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Hagerstown councilwoman accuses colleagues of holding private discussions

April 25, 2008|By DAN DEARTH

HAGERSTOWN -- An argument broke out Tuesday when Hagerstown City Councilwoman Kelly S. Cromer accused the mayor and her colleagues on the council of holding private discussions about the Doub Farm property.

Phillip Ross of Petrie Ross Ventures, a mid-Atlantic developing firm, has expressed interest in building a shopping center and office buildings on the 140-acre property, which is at the northeast corner of the intersection at U.S. 40 and Interstate 70.

About 80 people attended a public hearing Tuesday to hear Ross discuss the project. Many of the people in the audience were residents who live in that area. A vast majority of the people spoke against the development, saying it would decrease their property values.

During the discussion, Cromer said she had questions to ask Ross in public because Mayor Robert E. Bruchey II and other members of the council discussed the issue in a private session after a work session last week.

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Cromer said she was afraid the questions might never get answered if she didn't ask them publicly. Among the questions that Cromer asked was for Ross to elaborate on 9,000 jobs that he claimed the development would create.

Cromer's accusations raised objections from Bruchey and Councilman Lewis C. Metzner, who said after the meeting he was insulted.

"I do not object to public meetings," Metzner said. "I was disturbed. I presumed it as an allegation we were doing things behind closed doors."

Metzner said Bruchey checked the minutes of the work session in which Cromer accused the council of going into a private session and discovered it was Cromer who made the motion to do so.

Neither Bruchey nor Cromer could be reached for comment Thursday.

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