County Council Proposes Eight Amendments

February 10th, 2022

February 10, 2022
County Council Proposes Eight Amendments
by Doug Donley, Alison Donley

In a lengthy work session Tuesday evening, the Cecil County Council considered eight charter amendments and voted to not approve an amendment that would give the Council greater control over the County Executive’s budget.

The County Council considered eight amendments to the charter, the organizing document that defines and structures Cecil County government. Receiving approval were amendments intended to clarify procedures and improve oversight over spending. Charter amendments approved by the Council go to Annapolis for review and are finally submitted to the voters for referendum next November.

The most significant amendment addressed by the Council in this session was a change to the actions the Council can take when reviewing the County Executive’s budget. Currently, the Charter allows for the Council to decrease or delete any item in the budget. The proposed amendment would add the ability to restore funding of a previously requested item if it was accompanied by an equal decrease elsewhere in the budget. It is significant because it goes to the heart of the separation of powers that is defined in the Charter.

Ultimately, the Council chose to not act on this amendment with only two members, Bob Mefley and Bill Coutz approving.

With little discussion, the Council approved two amendments that set out the process by which either a council seat or the office of County Executive is vacated before the normal term of office. In both cases the Council endorsed two distinct thirty day periods – one for the party central committee to nominate three candidates for council consideration followed by a second thirty day period for the Council to make it’s selection.

To address issues that came up in the appointment of the Redistricting Commission last year, an amendment was unanimously approved to appoint members of the commission one month after the county recieves official census data on which redistricting decisions are based rather than a fixed date of April 1st. The amendment further states that members of party central commitees, who are considered elected officials, can not be appointed to the Redistricting Commission.

This matter became the subject of a law suit filed last year by the Chairman of the Cecil County Republican Central Committee at the time. Council attorney Charles MacLeod commented on this.

While MacLeod said that the current wording of the Charter is sufficient and has been upheld in court, the council voted to keep the proposed language.

An amendment that introduces a new subsection to the Charter sets out the configuration of the Ethics Commission. While all Council members agreed that members serve staggered four year terms, there was discussion of how many people should serve on the commission and the role of the group’s egal advisor. The amendment was tabled for further discussion.

The final amendment considered by the council would create a Board of Estimates. It would be responsible for awarding contracts greater than $50K and supervising purchases over $100K. The measure was explained by Council Manager Jim Massey.

The measure was approved unamimously by the Council.

The fate of these amendments will ultimately be in the hands of the voters.

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