Frederick County Council members said they support the work completed by a board tasked with reviewing and recommending changes to the county charter, but they acknowledged much work still remains.
The council heard this week from the Charter Review Commission, which recently submitted its final report of recommendations.
That report included the following suggestions:
- Allowing the future compensation board to recommend whether fringe benefits should be offered to council members.
- Allowing that same body to determine whether the council president should receive more money than other council members.
- Reducing the number of council members needed to approve a subpoena during investigations from six to five.
- Allowing council members to more easily request information from the county executive’s office, per a tweak to the charter’s non-interference clause.
The Charter Review Commission was appointed by the County Council last May and spent several months reviewing the county’s governing document, and recommending any changes.
One recommendation that didn’t make the final report was to amend the county budget process to allow council members to move money around, as long as the total budget remains the same. Councilman Kai Hagen asked why this recommendation didn’t make it into the report.
Stephen Slater, chair of the Charter Review Commission, said that topic was discussed several times, but the short budget timeline is why it wasn’t included.
Per the charter, the county executive must introduce a budget by April 15. The council must act on the budget by May 31.
“A majority of the commission thought it would open up the budget process to too many potential pitfalls,” Slater said, “because the window you have is so tight to review and approve the budget proposed by the county executive.”
But April Miller, another Charter Review Commission member, disagreed with that, arguing that the added power would serve as a needed check on the county executive. She said she doesn’t typically agree with Hagen on issues, but this was an exception.
“When you and I are agreeing on things, I would think that would be very powerful,” Miller said.
Council President M.C. Keegan-Ayer said the council would review the commission’s recommendations and hold another meeting in May about possible changes. They need to submit any final proposed changes for this fall’s ballot by June 9, she said.
Council Vice President Michael Blue said he and his colleagues will carefully review all the research and data from the commission’s report and findings, even if they didn’t include it in their list of recommendations.
“It doesn’t matter if it made the cut, it’s all very useful to us,” Blue said.