OCEAN CITY – Individual appointments were made to serve on the newly re-established committees and commissions this week, but two City Council members have declined to be involved because they continue to feel all business should be conducted in front of the full Mayor and City Council.
At last night’s meeting, Mayor Rick Meehan presented the list of council members and citizens who are appointed to serve on the re-established Mayor and City Council Legislative Committees and Commissions. In late January of this year, the council voted to reinstate the committees and commissions after going two years without them.
Immediately after 2010’s election, the new council majority at that time voted to dissolve the formation of committees and commissions without warning or discussion. The reasoning was to have all city business brought before the Mayor and Council and public at one place and at one time.
After the current council voted to bring the formation of committees and commissions back in play this year, the mayor sent an email to all council members asking for their requests of which groups they would wish to serve on. According to the mayor, by mid-February he had not received a response from Council members Brent Ashley or Margaret Pillas, who were part of the former majority who did away with most of the committees. By the end of the month, the mayor said Ashley and Pillas reported they were not interested in serving on council committees or commissions as proposed.
As a result, the list of 12 committees and commissions will be covered by an individual or combination of the remaining five council members, who are Dennis Dare, Doug Cymek, Lloyd Martin, Mary Knight and Joe Mitrecic, as well as the mayor.
The mayor included that a council chairperson will be chosen for each committee and agendas for these meetings will be prepared by the commission or committee chairperson and the department head. Minutes of these meetings will be taken and placed on the agenda at a regularly scheduled meeting of the Mayor and City Council and reported by the chairperson. All meetings will be open to the public and press, except for when closed session guidelines will be followed.
Ashley reminded the council in November of 2010 the council had voted to have the entire Mayor and City Council serve on the Pension Committee, and in order to appoint individual council members an amendment to the ordinance would have to take place. Meehan responded City Solicitor Guy Ayres had been made aware of that.
“We did not disband,” Ashley said. “We expanded all of the committees to include all members of the council. There was never disbanding of anything.”
A new addition to the list is the Surfing Committee. The idea was originally proposed by Councilman Dennis Dare last November when the Recreation and Parks Department presented the proposed 2013 Surfing Beach Schedule for approval. The schedule establishes two rotating surfing beaches, a street in the north and south end of town, plus the Inlet being open Monday through Friday to surfers.
Dare suggested taking a fresh look at Ocean City’s surf guidelines as complaints have been received and times are changing and asked for a committee to be formed of local professionals within Ocean City’s surfing community to provide feedback.
The council voted 5-1, with Ashley opposed and Pillas absent, to approve the appointment of council members to the committees and commissions, and to approve the establishment of the Surfing Committee and the appointment of its members.
During the portion of the meeting for citizen comments, spokesperson for Citizens For Ocean City Joe Groves looked back to the last election in 2012 when more than 3,000 voters turned out to elect a new direction for the City Council.
“We have that new direction and we finally have our citizen committees back,” Groves said. “These committees will give us the opportunity to brainstorm and work together to improve this town and government.”
Groves recalled the former majority’s purpose to disband the committees and commissions was to bring all business in front of the public eye during council meetings conducted at City Hall. However, all committee and commission meetings have been and will be open to the public, as well as all reports on those meetings are open to the public.
“A short 15 months ago, I stated that a sleeping giant was awakened. I want you to understand that giant hasn’t fallen asleep, is alive and well, and is filled with energy to continue to educate and keep the citizens of this great town informed,” Groves said. “I plead with the two [council members] that will not serve on committees to reconsider. It is your job to serve the people of this town and remember the majority of people in this town asked for a new direction.”
On Tuesday, Ashley and Pillas stated their reasoning for not requesting to serve on commissions and committees is because they serve on the council as a whole.
“I am holding onto what I think is best for the taxpayers. If being open and presenting everything at the same time to everybody reflects on me negatively, I am in the wrong business … I think the micromanagement by government is a negative reflection,” Ashley said. “All city business should be done in the open, on the television, for all public to see and all council members get all the same information at the same time.”
Pillas said her position has also been consistent for the past two years since the former majority asked for the commissions to include the full council while conducting business of the town.
“My point of view is that you have a minority making decisions by serving on the commissions, there is two sometimes three elected officials … and I don’t agree with that,” she said. “The mayor says, with the committees and commissions he will bring everything back to the full council, so I don’t feel in any way that I am not participating.”