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Effort to Recall Mayor Burns Called off

Vic Bradshaw
Frederick News Post (8/25/03)

Mayor Martin Burns and Commissioner Ron Terpko will not face a recall election next month.

That unexpected news was announced by Commissioner Wayne Hooper near the end of Tuesday night's board of commissioners' meeting and confirmed Wednesday by the group circulating the recall petitions. Bill Blakeslee, speaking on behalf of Concerned Citizens for a Better Thurmont (CCBT), said that after Mr. Hooper spoke with the group, it decided to halt the drive.

"We decided it would be in the best interest of the town not to, do it," said Mr. Blakeslee, who is considering seeking a board of commissioners' seat in October.

The petition drive against Mr. Burns was started late last year by Jacque Burrier. This spring, about nine town residents joined the effort, and Mr. Terpko was added as a recall target.

Chuck Collins previously said the group sought to recall the officials because of their lack of decorum in public settings, including board meetings. CCBT had until Friday to submit petitions containing the signatures of at least 20 percent of the town's voters. Had valid petitions been submitted, Mr. Burns and Mr. Terpko would have had to win re-election on Oct. 27 to serve the remaining two years of their terms.

Both men appeared relieved that a recall campaign was called off.

"It blew me away," Mr. Burns said of the announcement. "I was very surprised."

Said Mr. Terpko: "I'm just glad that it's not going to go through because I think it would've divided the town more."

Mr. Blakeslee declined to say whether CCBT had enough signatures to recall one or both men, and he said he didn't know if the petitions were destroyed. No vote was taken about ending the recall drive, but he said the decision was made after considerable discussion.

"The people involved are only interested in the betterment of Thurmont and concern for Thurmont," he said, "and that was the only factor in anything we have done."

Mr. Hooper said he lobbied to stop the recall effort because recent board meetings have been less contentious and because the recall could cause confusion on Election Day. Town voters already will be asked to fill the commissioners' seats currently held by Eddie Hobbs and Kenneth Oland and decide three referendum issues.

"I'd rather put the emphasis on other things in the election," Mr. Hooper said.

At previous meetings, Mr. Burns has said residents approached him about recalling Mr. Hooper. He said he admonished them and advised against it, saying he believed an official should only be recalled if he did something illegal, immoral or unethical.

Mr. Hooper said CCBT was exercising a right provided in the town charter. He declined to say whether he thought the reasons cited for the recall were sufficient for such an action.

Mr. Hooper's comments were "influential" to CCBT members, Mr. Blakeslee said. "The commissioners have a lot of respect in our group," he said. "We respect their opinions, and that was certainly part of the equation."

The circus surrounding California's gubernatorial recall was a factor in the decision, Mr. Blakeslee said, and the recent lack of acrimony among board members also was considered.

Mr. Burns attributed that recent goodwill among the commissioners to several factors. The board hasn't been tested by contentious issues for months, he said, and an attitude adjustment also has helped.

"I haven't changed, but I've learned that sometimes I have to keep my mouth shut," he said. "We're all trying to make Thurmont a better place, and what an olive branch that group handed me tonight."

Those post-meeting comments echoed statements Mr. Burns made near the end of the meeting. After saying that the past year had been difficult and that the recall had affected him greatly, he turned to Mr. Hooper.

"... I appreciate the fact that you did what you did," the mayor said, "and appreciate that fact that I'll get to serve out two more years." He then turned back to the audience and said, "If you want me out, vote me out two years from now."

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