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Cromer says council members are not 'more special than average'

February 01, 2006|by DANIEL J. SERNOVITZ

daniels@herald-mail.com

Without mentioning her by name, Hagerstown City Councilwoman Kelly S. Cromer said Tuesday night she felt Councilwoman Alesia D. Parson-McBean was wrong in accepting a ride by a city police lieutenant to the Motor Vehicle Administration.

"The majority of the council members, including myself, do not find that we are above the law. We also do not feel that, as a mayor and council, we are more special than the average citizen," Cromer said, referring to public comments to the contrary by Hagerston Police Capt. Charles Summers. "I feel that a ride to the MVA was inappropriate. I personally feel that Capt. Summers' statements were totally inappropriate."

A Hagerstown police officer stopped Parson-McBean Jan. 20 for driving a vehicle with registration that expired in November, Summers told The Herald-Mail. Parson-McBean reportedly said she was on city business. She was not given a traffic citation, which would have carried a $60 fine, police said.

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Hagerstown Police Lt. William C. Wright gave Parson-McBean a ride to the MVA office off Sharpsburg Pike to renew her registration, Summers said, because Parson-McBean said she was on city business.

He said he spoke with Wright before the lieutenant drove Parson-McBean to the MVA and that council members "do hold a different, more special relationship than the average citizen" with the police department.

Parson-McBean has not disclosed what city business she was on but she previously told The Herald-Mail she felt the ride was justified.

Cromer said she believes the department should, through attrition, reduce the number of supervisors in the police department, though she said she does not believe the incident diminishes the department's need for more patrol officers.

"The department is in desperate, desperate need of more patrolmen," she said, adding the department's officers' abilities to do their jobs have been compromised because of the incident. "The officers now feel that they are forced to defend themselves every time they write a citation."

Councilman Kristin B. Aleshire said he believes the city needs to more carefully delineate the proper conduct of city officials, beyond what he characterized as vague procedures in the city's code of ethics and rules of procedure.

He said he believes new council members should receive a more thorough orientation process. Parson-McBean and Cromer were elected to their posts in May.

"One thing that we fail to do is have that sort of orientation," Aleshire said. "(There) has to be a comprehensive set of policies that we, as a governmental body, live by."

Parson-McBean did not respond directly to Aleshire's or Cromer's comments.

"This is how divisive media coverage can be, especially when there's spin put on things," Parson-McBean said. She said she felt she should have been given the opportunity to address the matter in an open forum.

Following the meeting, Police Chief Arthur Smith, who returned to the department Monday after working for the past year in Afghanistan on special assignment, said he was not familiar enough with the incident to comment.

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