Frederick County Council members voted to move four questions proposing changes to the county charter to the ballot this fall, including allowing for special elections for council members and the County Executive.

Council members breezed through votes on more than half a dozen proposals for charter amendment questions during their meeting Tuesday night, as they had already lengthily debated them at their meeting last week.

The county charter is the main governing document for the county.

Councilman Steve McKay (R) introduced the amendments creating special elections if there is a vacancy on the County Council or for County Executive. The charter review commission—the seven-member body tasked with drafting recommendations to changing the county charter—chose not to include those in its final report.

But McKay pushed forward on the special election proposals, which both passed in 4-3 votes. Because of presidential primary filing deadlines, the vacancies for both the County Council and County Executive would have to occur in about the first year of a four-year term. Both also take advantage of already existing presidential election cycles, in order to reduce costs for the county and state.

McKay’s proposals also change the appointment process for both types of vacancies. They now require, if the vacating member was a member of a political party, for that party’s central committee in the county to send three applicants to council members within 30 days after the vacancy.

The changes would also require those applicants to undergo public interviews before the council, where public comment would be allowed.

Council members also voted, in a 6-1 vote, to send a question to the ballot box asking whether to change the non-interference clause in the charter.

The change would allow individual council members to request information from the County Executive and his or her staff, instead of the requiring the council request info as a body. If approved by the county voters, that would make it easier for council members to ask for information for general purposes or to help draft legislation.

Last week, the county agreed to send a question to lower the county’s borrowing capacity to the ballot. The formally approved that measure Tuesday. It would lower the borrowing capacity and debt limit from five to three percent of real property value and 15 to nine percent of personal property value.

All other charter amendments failed in separate votes. That included one introduced by Councilman Phil Dacey (R), which would have asked county voters whether the council should have the power to move money around in the County Executive’s budget each year, as long as they don’t increase the total budget.

But that failed in a 4-3, party line vote.

The four amendments that passed will be reviewed by the local board of elections and County Attorney Bryon Black, and will then be finalized for the presidential election ballot. That election occurs Nov. 3.

Steichen confirmed as Transportation Services division director

Roman Steichen, acting director of the county’s transportation services division, dropped the “acting” part of his title Tuesday.

That’s because the County Council, in a 7-0, approved County Executive Jan Gardner’s (D) decision to appoint him as director of that division.

Steichen took over as acting director when former director Nancy Norris retired in February this year. The division has focused on adding electric buses to its fleet and being environmentally friendly in recent years.

Follow Steve Bohnel on Twitter: @Steve_Bohnel.

Steve Bohnel is the county government reporter for the Frederick News-Post. He can be reached at sbohnel@newspost.com. He graduated from Temple University, with a journalism degree in May 2017, and is a die-hard Everton F.C. fan.

(2) comments

DickD

None of the amendments are very controversial. The problem with special elections is cost. However, it would give the County a person who the majority of voters want.

stevemckay

Dick - the special election amendments are designed to avoid extra cost by coinciding with the Presidential election cycle

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