Myers urges county commissioners to move on charter home-rule board

July 13, 2013|By KAUSTUV BASU |

In late June, Del. LeRoy Myers sent a letter to the president of the Washington County Board of Commissioners requesting that the body appoint a board to draft a proposed framework for charter home-rule government.

“I ask to move in a reasonable but expeditious manner to appoint this board to get this on the ballot in November of 2014,” Myers  said in another letter dated June 25 to County Administrator Gregory Murray.

Myers, R-Washington/Allegany, sent the letters the week after he held a breakfast meeting in Hagerstown to promote the idea. At the time, Myers said he hoped that commissioners would discuss the issue in late June or early July.

But that hasn’t happened.

Terry Baker, the president of the board of commissioners, said Tuesday that the commissioners would likely decide on how to proceed in the next few weeks.

James Jenkins, a spokesman for the county, said in an email that the “County Administrator will be bringing it up at a future Board of County Commissioners meeting.”

Myers, who announced in May that he will not seek re-election to the Maryland House of Delegates in 2014, said recently that he was pushing the idea because it would enable the county to make decisions locally and bring government closer to the people.

Washington County currently has a county commissioner form of government.

Myers said this week he was optimistic that the commissioners would move forward with the process. He said it might take a charter board nine months or so to come up with a proposal.

“We will still be in time for the 2014 election cycle,” Myers said.

Myers said he discussed the issue on the phone this week with U.S. Rep. John Delaney, D-Md.

“I believe Washington County should revisit the (charter) home rule issue and I commend Delegate Myers for his leadership on this issue. Washington County has grown by 21 percent since 1990 and we need to continue to strive for best practices moving forward,” Delaney said in an email message.

“While we need to see the design of the charter and ultimately it will be up to the voters to decide, I support any measure that gives Washington County a stronger voice,” Delaney said. “Last year Frederick County adopted a charter government and because of its similarity, I believe Washington County would likely accrue many of the same benefits.”

Three previous efforts to establish charter home rule in Washington County were defeated by voters in 1977, 1988 and 2008.

Eleven counties in the state either have charter home rule or have voted to adopt such a form of government. Six counties have code home rule, while six others, including Washington County, have a county commissioner form of government.

Under the Maryland Constitution, county commissioners can select charter board members, but voters “have the opportunity to petition consideration of other candidates. If petitions meeting the requirements of law are received, charter board membership is determined by the voters,” Jeanne Bilanin, associate director at the Institute for Governmental Service and Research at the University of Maryland in College Park, said previously in The Herald-Mail.

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