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Smithsburg Council, mayor discuss complaint

April 06, 2001

Smithsburg Council, mayor discuss complaint



By ANDREW SCHOTZ

andrews@herald-mail.com

SMITHSBURG - Smithsburg's Mayor and Town Council discussed a complaint against the town's police department in a closed session Tuesday night.

The complainant, Charles Baish of Frederick, Md., and town officials would not discuss the nature of the complaint during or after the meeting, or on Wednesday.

Speaking during a public comment portion of the monthly meeting, Baish said his complaint had not been adequately addressed by Police Chief Ralf Berger or Town Attorney Charles Wagaman.

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Wagaman said he answered Baish's concerns in a letter.

Baish said he wasn't satisfied and suggested that he, the mayor and the council members talk in executive session.

This triggered a debate over whether an executive session was appropriate.

Mayor Tommy Bowers said that, by state law, complaints against police officers are not directly under the council's purview. "So this needs to be dropped right now in a public meeting," he said.

Councilman Charlie Slick said he wouldn't mind going into executive session as long as the regular portion of the meeting was complete.

Councilman Jerome Martin said the council shouldn't discuss the matter at all until Baish files a second complaint, since his first one was addressed.

Slick, Councilman Mike Rohrer and Councilwoman Elizabeth Mann voted in favor of the closed session. Martin and Councilman Jake Johnson voted against it.

Maryland law lets public bodies privately discuss certain topics, such as the performance of a particular employee.

After the vote, Baish asked Berger to participate in the closed discussion. "I don't work for you," Berger said as he walked out of the meeting room.

Bowers said the council took no actions. "We just discussed personnel."

He wouldn't talk about Baish's complaint or the circumstances surrounding it. "He's making a mountain out of a molehill," the mayor said. "His complaint was filed and answered. He was not satisfied with the answer, so he wrote a second letter."

Berger and Officer Mike Neuland did not return messages for comment. Baish declined to comment during a break in the meeting and after the meeting.

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