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Smithsburg mayor says recall bid may be flawed

November 08, 1997

By LAURA ERNDE

Staff Writer

SMITHSBURG - Even though she could be one of its first targets, Smithsburg Mayor Mildred "Mickey" Myers wants to give town citizens the power to remove elected officials before their terms end.

She's just not sure the recall proposal that will appear on next May's town ballot is the right one.

Boonsboro is the only other municipality in Washington County that allows citizens to recall elected officials, but that power hasn't been used in the 19 years that Town Clerk Barbara Rodenhiser has worked there.

Across the Tri-State area, elected officials rarely get the boot.

The last time was November 1990, when Brunswick, Md., Mayor Susan V. Fauntleroy was unseated by voters who accused her of being uncommunicative and lavish with the town's tax money.

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Franklin County, Pa., election officials cannot remember a recall in recent years.

Voters in West Virginia must have proof of official misconduct against an elected official before they can be removed, said Bill Harrington, chief of staff in the West Virginia Secretary of State's Office.

They can't remove someone just because they disagreed with a certain vote.

"If you don't like what they're doing, you should have voted differently," he said.

Smithsburg voters demanded the recall in response to one decision of Myers and the Town Council - the firing of Police Chief Tommy Bowers.

Enough people signed a petition to add get the question added to the May ballot.

Smithsburg voters ultimately will decide whether to amend the Town Charter to provide for a recall.

But Myers said their version of the charter amendment may be flawed. By law, she and the Town Council can't propose a counter-amendment.

According to the citizens' amendment, an ousted elected official would be replaced by someone appointed by the council.

But Smithsburg protesters have vowed to throw out the whole bunch.

"How is the government going to continue if everyone is recalled?" Myers asked.

Myers said she is glad citizens started the recall movement. Even if it fails, she would work on a reworded amendment.

"I'm glad to see these people are going out an exercising their rights," she said.

But Myers has a bigger fight for her political future on the May 12 ballot - that's when her term ends.

She plans to run for re-election, not having been swayed by the no-confidence recall petition, she said.

Terms are up in May for two of the five council members.

Petition organizer Sherry Owen could not be reached for comment.

Myers said she stands by the decision by her and all five council members to fire Bowers.

Bowers sued the town for a due process hearing at Nov. 25, a U.S. District Court judge in Baltimore ruled Friday.

At least one other municipal mayor agreed that voters should have a recall option.

"I'd be willing to give people the choice. I think it's something that should be here so the people would have some recourse," said Sharpsburg Mayor George Kesler.

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