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Sager ends campaign for council

April 30, 2001

Sager ends campaign for council



By SCOTT BUTKI

scottb@herald-mail.com

Democrat Steven T. Sager dropped out of the Hagerstown City Council race Friday following a ruling that serving on the council would conflict with his state job.

It is not clear if there is enough time to name a replacement candidate for the May 15 city election.

Sager learned Friday the State Ethics Commission had ruled a appearance of conflict would exist between his duties as a council member and his job as a regional representative in the Division of Neighborhood Revitalization for the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development. Sager has been waiting for the ruling.

After being advised by the ethics panel that he must quit the state job or drop out of the city race, he began calling officials, including city and county election board representatives, to tell them of his decision to withdraw.

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According to the City Charter, a successful primary candidate who is unable to run in the general election is replaced on the general election ballot by a candidate selected by the party's central committee.

It may be too late in this case.

The ballots are already printed. In addition, there may not be enough time for the established process for finding a replacement.

The candidate must notify the Election Board in writing that he has dropped out, said Rick Hemphill, chairman of the Democratic Central Committee. The Election Board has up to five business days to contact the central committee, which has up to five business days to respond.

The charter also says the name of the substitute candidate must be determined at least 10 days before the election unless the former candidate has died or resigned.

Hemphill said that is enough time for the change to occur. He said a great deal depends on the city attorney's interpretation of the charter provisions on a substitute candidate.

On Friday the committee was scheduling an emergency meeting to appoint a new candidate, pending the Election Board's decision.

While Hemphill expects the recommended replacement will be someone who ran in the primary, that does not have to be the case, he said.

"Time is of the essence, if we are to trying to get a candidate on the ballot. The more quickly this can be resolved the better that is for everybody," he said.

Ruth South, chairman of the Hagerstown Election Board, said Friday she would call a special meeting of the board but did not know when.

Ethics Commission officials ruled that even if there may not be a direct conflict of interest between Sager's state job and a council position, the appearance of it is enough to cause a problem, Sager said.

Sager said he is disappointed he had to drop out and thought his chances of winning the council race were pretty good.

Sager was running against Democrats Penny May Nigh, Lewis C. Metzner, Kristin B. Aleshire and N. Linn Hendershot and Republicans Carol N. Moller, Victoria K. Bodnar, Alfred W. Boyer, Richard G. Everhart and Michael E. Nehring.

Sager was mayor of Hagerstown from 1985 to 1997 and was a city employee from 1975 to 1982.

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