Terpko said Wednesday that he'll likely sign
papers today to dismiss his declaratory
judgment lawsuit against the town. Mr.
Terpko's decision came after the town
received a new legal interpretation that
sided with him in three of the matters he
had questioned. Rosemary McDermott, Mr.
Terpko’s attorney, said the dismissal could
be filed with the Frederick County Circuit
Court as early as today. Debra S. Borden, a
partner at Board & Borden LLC, the law firm
recently hired to represent the town,
authored the opinion that ended the legal
action. Mayor Martin Burns read Ms. Borden’s
letter at Tuesday night’s board of
Following the meeting, Mr. Terpko said
he was glad the issues are resolved and that the case didn’t
have to be decided in court. He thanked his current board
colleagues for listening to the issues and agreeing to follow
the new opinion.
³We had a really good discussion about
it," the commissioner said, "and they listened to the legal
opinion and agreed this is how we should operate." Mr. Terpko
said the board also agreed that the town needed to establish
policies and procedures to prevent such issues from arising
Ms. Borden wrote that commissioners
should be allowed to review employee personnel files, contact
the Maryland Municipal League (MML) for advice, and view
minutes from executive sessions even if they weren’t at the
meeting. Though access to personnel files is limited to an
employee’s supervisor, Ms. Borden determined that the board
and mayor act as the "ultimate supervisor" because they hire
and fire employees. Therefore, the board must have access to
personnel files, but she recommended that it develop
procedures for requesting and reviewing the information.
The attorney also wrote that
commissioners and the mayor should have free access to the MML,
just like all Maryland citizens do, but suggested that no one
should claim to speak for the town without board approval.
Finally, Ms. Borden decided that a commissioner doesn’t have
to be physically present at an executive session to have
access to the information discussed in the meeting. "Depriving
board members of the opportunity to review executive-session
minutes," she wrote, "robs duly elected officials of the
information they need to make decisions."
The opinions reversed decisions made
by Clifford Bridgford, the former town attorney, and backed by
Commissioners Wayne Hooper, Eddie Hobbs and Kenneth Oland, who
formed a majority of the board. Mr. Bridgford had advised the
town that only immediate supervisors could see personnel
files, that the board could restrict MML-information access to
authorized representatives only, and that commissioners only
had access to the minutes of executive sessions they attended.
Ms. Borden’s opinion and the board’s
acceptance of it resolved the final three issues Mr. Terpko
wanted clarified. Two other requests have been settled by the
Mr. Terpko wanted to see a videotape
made in the office of Neil Bechtol, the town’s former police
chief. Ms. McDermott said arrangements have been made for the
commissioner to view the tape.
He also wanted information he claimed
he was entitled to as the town’s liaison to its police
commission. He remains in that position and has been allowed
access to the information in question.
Mr. Terpko said the results provided
affirmation that he was correct when he filed the suit against
the town he serves. He said he was pleased that two other
candidates the board interviewed about providing legal
services offered similar interpretations of the commissioners’
and mayor’s powers.
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