Frederick County Councilman Steve McKay is still interested in drafting proposed charter amendments that would allow special elections to fill certain vacancies, despite the Charter Review Commission's vote against them this week.
McKay (R) said he was disappointed in the commission's decision to vote against drafting recommendations to allow special elections to fill empty seats on the County Council and for county executive, if those vacancies occurred in the first two years of a four-year term.
Commission members clarified at their meeting Wednesday that given election filing deadlines, McKay's proposals would apply only in the first year of a term.
Chairman Stephen Slater said he saw the positives of McKay's proposal, including that it aligns with the overall mission of charter government, which is supposed to be more modern than the commissioner form.
But, the proposals only fit into a "very narrow window" of time, and could lead to a lack of continuity of government. He cited County Executive Jan Gardner's (D) concern that the proposal could lead to possibly four county executives serving one term.
Slater's opinion was seconded by Vice Chairman John Daniels, especially regarding the county executive position.
"That one person makes decisions daily that direct the direction of the county," Daniels said. "And I just feel if we are going to have two, three or four potential people at the helm, that we're not going to get the things done that need to be done."
Commissioner Walter Olson and others disagreed. They said given the minimal cost of holding special elections under McKay's proposal, it made sense to return that decision to the voters, versus an appointment process laid out in the charter.
"When we are putting on the midterm election anyway, this is a non-onerous way to make the system more democratic," Olson said.
Votes on both the County Council and county executive proposals failed 4-3. McKay said it will probably be more difficult to get those on as ballot referendums next fall because of the lack of support from the commission, but he's going to try to persuade other council members to do so.
"To me, it’s a fundamentally good change, it’s a pro-democracy change," McKay said. "Anytime we can ... bring that decision back to the electorate rather than keeping it in the hands of a few people ... that trade-off, in terms of generating a little less continuity as a trade-off to a lot more electoral participation, I’ll take that any day."
The Charter Review Commission must complete a draft of recommendations to the County Council by Feb. 28 of next year, and will present that draft to the council in March.