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Council members blast Trump in letter

September 24, 2005|by ANDREW SCHOTZ

andrews@herald-mail.com

The five Hagerstown City Council members have jointly sent Mayor Richard F. Trump a letter accusing him of failing "to follow basic rules of procedure, decorum and civility" and of other "inappropriate behavior."

"The Council hereby puts you on notice that such conduct cannot and will not be tolerated," the letter says.

Trump and the council have battled, sometimes in skirmishes, at many meetings since he and two new council members took office in May.

"Tuesday was the straw that broke the camel's back," said Councilman Lewis C. Metzner, who wrote the letter. He gave a copy to The Herald-Mail on Friday, one day after it was delivered to Trump.

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During Tuesday's council meeting, Trump accused Councilman Kristin B. Aleshire of throwing up obstacles to growth. Metzner objected, called the mayor "out of order" and briefly walked out.

Reached at his home Friday night, Trump said he hadn't read the letter.

When a reporter read it to him, Trump said, "My opinion doesn't really matter."

"The key is to keep baseball in Hagerstown and not let it go to the county," he continued. During a phone interview, he repeatedly came back to baseball as an essential issue, but couldn't explain its connection to the letter.

When asked about keeping decorum at meetings, he replied, "My key is to keep baseball. I don't think I can keep decorum and baseball."

Asked if his relationship with the council is strained, Trump said, "No, I think they're five of the nicest people."

The council's letter specifically criticizes Trump for "wanting to know if certain members of the Council are 'Born again Christians,' (which) is neither appropriate nor, as one member told you, is it any of your business."

The reference was to Councilwoman Alesia D. Parson-McBean.

Trump acknowledged Friday that he asked Parson-McBean if she was a born-again Christian. He said she told him it was none of his business, so the conversation ended there.

At the Sept. 6 council meeting, Parson-McBean chided Trump, without going into detail.

"I have had enough of inappropriate comments from the mayor," she said. "My religious beliefs are mine. I don't have to share them with you."

Parson-McBean did not return a message left for her on Friday. Neither did Councilwoman Kelly S. Cromer nor Councilwoman Penny M. Nigh.

Sharp exchanges have become increasingly common at council meetings.

At the same meeting, before Parson-McBean spoke up, Trump asked council members, one by one, "Are you ready to lead?"

Metzner disgustedly replied, "I appreciate the pep talk, but really we don't need it. We're all grown adults."

"OK, can I have a hug later on?" Trump said at the end of the discussion.

At Tuesday's council meeting, Aleshire didn't respond to Trump's criticism. However, Metzner interjected, "Mr. Mayor, you're out of order."

"No, you're out of order," Trump called back, prompting Metzner to briefly walk out of the room.

Metzner said Friday that the letter is necessary.

"We've done everything we could do quietly and privately to resolve this," he said.

"I feel the communication breaks down when you do start personalizing things ..." Aleshire said. "That's not the way to conduct the public's business."

Metzner said Trump's behavior has taken five diverse council members "and made them the most unified body in a long time."

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