OCEAN CITY – Councilman Joe Mitrecic followed his campaign pledge this week when he suggested the city hold a future discussion on re-establishing subcommittees dissolved by the former council majority over two years ago.
At the end of this week’s Mayor and City Council meeting, Mitrecic took the opportunity to share some thoughts with his colleagues and the public as he proposed a future discussion to re-establish a few council committees if not all of them.
Mitrecic rejoined the council after the 2012 election after losing in the 2010 election. He had served two terms including a stint as council president.
The Mayor and City Council organizational meeting following the election in 2010 shocked many as Mitrecic handed over the gavel to former Council President Jim Hall and walked out of the room. Former Councilman Joe Hall made an immediate motion to dissolve all council committees, such as the Tourism and Recreation and Parks commissions.
“During the election cycle of the last two years, we have asked the citizens, voters, and business people to support a smaller, more efficient government,” Joe Hall said at that time. “I make the motion to dissolve all council committees directing Council President Jim Hall to schedule all important business of the city to City Council work sessions and council meetings as he sees important for the smooth running of our world-class family beach resort and home town.’
The council agreed to move the motion to a future work session in order to give the public proper notice on the proposed action. Just a couple weeks later, the majority of Jim Hall, Joe Hall, Brent Ashley and Margaret Pillas passed the motion in a 4-3 vote.
At this week’s meeting, Mitrecic said he has taken some time read over the city charter again and noticed there are a few editorial errors that need to be addressed.
“For example, it must have been written at a time when city clerks were all male and we referred to them as he instead of he/she,” he pointed out.
Mitrecic continued saying over the last four years, the last two in particular, the council has migrated away from the intent of the charter.
“We the council progressively has taken on a more micromanagement direction,” he said. “Ocean City operates under a City Manager-City Council form of government. That means that our day-to-day operations of the town should fall on the shoulders of the city manager, and we should work through him to address issues that have been brought to attention by the public or by the employees of our town.”
Mitrecic said other than the approval of recommendations from the city manager made by the department heads the council should not be involved in the hiring, firing or promotional process of any employees.
“We seem to get ourselves in trouble when we get involved in those. Our job is to set policy for the employees and departments, not run them,” he said. “I would like the council to get back to those ideals written in the charter, and trust Mr. Recor [city manager] and the department heads to run the town on a day-to-day basis.”
Next, Mitrecic made a motion to set in for a future work session discussion of the council committees and commissions. He asked staff members to have a list of the previous committees ready so council members can discuss the viability of each one and the possibility to reinstate some or all.
Mitrecic followed up the motion with an example of the need for committees, such as the Recreation and Parks Committee. On Nov. 27, 2012, the Mayor and City Council held a work session where Recreation and Parks Director Tom Shuster and Recreation Superintendent Kate Gaddis were present to give an update on the departments that included the results of the Ocean City Tennis Center’s 2012 season as well as the approval of the proposed 2013 Surfing Beach Schedule for approval.
The surfing beach schedule ended up not being approved as council members expressed the community’s concerns over the town’s current surfing beach schedule.
Mayor Rick Meehan was then directed to form a Surfing Beach Committee to resolve issues before the schedule is approved.
Before the council voted on the motion, Councilwoman Margaret Pillas recalled why the committees were dissolved in the first place. She stated the difference between three councilmembers sitting on a committee and the department coming before the entire council is that reports and updates are given on camera for all interested parties to view.
“There was no change here, the work still got done, people still had to come, time was still spent, it was just the viewing audience, and the taxpayers got to sit in on the meeting,” she said.
The council voted 6-0, with Councilman Dennis Dare absent, to have a future discussion on the viability of council committees and the possibility of re-establishing them.