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Hagerstown likely to continue campaign finance reporting

City Council to vote on introducing ordinance to require municipal candidates to file

September 20, 2011|By KATE S. ALEXANDER | kate.alexander@herald-mail.com

Maryland might not require municipal candidates to report campaign finances, but the city of Hagerstown likely will continue to do so.

The Hagerstown City Council will vote on introducing an ordinance at its Sept. 27 regular session that is a locally amended version of Maryland election law that would require all mayoral and city council candidates to file campaign finance reports with the city.

City Attorney William Nairn said that although the state does not require campaign reporting for municipal elections, municipalities may choose to adopt such a policy.

In the past, when the city ran its own elections, candidates filed reports through the county.

Campaign finance reporting became a topic of discussion for the council this year after the Washington County Board of Elections informed the city that when the county takes over running Hagerstown elections in 2012, it will no longer collect campaign finance reports for city candidates.

County Elections Director Kaye Robucci said previously that the county  accepted, reviewed and maintained the reports for the city and, until recently, other candidates.

"The state has now taken that away from us," she said in May. "All campaign fund reports have to be filed electronically with the state. We no longer accept them."

The state does not want any reports from municipalities, and it has long been that way, she said.

Election board attorney Roger Schlossberg said in May if the county is no longer collecting the reports for the offices for which the reports are required, it won't collect them for the city, either.

Council members have said in various work sessions this year that they want to see campaign finance reporting continue for city offices. The council even discussed keeping the city Board of Supervisors of Elections to collect the reports, but the charter amendment it passed in June removed all references to a city election board, effectively dissolving it.

At its June 14 work session, council members expressed a desire to use the state's guidelines for campaign finance reports.

Nairn said Tuesday that he drafted an amended version of the state's law for the city that removed irrelevant references to lobbyists, contributions referring to state officials and payroll deductions. He also removed references to electronic filing, because the city will not have that capability, he said.

City Clerk Donna Spickler said all reports filed to the city will go through her office. The city will use the state's forms, she said.

The clerk's office, together with other city officials, will review and maintain the reports, according to city documents.

City elections will be conducted by the county elections board starting in 2012.

In its 2009 election, the city asked voters though a nonbinding referendum question if they would prefer changing the general election cycle. Voters overwhelmingly favored the measure, and the city amended its charter in June 2011 to move its municipal election dates to coincide with U.S. presidential elections.

Under the new schedule, the city primary will be held on April 3, 2012, and the general election on Nov. 6, 2012. 

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