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Mayor should reconsider stand on secret spending

July 28, 2000

Mayor should reconsider stand on secret spending



Afte a majority of the Hagerstown City Council's members decided that they wanted an open-session vote on a $2,205 pay raise for City Administrator Bruce Zimmerman, Mayor Robert Bruchey II defended his decision to okay the raise without public notice. His defense speaks volumes about his lack of commitment to doing the public's business in public.

Not only was his previous decision to okay the raise secretly correct, the mayor said, but he's like to do all future salary adjustments in the same way. Requiring an open vote on the matter, he said, would be "bureaucracy at its worst."

Is the mayor saying using council time to tell citizens about how their tax dollars are being spent is a waste of time? It's hard to interpret that remark in any other way, but it's consistent with his record of shutting the public out of deliberations on how their tax money is spent.

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This is the mayor who presided over a series of secert meetings that cut thousands of dollars out of the city budget. This is the mayor who didn't like the idea that the public should know who he was calling on a cellular phone supplied and paid for by city taxpayers.

Worse, perhaps, is the idea that Bruchey's affinity for secret spending is infecting the rest of the council. Councilman Lewis Metzner says "its not a big issue" while Councilman Alfred Boyer says there's "no requirement for every action the City (Council) takes to be fed out to the public."

We agree with Boyer, if the action council is taking involves true personnel matters, like which of two candidates is the best qualified for a city job, or when a real estate purchase, pending litigation or economic development is being discussed.

Discussion of such matters is exempted by state law from the open meetings law. But there comes a time when the job is filled, the land is purchased, the lawsuit is settled or a new company is welcomed to town. At that point, the council is obligated to share how it decided to spend taxpayers' dollars. It's time to bring Zimmerman's raise out in the open, and perhaps even reveal why he hasn't had the required annual personnel evaluation.

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