OCEAN CITY – The general employees of Ocean City have earned a spot on this fall’s ballot as voters will decide their right to collective bargaining in the next general election in November.
According to City Clerk Kelly Allmond, on June 28 Gregory DeMarco of the Ocean City Employee Coalition served the City Clerk’s Office with a petition entitled “Petition for Town of Ocean City Charter Amendment for Fair and Equal Representation Rights For The General Employees of the Town of Ocean City”.
On July 9, the Board of Elections Supervisors convened to review and verify the results of the petition and during Monday night’s Mayor and City Council meeting Board of Elections Supervisor Vicky Barrett read into the record a letter of Certification of Petition Results written by Board of Elections member Mary Adeline Bradford.
The letter reveals that 2,362 petitioners signed the petition, 783 signatures were deemed invalid for a variety of reasons and 1,579 signatures were legitimate.
The code of Maryland requires the number of signatures needed for a charter amendment referendum is 20 percent of the number of registered voters on the voter roll at the time the petition is submitted.
There were 6,039 registered voters on the roll at the time the petition was submitted and 20 percent of that number is 1,208. Therefore, the petition has far exceeded the required number of signatures.
Out of the 783 invalid signatures, 18 were invalid due to incomplete addresses, 52 were invalid due to circulators error, 216 were invalid as duplicates and 497 were invalid because they could not be verified as municipal registered voters.
City Solicitor Guy Ayres explained that the Mayor and City Council had some choices to make in their course of action. First, they had to vote to accept the petition, and then decide to legislatively enact the general employees’ right to collective bargaining or submit the question to the voters by placing the referendum on the ballot wither in the general elections in November or hold a special election.
Ayres furthered that the question to be placed on the ballot would come down to “whether the general employees of the town can have collective bargaining just as the Ocean Police Department (OCPD) does, and the fire fighters and EMTs. The only difference is the OCPD has binding interest arbitration, the fire fighters and EMTs do not, and the general employees are not seeking that.”
The council voted unanimously to accept the petition followed by a second unanimous vote to place the referendum on the ballot at the next general election in November.
On July 1, Ocean City Employee Coalition member Barbara Dahan submitted the following statement on the petition.
"We would like to say thanks for the support from the people of the Town of Ocean City. The Ocean City Employee Coalition has submitted signatures to place on the ballot this fall an amendment to the Town Charter that would provide fair and equal representation rights for all Town employees,” she wrote. “We feel that the question of our representation should be decided democratically by the voters of Ocean City and because of the support we have received in the signature gathering process, the voters will now have the opportunity to decide. Having representation rights would grant us the ability to work together to make Ocean City a better place to live and work. We care greatly about the Town of Ocean City and providing the best possible services to the citizens."
Last month Dahan recalled it was a couple of years ago when city employees began to look toward collective bargaining when the council initiated talks about making personnel salary and benefits cuts to cut city expenses.
The council made some more serious moves last year by changing pay scales and benefits for new employees and that is when city employees reached out to the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) and Maryland Classified Employees Association (MCEA) for assistance.