City Council Majority Reckless, Irresponsible

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After a bizarre 24 hours, featuring at least two private meetings, the building located on 3rd Street and Baltimore Avenue can now officially be referred to as “Silly Hall” once again.

On Thursday and Friday of last week, City Manager Dennis Dare was forced out of the seat he has held for the last 21 years. Dare was told he needed to resign by the end of the day Friday or be terminated. He eventually resigned with conditions that more than likely will be met.

Having observed the manner in which Dare was ousted and how the council majority orchestrated his removal through private conversations, the public should be outraged and embarrassed by the actions of the city’s leadership.

Council President Jim Hall publicly said Dare was removed because he and his colleagues want to change the management direction of the town. However, Councilwoman Margaret Pillas confirmed that was not truly the reason, telling a citizen it was because Dare would not provide them the information they requested on several occasions. Other council majority members have also privately cited similar insubordination reasons.

If that’s true, and Dare was not following orders or perhaps not providing the information as they wanted to appear, reasonable minds would think some sort of public showing of that fact would have been merited and revealed along the way.

We are not buying the change of management direction line. That’s not the reason Dare was terminated and everyone knows it. The council majority would be wise to disclose the truth because they look like fools today to those of us concerned about facts and reality, rather than fake pretenses and lies all in the name of it’s “a personnel matter.”

Instead, the public is being misled for no reason. The change of direction line was a lie at its worst and cowardice at its best.

This is not about Dare’s job performance. Some people think Dare did an outstanding job. Some believe he did an admirable job, particularly over the last few budget years during tight economic times. Some think he was not an adequate leader at all. It’s inevitable that people will have varying opinions.

The issue here is the entire process has been botched and clearly the council majority has not thought this through. The group simply wanted Dare out, and it’s obvious they put little to no planning into what happens next. That’s incomprehensible and confusing.

The calling of an unusual closed session, without even having legal counsel present, last Thursday led to fears sweeping through all city offices. Department heads suddenly fear their jobs and they still are unaware they are keeping their posts. The employees have no idea who they work for any longer, and they wonder about the next proverbial shoe to drop.

The council majority is responsible for all this consternation. The council could have met and discussed this on a meeting day, and there would not have been all these shockwaves and all the rumors and fears. Instead, there was a baffling urgency.

The council majority’s actions are shameful. Sure, the council has the right to remove the city manager, but it needs to be done professionally, with respect and with good reason.

In all likelihood, the city will be without a city manager well into 2012. Sure, there are reports of a promotion from within, and there are qualified people in place, but any current department head would be foolish to take the job. He or she will more than likely have little to no authority and simply be a council majority puppet.

There’s a new power in Ocean City, and it lies with the council majority. They will have it for the next year, but the chances are none of them will ever be re-elected again when the voters get their chance to weigh in.

The council majority’s actions and decisions were reckless and these officials have weakened and embarrassed the city.

About The Author: Steven Green

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The writer has been with The Dispatch in various capacities since 1995, including serving as editor and publisher since 2004. His previous titles were managing editor, staff writer, sports editor, sales account manager and copy editor. Growing up in Salisbury before moving to Berlin, Green graduated from Worcester Preparatory School in 1993 and graduated from Loyola University Baltimore in 1997 with degrees in Communications (journalism concentration) and Political Science.