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City Council considers revision to ethics policy

February 22, 2006|by DANIEL J. SERNOVITZ

daniels@herald-mail.com

A month removed from the event that sparked their comments, members of Hagerstown City Council decided gaps in the city's ethics and procedural documents are not so wide as they first perceived them to be.

During a work session Tuesday, council members said they do not feel they need to make changes to either the city's code of ethics or its rules of procedure, but they do need to make sure members of the council are clear on how to conduct themselves as elected officials.

"There's a lot of unwritten rules that we're finding out as we go along but nothing has ever been put down in writing," Councilwoman Kelly S. Cromer said.

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The discussion was prompted by a Jan. 20 traffic stop involving Councilwoman Alesia D. Parson-McBean. Parson-McBean was stopped by a city police officer for driving a vehicle with registration that had expired in November. She was not given a ticket and was instead given a ride by Lt. William C. Wright to the Motor Vehicle Administration office off Sharpsburg Pike to renew her registration.

In explaining the situation, police Capt. Charles Summers previously told The Herald-Mail that members of the council deserve special treatment. Police Chief Arthur Smith, who was on special assignment in Afghanistan and did not return to his post until after the incident, later told The Herald-Mail in an e-mail that he felt Parson McBean should not have been given a ride to the MVA and should instead been given a $60 fine for driving a vehicle without current registration.

During a Jan. 31 council meeting, Cromer said she felt Parson-McBean erred in accepting the ride and Summers erred in asserting council members are deserving of special treatment and in allowing Wright to offer the ride. At that meeting, Councilman Kristin B. Aleshire said he believed the council needs to take a closer look at the city's charter, code of ethics and rules of procedure to both consider changes to the documents and make sure that all members of the council, especially newer members, know what constitutes proper behavior on the part of the city's elected officials.

On Tuesday, council members said they felt the issue revolved less around making new rules and more around making sure that members of the council are aware of the rules.

Councilman Lewis C. Metzner said the council should also consider making changes to the city's charter. He said the council needs to think about requiring a run-off to be held if more than two people run for mayor and the top vote-getter fails to receive more than 50 percent of the vote.

The council delayed taking action on either of the items, opting instead to discuss them at a future meeting.

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