OCEAN CITY — Resort residents visiting Sunfest this weekend will likely be asked to sign a petition to change the city charter to allow for a mechanism to remove Mayor and Council members from office.
The Ocean City lodge of the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) has decided to spearhead the ground effort in collecting signatures for the petition to referendum, hoping to get the charter amendment resolution on next October’s ballot.
Although this weekend will kick off the effort in earnest, FOP members attended Monday’s Mayor and Council meeting and obtained some signatures, including those of Council members Doug Cymek and Mary Knight.
To be a success and place the matter before city-wide voters in the October 2012 election, 20 percent of the registered voters must sign the petition. That would mean 1,310 valid signatures would be needed, based on the October of 2010 voter rolls being 6,551.
If that signature limit is reached and the referendum is passed next October, the proposed charter amendment calls for the allowance of, “A petition requesting the removal from office of the Mayor and Councilmember(s) signed by persons qualified to vote in Town elections equal in number to at least thirty percent (30%) of the average number of ballots cast in the last three (3) town elections, rounded up to the nearest multiple of fifty (50), shall be addressed to the Council and filed with the City Clerk.”
That would mean if the referendum is passed and the public sought to recall certain Mayor and Council members approximately 450 signatures of registered voters would be currently needed, based on the last three election turnout figures.
Attorney Dave Gaskill drafted the charter amendment after taking umbrage with the council majority decision to abruptly remove former City Manager Dennis Dare. Gaskill believes voters need a mechanism in place to hold council members accountable more than just every four years at the polls. The FOP has taken the lead on the signature collection effort, although there are reportedly other groups assisting the cause.
“Like everyone else, I was upset what the council did, and they need to be put to the test,” Gaskill said.
The FOP is no stranger to petition efforts as it was successful in getting the issue of collective bargaining on the ballot multiple times before finally winning the voters’ endorsement.
FOP President Glen McIntyre was not available for comment yesterday, but FOP Past President Mark Paddack has confirmed the lodge’s involvement in the petition drive.
Currently, the city charter stipulates the only way to remove an elected official is due to nonattendance, leave of absence and removal for conviction of felonies and criminal offenses or wrongful acts, disqualification for failing to meet certain requirements, such as island residency, or a death.
Under the proposed charter amendment change, if the required signatures are met to recall an elected official, he or she would have five days to step down or a special election would most likely be held, seeking a yes or no vote from voters.
It reads, “If the petition or amended petition shall be found by the City Clerk to be sufficient, the same shall be submitted with the clerk’s certificate to the Council without delay, and the Council shall, if the elected official sought to be removed does not resign within five (5) days thereafter, thereupon order an election to be on the date fixed by them not less than thirty (30) nor more than forty-five (45) days from the date of the City Clerk’s certificate that a sufficient petition was filed; provided, however, that if any other municipal election is to occur within sixty (60) days from the date of the City Clerk’s certificate, the council may, at its discretion, postpone the holding of the recall election to the date of such other municipal election.”