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Thurmont official proposes restricting
 police chief’s power

Jeremy Hauck
The Gazette

(11/29) Robert E. Lookingbill, elected to the Thurmont Board of Commissioners in October, raised questions this week about how much power the town’s charter confers on the chief of the Thurmont Police Department.

‘‘The [charter] bothered me a little bit," Lookingbill said at Tuesday’s town meeting. In particular, Lookingbill took issue with Chief Gregory L. Eyler’s action to restrict two-way traffic on Howard Street, a narrow street connecting West Main Street and Frederick Road.

‘‘Recently, it was changed," Lookingbill said. ‘‘It was done without any knowledge to me."

He used the incident to argue for a new provision in the charter that would require the chief to submit such changes for the board’s approval. The charter, which commissioners adopted in February and took effect in April, currently allows the police chief to ‘‘perform any other duties in relation to the public safety of the town as the mayor or board of commissioners may require, or as may be required elsewhere in this charter."

Commissioners voted to continue the discussion at a town meeting in two weeks, when all four commissioners and Eyler are expected to be present. Eyler, as well as commissioners Glenn D. Muth and Ronald A. Terpko, were absent from Tuesday’s meeting.

‘‘Something prompted [Eyler] to decide to put that sign up," Lookingbill said. ‘‘I really would like to get more information from him. I’d like to know his thoughts on my proposed change."

Eyler said Wednesday he placed the ‘‘Do Not Enter" sign at the Frederick Road entrance to Howard Street in October to prevent accidents, after receiving multiple complaints about the street and consulting with Butch West, the town’s streets and parks supervisor.

Mayor Martin A. Burns on Tuesday supported Eyler’s decision. ‘‘It is unsafe," Burns said. ‘‘You cannot get two cars side by side."

‘‘It’s not safe to pull out of Sheetz," Lookingbill returned. ‘‘How safe is safe? How safe can we be?"

Although Commissioner Wayne A. Hooper supported Lookingbill’s concept, Burns opposed amending the charter to make the chief responsible to the board of commissioners for public safety decisions, or to make such decisions open for public debate.

‘‘My concern is then it becomes political," he said.

In a memo to Burns and his fellow commissioners, Lookingbill highlighted about 30 items in the charter that he said he believes warrant the board’s attention.

But Burns and John Kinnaird, president of the town’s Planning and Zoning Commission, were quick to recommend that Lookingbill get feedback on those items from the members of the now-disbanded Charter Review Committee, who rewrote the town’s 1986 charter from 2003 to 2007, before bringing the issue to the board.

‘‘If you revisit the charter every time a new commissioner is elected, you dumb down the value of what that charter is supposed to be," Burns said. ‘‘Nothing has changed in eight months that has caused me concern."

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