(2/12) The Emmitsburg Board of Commissioners appointed former Mayor Jim Hoover to the Board in a special meeting on Monday, Feb. 11. Hoover, who will be sworn in at the next Council meeting on Feb. 18, will serve out the remaining seven months of the term previously held by Glenn Blanchard, who resigned on
Feb. 6, citing health issues.
The meeting was called to discuss the process of filling the vacant seat and to seek legal guidance on how and when it needed to be done. Town Attorney John Clapp explained that the town's Charter was written in language that suggests the Board is obligated to fill the vacancy, but it does not mention any timeline for doing so.
"You don't need to jump right in and [appoint someone] immediately," Clapp said. "And if you didn't do it tonight, I don't think you would be in violation of any particular Charter Code provision. But I think you need to move expeditiously."
Commissioners Tim O'Donnell and Chris Sweeney later referred to the mandatory sense of the Charter in urging the Board to appoint a new member that night. Chris Staiger and Patrick Joy favored forgoing any appointment until September's election, or failing that, until more people in the community had a chance to express interest or share
their views on the replacement process.
Commissioner Joy proposed the evening's first motion, to leave the seat vacant until the next election. Staiger supported the motion, but it was defeated after the vote resulted in a tie.
Staiger then motioned to appoint former Commissioner Denise Etris, citing a precedent of selecting appointees from among those who most recently lost an election for the vacant position. In 2002, when Commissioner Chris Stahley stepped down two years into his three year term, the mayor appointed David Vaughn, who had been a runner-up in the
most recent election, to serve out the remainder of the term. Etris, who fell short of winning reelection in 2010, and was thus the most recent runner-up for the Board of Commissioners, as subsequent elections have been run unopposed. Staiger's motion failed to receive a second, however, even though the precedent itself was not explicitly rejected.
Two more motions, one proposed by Sweeney to delay the appointment until March, and another by O'Donnell to appoint Jennifer Miller, also failed to receive a second. An hour into the meeting, there appeared to be an impasse, until Staiger motioned to appoint Jim Hoover.
Hoover, who had served as Emmitsburg's mayor for nearly ten years, was defeated by current Mayor Donald Briggs in 2011, making him the most recent runner-up in an election, just not for a commissioner seat.
Commissioner Joy seconded the motion, which proceeded to pass in a unanimous vote.
After the meeting, the Commissioners agreed that the meeting revealed issues with the process of filling vacancies that should be addressed, but that the end result was generally positive.
"I was impressed by my fellow board members' efforts to see this task through to the end," said Commissioner O'Donnell. "It is clear we each had different ideas about the process, but we were able to arrive at a reasonable compromise given the nature of the Charter's language, both specific and vague."
Staiger concurred that the ability to compromise and reach an eventual agreement spoke well of the Board, but added, "That being said, it would be better if we crafted an ordinance stating that the Board will fill any vacancy at the next general election."
Patrick Joy has already drafted a proposal to amend the Charter in hopes of clarifying the process of filling vacancies in the future, and plans to present it for discussion at the Town Council meeting on March 4.
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