Of more than 20 proposed changes to the Frederick County Charter, only three passed muster with the County Council on Tuesday.
The council supported proposed amendments to change the public notice procedures for council amendments to bills and to the county budget. The council also voted to extend its timeline for passing the county’s annual budget by about a week.
The council was voting to consider which proposed charter amendments would go forward to a public hearing process.
After hearings, the council could vote to include the proposed charter amendments on the November general election ballot, where they would have to be supported by a majority of voters to take effect.
The proposed amendments that will go to public hearing include two measures that will allow the council to publish public hearing notices for budget amendments and bill amendments online at least two days before a public hearing; those notices are currently printed in the newspaper and can extend the timeline for legislation up to two weeks, council members said. The other amendment that received support will move the council’s deadline to pass a county budget to May 31 of each year; the current deadline in the charter is May 25.
Some of the more controversial proposed amendments were withdrawn by the sponsors before they could be voted on. Councilman Tony Chmelik (R) withdrew three amendments that dealt with the salary for council members and the county executive.
Chmelik wanted to limit the pay of the council by using the county’s average income as a guide.
He wanted to increase the county executive’s salary to a level that would allow the county to attract private-sector executives, and not just politicians, to the position. Chmelik proposed $180,000, but said he was open to any increase.
Chmelik took heat for the proposed amendment, from Republicans and Democrats alike.
On social media, County Executive Jan Gardner (D) said she didn’t know about the proposed amendment, nor would she accept the increase.
Councilman Kirby Delauter (R) — who has said he’s considering running against Gardner in 2018 — also said on social media that he wouldn’t accept the salary.
Chmelik said he knows some voters were upset by the amendment, but he wanted to spark a discussion among the council and the public to address the salary.
Another amendment that Chmelik said would make the county executive’s salary more appealing would be to allow future officeholders to maintain second jobs during their terms, which is currently prohibited by the charter. That amendment failed after a split 3-3 vote, with Council President Bud Otis (R), Councilman Jerry Donald (D) and Councilwoman M.C. Keegan-Ayer (D) opposing the measure.
Councilwoman Jessica Fitzwater (D) was absent from the meeting following the birth of her first child.
Other proposed amendments that failed on Tuesday included measures to create expedited and emergency legislative procedures; extend the council’s deadline for passing a bill to six months; to change the process for filling vacancies on the council; and to allow council members to shift money within the county executive’s proposed budget, including allowing for spending increases.
Keegan-Ayer pulled three amendments she introduced and will address those issues with future legislation, she said.
Tuesday’s meeting may not be the end of proposed changes to the charter. At the direction of the council, County Attorney Michael Chomel will conduct a review of the current charter and recommend other areas where the charter could be amended.