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Council field is narrowed to six

November 29, 2006|by ANDREW SCHOTZ

HAGERSTOWN - In a closed session Tuesday, the Hagerstown City Council eliminated 10 of 16 nominees for an open council seat, including two relatives of current council members.

Mayor Robert E. Bruchey II said the remaining six candidates, who he would not name because they had not been contacted, will be interviewed publicly next week, then privately the following week. The council is scheduled to swear in a new member Dec. 19.

A council seat is open because Kristin B. Aleshire resigned to become a Washington County Commissioner. Tuesday was Aleshire's last meeting.

Sixteen people nominated themselves for the position by Monday's deadline.

The city charter says candidates for a vacated council or mayor seat must have been enrolled, for more than a year, in the same party as the outgoing elected official. Aleshire is a Democrat, so a Democrat must replace him.

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The pool of 16 candidates included Steven R. Cromer, the husband of Councilwoman Kelly S. Cromer, and Gary E. Swartz, the brother of Councilwoman Penny M. Nigh.

City Attorney Mark Boyer said the remaining council members - Aleshire, Alesia D. Parson-McBean and Lewis C. Metzner - eliminated Steven Cromer and Swartz from consideration.

Otherwise, the city's ethics code would have prohibited Kelly Cromer and Nigh from helping to fill the council vacancy, Boyer said.

The code says city officials shall not "[p]articipate on behalf of the City in any matter which would, to their knowledge, have a direct financial impact ... on them or their immediate family."

If Nigh and Kelly Cromer had to excuse themselves from the process, that would have left two council members, not enough for a quorum, a majority required to take action, Boyer said.

After the meeting, Nigh said she wasn't as upset by the exclusion of her brother as she was that the city didn't consider automatically appointing Walter E. "Nick" Carter.

Carter, one of the 16 nominees, finished sixth in the 2005 Democratic council primary - one vote behind Parson-McBean.

Another nominee, Henry R. Renner Jr., finished eighth in the primary, although he wrote on his council application that he ran sixth.

Bruchey said after the executive session that the council will publicly interview the six remaining candidates for 10 minutes apiece on Tuesday.

On Dec. 12, the council will invite finalists - possibly all six - to an executive session for further interviews.

Bruchey said a private meeting is necessary because some questions could embarrass either the candidate or the questioner. The appointment process is more like choosing a new department head than like electing a representative, he said.

Meanwhile, the Washington County Democratic Central Committee invited the 16 candidates to be interviewed Monday. Chairwoman Patricia Heck said the committee hopes to make a nonbinding recommendation to the council.

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