Board wants an expert to write the rules for home rule

February 02, 2007|by TARA REILLY

WASHINGTON COUNTY - A Washington County home rule board said Thursday that it wants a consultant from Carroll County, Md., to help the group write a county charter.

The Charter Board for Washington County voted unanimously to hire Victor K. Tervala, an attorney and home rule expert who has written the book "Home Rule Options for Maryland Counties." Tervala attended the meeting and spoke about the preliminary steps to writing a charter.

Board Chairwoman Jeanne Singer said final approval on whether to hire Tervala is up to the Washington County Commissioners. The matter is on the agenda for the Feb. 13 commissioners meeting, Singer said. The commissioners have $12,000 budgeted for a consultant.

The nine-member charter board is in the early stages of the estimated 18-month charter process. The charter would serve as the governing document for the county if approved by county voters.


A change from the commissioner form of government to charter home rule would lessen the county's dependency on the state in creating some local laws, county officials have said.

For example, Tervala said the salaries of the commissioners could be set locally under charter home rule, rather than being set by state lawmakers, which is the current procedure. Creating new taxes, however, is typically a power a charter wouldn't have, he said.

"In general, it's no new taxes," Tervala said.

It'll be up to voters to decide in an election whether to approve the charter.

County officials had hoped the charter would be ready for the Nov. 28 general election, but Tervala said a special election might be needed.

If a charter is approved, the commissioners title would change to the county council.

The charter could include whether the county should have an elected county executive; how many members should sit on the county council; and whether the council should be elected by district, at-large or both, Tervala said.

More information about charter home rule can be found by accessing the board's Web site at

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