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 Carter Review Committee Gets Input on
Draft of the Town’s 'Constitution'

Vic Bradshaw
Frederick News Post

The document, everyone acknowledged, won’t please all town residents. But sentiments expressed at Monday’s public meeting about proposed charter revisions seemed to indicate that it’s close to what the town needs.

In a meeting at the Thurmont Senior Center, the charter review committee got input on its draft of the town’s "constitution." A handful of residents attended to pose questions about the document’s intent and suggest possible changes.

Considerable discussion centered on the election process. Currently, a nomination meeting is held the first Monday in October and the election is held on the fourth Monday of the month. The winners take office Nov. 1. Mayor Martin Burns said the system greatly favors incumbents over people who may not be well-known in the town. The short campaign time, he said, prevents some people from getting absentee ballots.

Sandra Hunter, one of the charter review committee members, said the first election after she moved into the town passed by before she knew it. "How was I supposed to know who anyone was?" she asked.

But fellow committee member Bill Blakeslee said candidates aren’t bound to wait until they’re nominated to begin campaigning. He said they can start putting up signs and meeting people anytime they wish.

The possibility of holding nominations in early September and even holding the elections in late September or early October was discussed. There seemed to be a consensus that the current time frame was too short because the Catoctin ColorFest consumes the town for a week between nominations and election.

Commissioner Wayne Hooper said he favored a longer period between election day and the date that commissioners take office. Commissioner Ron Terpko agreed, saying newly elected officials need more transition time. Supervision of department heads was another hot topic. Mr. Burns said he believed the mayor should have that power, but Mr. Blakeslee countered that he had a hard time envisioning a full-time employee being supervised by a part-time mayor.

Committee members Shirley DePaolis and John Ford said they thought the town needs a single point of contact for department heads. Mr. Burns said he’d even favor the hiring of a town manager who responds to the board. Mr. Terpko, however, said the newly named position of chief administrative officer (CAO) should serve like a town manager. The department heads should report to the CAO, which is now called the town clerk, and the CAO reports to the board.

Another issue discussed at length was recalls, a subject brought up by Mr. Burns, the target of a recall petition drive. He said he thought people serving on town-appointed boards shouldn’t be allowed to participate in efforts to recall an elected official.

"To me," the mayor said, "that’s like the mutiny of the institution you’re supposed to be helping and serving."

But Paul Nolan countered that stopping a volunteer from participating in such an action was "fooling with their constitutional rights."

Jake Spalding said that appointed officials participating in recall efforts differed little from the town’s police officers filing a lawsuit against the town, which they have done. The mayor, however, said the police officers possess rights as employees.

Mr. Terpko, also a target of a recall petition effort, complained that the charter exposed elected officials to the possibility of continuous recalls. If an incumbent wins a recall election, he said, another recall petition can be started right away.

Glenn Muth, a committee member who intends to run for a board of commissioners’ seat in October, said the group will consider the suggestions at its next meeting. He didn’t know if there would be another meeting before the committee presents its draft charter to the commissioners.

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