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Smithsburg moving closer to ethics ordinance

September 29, 2008|By HEATHER KEELS

SMITHSBURG -- Smithsburg is on track to have an ethics ordinance in place by January, Councilman Donnie Souders Jr. said after a work session on the issue last week.

A representative of the Washington County attorney's office will attend the council's October work session to answer questions about the county's ethics ordinance and how the county has partnered with other towns to provide ethical oversight, Souders said.

Washington County's ethics commission administers ethics ordinances for Hagerstown, Hancock and Williamsport, according to Kirk Downey, assistant attorney for Washington County.

After that meeting, Smithsburg's attorney should be able to provide the council with a draft ordinance to introduce at its regular November meeting and vote on at its December meeting, Souders said.

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The idea of creating an ethics ordinance came up in August after Smithsburg Mayor Mildred "Mickey" Myers cast a tie-breaking vote to reappoint her husband to the town's zoning appeals board, a post some council members said could pose a conflict of interest.

Smithsburg has long been exempt, on the basis of its small population, from a state law requiring municipalities to enact ordinances to govern the ethics of public officials, according to Robert Hahn, executive director of the State Ethics Commission.

Souders has led a push to create an ethics ordinance regardless of the exemption.

In the meantime, the Smithsburg Town Council will have an open work session at 7 p.m. Tuesday in Town Hall to discuss the town's allocation of contracts, Souders said. Public Works Director William Loughridge will be on hand to answer questions about the town's current contracts for services such as mowing, electrical work, snow removal, waste collection and debris pickup, Souders said.

The council will discuss how the current contracts are working out and whether they should be adjusted, Souders said. The issue of which contracts must be put out for bid also might come up, he said. According to the town's charter, all contracts for more than $10,000 must be put out for bid, while jobs for less than $10,000 are negotiated by the clerk/treasurer, Souders said.

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