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Council delays discussion on reimbursement

April 05, 2006|by ANDREW SCHOTZ

A discussion about reimbursing city officials for their expenses was switched from closed session to open session at Tuesday's Hagerstown City Council meeting, but nothing was resolved.

It was one of two topics scheduled to be part of a private executive session.

Councilman Lewis C. Metzner made a motion to discuss only the reimbursement issue in executive session - then announced that he would vote against his own motion.

Metzner explained to his confused colleagues that he purposely wanted the motion to be considered so it could be defeated - which it was, unanimously.

That moved the topic into open session, which Metzner wanted.

Mark Boyer, a city attorney, told the council that Maryland's attorney general has said elected officials can't change their compensation while they are in office.

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Hagerstown has budget lines for council members and the mayor to cover expenses, including travel, related to their positions.

The budget lines were discussed after three council members attended a conference in Charlotte, N.C., in December and the grand total went over their combined expense cap.

Boyer told the council Tuesday that the city has treated those accounts as reimbursement funds for both "official and personal expenses."

"That's not true," Finance Director Alfred Martin replied from the audience.

Amid questions of what constitutes an "official expense" and other fine points, council members agreed to table the discussion, allowing Martin and Boyer to work out their differences.

Boyer and Martin spoke briefly after the discussion was tabled, but Martin said afterward that they needed to talk more.

Martin said the discussion was sparked by an interest in possibly budgeting more money for city officials for "professional development" and deciding what expenses would be covered.

The council did go into executive session on the second topic, which was listed on a meeting agenda as considering "a matter that concerns the proposal for a business or industrial organization to locate, expand, or remain in the State."

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