OCEAN CITY – The Mayor and City Council voted to move ahead in re-establishing the committees and commissions that were dissolved over two years ago with future discussions promised to set specifics.
Councilman Joe Mitrecic brought up the idea last month to re-enact the committee structure the town had in place prior to the organizational meeting following 2010’s election when the previous council voted to dissolve the groups. The reasoning was to have all city business brought before the Mayor and Council at one place and at one time.
Councilwoman Margaret Pillas claimed this week the commissions were never dissolved but were to be held at regular council meetings.
“What it did was ask all seven council members to be present at the time, along with the mayor, and the public would have input,” she said.
Mitrecic was quick to point out the motion made at the organizational meetings specifically stated the commissions were to be abolished.
“I make the motion to dissolve all council committees in appointment directing Council President Jim Hall to schedule all important business of the city to City Council work sessions and council …,” former Councilman Joe Hall said.
Next Mitrecic pointed out over the past two years there has not been one meeting held with committees and commissions, such as Beach Mediation, the Tri-County Council, Humane Society or the Maryland Coastal Bays.
“These people are not going to come here to meet with us. These are committees that meet outside of the city that we are supposed to be liaisons to and that we do not attend,” he said. “These are all important committees and commissions that we show our involvement in because they all affect our town.”
Over the past two years, the only sorts of discussion held at council meetings that related to the abolishment of commissions was updates given by the Ocean City Police Department and Recreation and Parks Department but the information provided was after the fact and not in real time.
Also, once the Tourism Commission was dissolved, the Tourism Advisory Board (TAB) was created to bring forth recommendations in bringing new events and activities to town.
Mayor Rick Meehan supports the new council’s wish to restore the committees and commissions.
“I believe council is much more productive under the commissions and committee system,” he said. “It allows us to break up into smaller groups and to work on each other’s behalf, that is what’s important … it is also about trust and respecting your fellow elected officials, and the trust that they are going to look out for all of us.”
The mayor furthered that commission meetings have set agendas, are recorded and the chairman of those committees reports back to the entire council to give recommendations.
“The basic committees and commissions … have all been very productive and I encourage you to move forward and establish them … in the forms they were established previously, and as we move forward working with the new city manager if there is anything that we need to do to make changes or make them better that those be brought back to the council,” the mayor said.
Councilman Doug Cymek made a motion to restore the committees and have members of the residential and business communities as well as the council notify the Mayor’s Office to have their appointment considered. Also, the mayor will serve as a member of TAB instead of an ex-officious.
As the vote came near, the discussion heated up as former council majority members Pillas and Brent Ashley voiced their issues.
Pillas questioned who would be responsible to set the agendas of the committee and commission meetings, ultimately accusing the system of being micromanaged.
“You are going back to political cronyism that I think exist on some of these committees,” Ashley said.
Meehan interjected the current council is taking action to move away from the political cronyism that has occurred over the past two years with the former majority.
“Four people talked and voted for two years and I think it is time to change that,” Council President Lloyd Martin said agreeing with the mayor.
Mitrecic took exception to the accusations and reminded that in the years he has sat on committees and commissions the press has been present as well as members of the public.
“We sit up here and do the best job we can and we are honorable people, and for us to be accused of anything else is ridiculous and unacceptable,” he said.
City Manager David Recor assured the entire council that re-enacting the committees is the beginning of the process and future discussions can take place over specifics.
“We can make standing committees of the council an effective way of doing business but there has to be some structure to that,” he said.
Recor furthered that when the subject is revisited certain committees and commissions to be re-established can be confirmed or denied or even new committees can be formed. Also, the specifics as far as responsibilities can be set in stone.
“Those things are not specific in the current charter…we can make this work,” he said.
The council voted 5-2 to move forward with Ashley and Pillas in opposition.