Town of Emmitsburg
300A S. Seton Ave Emmitsburg, Maryland

May 2003

Governance of Town Meetings

I received a letter from Dianne Walbrecker asking who is in charge of town meetings and what responsibility the Mayor, Commissioners and Town Manager has at the meetings. 

The Emmitsburg town code defines who is in charge of Town Council meetings.  It also outlines responsibilities of the Mayor, President of the Board and the Town Manager.  The President of the Board of Commissioners is responsible for running meetings and keeping the order.  The Mayor and the Town Manager have no authority over the Commissioners at meetings, neither has voting authority.  If the Mayor feels the Commissioners voted for something that may not be in the best interest of the Town, he has the power to veto their decision.  If the Mayor is planning to veto a decision, he must do so within ten days. 

After discussing this matter with the author of the question, it seems that her question was more related to; why does it appear that the Town Manager is running the Town Meeting.  This issue has been questioned before and steps have been taken to shift more responsibility on to the Commissioners, more so to the President of the Board as the town code requires.  The Town Manager is responsible for providing a staff report for almost every agenda item.  The intent of the staff report is to assist the Mayor and Commissioners, not to lead them.  When members of the board are not prepared for meetings they rely too heavily on staff reports to guide them rather than coming to their own conclusion.  This is when it appears that the Town Manager is running the meeting. 

According to Roberts Rules of Order and Town Policy, audience members and members of the board shall wait to be recognized by the President of the Board before making comments.  When the President of the Board calls on someone to speak, he/she shall be given time to speak without interruption.  The President of the Board is responsible for preventing and/or stopping anyone from interrupting the speaker. 

Although the Town Manager may have a dominating voice and somewhat intimidating to some, the President of the Board must maintain order and allow only one person to speak at a time. Comments made from the audience, Town Manager and/or other members of the Town Council should be directed to the President of the Board.  This helps to prevent individuals from getting in to personal debates. Generally, when two or more individuals are allowed to get in to a debate, the issue becomes personal, and each of their personal bias get involved in Town matters. 

I believe that the town should have open discussions on town matters.  I have made improvements to provide that.  However, I do not agree that the Mayor, Commissioners, town staff or audience members should publicly get in to unprofessional debates and involve personal bias in to town matters.

If you have any questions, please feel free to call the town office, or e-mail me at

Jim Hoover

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