City Council meets behind closed doors on rental referendum

December 04, 2002|by JULIE E. GREENE

HAGERSTOWN - Hagerstown City Councilman Lewis C. Metzner lost an effort Tuesday to keep open a meeting with the city's attorney about a referendum issue.

The City Council voted 3-2 on Tuesday afternoon to meet behind closed doors without the public or press present to discuss a petition to take the city's rental registration law to referendum.

The Landlords and Property Owners Association of Washington County submitted a petition with 4,297 signatures in an attempt to allow the public to vote on the law. The law would charge landlords $45 per year per rental unit to finance regular rental property inspections. City rental properties currently are inspected only in response to complaints.


Metzner said the public had a right to hear City Attorney Bill Nairn explain the petition to city officials.

"This isn't us against them," Metzner said.

Before voting, the council asked Nairn how he would feel about discussing the matter in an open meeting.

Nairn said he wouldn't be comfortable discussing the city's likelihood of succeeding in a public meeting.

Council members Kristin Aleshire, Penny May Nigh and Carol Moller voted to discuss the matter in closed session.

Councilman N. Linn Hendershot said his vote didn't matter because three members voted to close the meeting. Then he cast a "no" vote to make it "interesting."

After the meeting, Mayor William M. Breichner said the council and Nairn only discussed procedural matters about the petition. They did not discuss strategy.

Before the council's work session, the Washington County Board of Elections had verified at least 2,800 of the signatures on the petition. The landlords' association needs at least 3,400 signatures of registered voters to take the issue to referendum.

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