Thoughts From The Publisher’s Desk

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The loss of Roland E. Powell Convention Center Director Rick Hamilton is significant on at least two fronts.

First, it further shakes up a city already dealing with significant job openings amid job security questions among some.

Aside from the city manager post, which is currently being manned by the mayor as the search process plays out, there’s also the city clerk position that remains unfilled and now the convention center director.

Additionally, it’s worth remembering Planning and Community Development Director Jesse Houston plans to retire next September, but word is there may be some sort of merging of the planning, building and zoning departments that could lead to an in-house leader assuming more responsibilities. If that’s true, a long outside search may not be necessary in that case.

Secondly, Hamilton’s departure is noteworthy because of his previous experience in bookings of special events similar to what’s expected at the city’s new performing arts auditorium, which Hamilton is credited for figuring how to squeeze 1,200-seat center in the convention center expansion plans.

On the latter point, the good news is the performing arts auditorium will not be open until 2014, assuming no funding hurdles surface causing further delays. However, the city will need to replace Hamilton with someone familiar with the booking process and hopefully a candidate with some contacts of note in the entertainment industry.

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TOO LATE TO PRINT: As promised, we have been following the situation involving a series of late-night phone calls placed by a local resident to members of the Ocean City Mayor and Council. Charges finally came yesterday.

Amy Lee Durham, 39, of Ocean City, has been charged with three counts of telephone misuse after reportedly making threatening or harassing phone calls to at least two members of the Ocean City Mayor and Council.

Last month, Councilmen Joe Hall and Brent Ashley confirmed they received calls in the middle of the night from an unknown number. They said the caller blocked the phone number from appearing, but Ashley characterized them as “threatening” while Joe Hall referred to them more as “harassing.”

The incidents were immediately reported to the Ocean City Police Department, which then alerted the State’s Attorney Office, which contacted Verizon and was able to obtain the phone number and traced it to Durham.

According to court records, Durham was charged Thursday with two counts of telephone misuse/repeat calls for the incident on Oct. 4. Another count is attributed to an incident on Oct. 5.

Durham is part of Ocean City Mayor Rick Meehan’s extended family. Meehan could not be reached for comment yesterday afternoon.

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This week’s discussion at City Hall regarding Hurricane Irene was worthwhile, although I found it odd that the state needed to be involved in it.

It seems to me Ocean City officials could have justified all the decisions that were made without any backing from the state and that all the local parties involved could have discussed this without a high-ranking state emergency official being present.

Either way, most significant out of this entire discussion is the realization that mistakes were made on the communication front, and all parties seem intent on learning from them.

It’s true that the city’s press release was not entirely clear and that information disseminated by the contact number at Emergency Services was not consistent. It’s also true that police were incorrectly warning folks the power was going to be shut off during the storm, leaving many scrambling to secure their perishable products and others simply angry at the prematurity. Delmarva Power has confirmed there was no plan to shut off power unless flooding became extremely serious. Without question, there were communication issues, and there were lessons to be learned with the city’s handling of Irene. The best result could be the creation of the proposed joint information center, which would serve as ground zero for storm-related information in the future.

No matter if it’s a cop on the street corner, the mayor, a council member, a paramedic or a public works employee clearing trash cans, the message has to be the same, and it wasn’t in this case.

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It’s noteworthy to me that public schools in Worcester and Wicomico counties, and it appears all other schools systems in the state, do not close for Veterans Day. However, they do shut down for Presidents Day and Martin Luther King Day. There’s no disputing the closure for the civil rights pioneer, but I would take issue with closing for Presidents Day but not for Veterans Day. A real argument could take place if schools were shuttered for Columbus Day but they are not.

However, inside the schools, it’s apparently not a big deal, as one teacher told me it’s a chance for an appropriate and timely civics lesson for his students.

One comment on “Thoughts From The Publisher’s Desk

  1. Yep, and guess who’s cell phone account the calls were made from? I also agree, what a disgrace our own emergency director couldn’t speak on the town’s behalf. Is that a hint on just what lies ahead for him? ummmmmmmmmmm, you read it first here.

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