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All candidates who attended city council forum allowed to participate

October 03, 2012|By DAN DEARTH | dan.dearth@herald-mail.com
  • Council incumbents Lewis C. Metzner and Ashley C. Haywood werent going to be allowed to comment in the Hagerstown-Washington County Chamber of Commerce forum on Wednesday because they failed to answer a pre-event questionnaire.
By Kevin G. Gilbert/Staff Photographer

Some of the candidates running for Hagerstown City Council wouldn’t have had the chance to participate in a forum Wednesday morning if their opponents didn’t step forward to demand that everyone be given an equal opportunity to speak.

Council incumbents Lewis C. Metzner and Ashley C. Haywood weren’t going to be allowed to comment in the Hagerstown-Washington County Chamber of Commerce forum on Wednesday because they failed to answer a pre-event questionnaire that asked why the Hagerstown business community should support their candidacies.

As a result, they left the room where the forum was held at the Academy Theatre on East Washington Street until candidates Penny M. Nigh and Lauren “Larry” Bayer said they wouldn’t participate unless Haywood and Metzner were invited back in.

Bayer said he considered all of the candidates as friends and wanted them to be treated the same way.

“I told them I was leaving ... It was just a matter of fairness to me,” Bayer said after the forum. “We all had something to say. With failure to respond to a question, I didn’t think it was sufficient not to let a candidate be able to voice his views, particularly when there are groups here that were going to use what they heard today to make endorsements.”

Nigh said she also failed to answer the questionnaire in time, but someone from the chamber called to remind her. She said Metzner and Haywood weren’t extended the same courtesy.

“When I learned two of the other council (candidates) had not answered their question, they were told they could not participate, and I was not comfortable with that at all because I was given an opportunity being lax, if I must say, on my part. I just felt if they weren’t able to participate, then I would have to walk out as well.”

Haywood and Metzner said they took full responsibility for failing to answer the questionnaire on time.

“I’m my own campaign manager, and it would appear that I failed to give it an appropriate RSVP and answer to the chamber, and for that, I certainly apologize,” Metzner said.

Haywood said it was just a misunderstanding and she held no grudge against the chamber.

“I was happy to be able to participate,” Haywood said.

Brien J. Poffenberger, president of the Hagerstown-Washington County Chamber of Commerce, said the chamber sent the candidates the questions weeks in advance so the organization could give the responses to people who attended Wednesday’s forum.

He said the chamber “dropped the ball” communicating with the candidates.

“I take full responsibility,” he said.

Poffenberger said the event was about getting the candidates up in front of people who are decision makers, potential voters and leaders in the community.

“That’s our goal, and that’s what we did,” he said. “When we realized this blip when we first got together (Wednesday) morning, we smoothed it out and everybody who showed up got to sit at the table.”

Eight of the 11 candidates participated in the forum. All five seats are up for grabs during the Nov. 6 election.

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