Frederick County Council Holds Hearing On Charter Amendments

They could be voted on by citizens in November.

Frederick, Md (KM) Citizens of Frederick County are expected to have a chance in the November election to vote on some amendments to the County’s Charter. The Council held a hearing on those measures on Tuesday.

One amendment says at the first scheduled meeting of the newly elected Council in December, members would chose their President and Vice President who would  serve in those  posts for the duration of their terms.  . They could only be removed by no less than five members of the Council.

Another amendment would provide fringe benefits and allowances to Councilmembers in addition to their salaries. Local activist Richard “Kap” Kaplowitz spoke in favor. “I have no problem knowing how hard you all work since I know many of you personally; and the time and the energy and the effort you put into making this a better county, I have no problem making sure you have some benefits,” he said.

Former Councilman Tony Schmellik expressed his opposition. “I think given the fact that we just had a four-and-a-half percent increase, people are having a difficult time right time The fact that County Executive {Jessica} Fitzwater brought this forward is a slap in the face to the hardworking people of Frederick County,” he said.

There’s also an amendment dealing with removing a Council member from office if that person was convicted or pleaded guilty to a felony or a crime involving moral turpitude. It also says following a hearing, and the finding that the Council member has failed to perform their duties, or is unable to perform their duties due to physical or mental disability, that council member can be removed from office. Kaplowitz said this amendment should go a little further. “I would the add the words ‘nor be eligible to for run office,’” he said. “We have a felon running for the United States Presidency. I don’t want a felon to be able to run in Frederick County for any office.”

Schmellik has some concerns that this amendment could be at odds with the Americans with Disabilities Act. . “Unable for reason of physical or mental disability. Who’s going to define that,” he asked. “How could anybody even put that in language that you could be removed for physical disability. Wow! That just jumped right out at me.”

An amendment dealing with budget and finance is also part of the package. It says after a recommendation from the County Executive and a public hearing by the Council, the Council could make a decision on how to spend supplemental appropriations and contingency appropriations in the budget. It would also cover revenues from anticipated sources, and revenues not anticipated  in the budget. Brent Simmons from Monrovia spoke in support. “And because there is a public hearing required in the budget process, there’s no reason supplemental appropriations should have that same public process,” he said.

Another amendment has to do with the appointment and removal of department heads, and heads of other agencies. It says after a public hearing, the Council Charmian could decide to remove the appointed head following the vote of at least five Council members. Kaplowitz supports this, but said any removal should not be over policy disputes. “If, God forbid, for example, the pandemic came back, and Dr. {Barbara} Brookmyer said we have mask up, and those people who yell ‘my body, my choice’–but they’re still anti-abortion–would say we have to remove her because she’s trying to put a mask mandate in, I would want to see a definition in amendment three what exactly constitutes reasons for removal of any officer,”: he said.

Dr. Brookmyer is the County’s Health Officer.

The Council is expected to decide at their June 18th meeting on which amendments to take forward to the election in November.

By Kevin McManus