27; Deadline to register as a write-in candidate: 4:30 p.m., April 18
  • Any town resident 18 years or older can run
  • Voter registration deadline: April 7

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