Union Bashing Wrong
I was present for the Oct. 15 Ocean City Council meeting. I found it to be another informative, and sometimes entertaining meeting and worth my 2 ½ hours. However, I was troubled to see the meeting end on a negative note with more union bashing by our town leaders. While I have a ton of respect for Mayor Meehan, I believe he is either uninformed or disingenuous regarding the interest arbitration issue for Career Firefighters/Paramedics.
The mayor has decided to use false scare tactics and to use town resources to fight the referendum. This is unfortunate. Interest arbitration is a last resort, and the only tool left when one side is being unreasonable at the bargaining table. The history with the police in Ocean City is proof. Since gaining interest arbitration in 2003, the police have not used this tool once. Both parties have been able to reach agreement without using it. Credit goes to both the town and police for this cooperation.
The mayor’s claim of interest arbitration being some sort of process where a random guy off the street comes to town, awards the union everything they wish with the result being higher taxes for residents is absurd. This is simply not the case. To imply that because they are elected, that they should have absolute power and control over everything is paternalistic and demeaning to any workforce. The Career Firefighters/Paramedics deserve the same dignity, justice and respect as the police.
Crofton and Ocean City
City’s Letter Opposing Referendum Irresponsible
On Tuesday, Nov. 6, the voters of the Town of Ocean City will have an important charter amendment referendum question to consider. It is whether to add binding interest arbitration to the current collective bargaining agreement between the Mayor and City Council and representatives of the Career Firefighters Paramedics Association, IAFF 4269. I am not going to suggest to the voters whether to vote for or against the ballot question. That is a decision that each voter should make.
However, I am annoyed that our elected Mayor and Council have decided unanimously to send a letter to all Ocean City voters encouraging them to vote against the ballot question. I do not believe that taxpayer money should be spent to persuade the public to vote for or against any specific ballot question. That is an individual choice. Sure, elected representatives are free to express their own personal opinion. That is even helpful for the voting public to know the position of their elected officials, in particular those currently seeking elected office. However, there are plenty of opportunities for those in office to convey and express their individual positions, via the newspapers, TV interviews, statements from their elected seats and so on. But, in my opinion using taxpayer funds for such a mass mailing to voters is wrong.
In October of 1990, the then sitting Mayor and City Council majority opposed the ballot initiative of the Fraternal Order of Police. As I recall, at that time the FOP was just seeking union representation. Binding interest arbitration was not even a part of that ballot question. Seven elected officials signed a letter to the voters dated Oct. 5, 1990, encouraging the public to vote against that referendum question. As a then city councilman, I refused to sign that letter. I believed in 1990, as I believe now, that taxpayer funds should not be used to influence the outcome of any candidate or any ballot question before the voters. The voters of Ocean City are intelligent and can make the right decision for the town. I trust their collective judgment and wisdom.
Vincent dePaul Gisriel, Jr.
Dumser’s Case Heads To Court Next Month
There is a case between the Town of Ocean City and the Rapoport Family (Nathan’s Associates) now awaiting Oral Argument in November in the Court of Special Appeals in Annapolis. A decision will be made as to whether Ocean City will be permitted to take my family’s property located on the east side of Atlantic Avenue near the Inlet where Dumser’s has operated since the 1970’s and which my family has continuously occupied and controlled for more than 106 years. The current attempt by Ocean City to take our property is a repeat of action it unsuccessfully took in 1991. In addition to these two attempts to take our property, the Town of Ocean City, over a period of more than 40 years, has tried to wrest ownership of properties from two other rightful owners.
Case No. 1. I’ll digress for a moment with a little bit of 19th century history. In 1876, Stephen Taber donated 50 acres of land that was to become part of what we currently know as Ocean City. Included in this gift was a parcel/lot at Caroline Street and Atlantic Avenue/Boardwalk. This parcel was deeded to the United States government to be used as a lifeguard saving station. The deed contained a “Reverter” clause, which stated that when the property was no longer being used for that purpose, it was to “revert” back to the Taber family. In the late 60’s, a new coast guard facility was built on Philadelphia Avenue near the Inlet. A group of civic minded citizens put forth the idea that the Caroline Street building could be used as a museum. Council agreed and the building was moved to its present location at the Inlet. The federal government then executed a Quit Claim Deed to the Town of Ocean City for the Caroline Street site and the city subsequently built a one-story building on the site. If memory serves me correctly, the property was then rented. When, in the mid-70’s, the Taber family became aware of the change of use, they politely reminded the city that the property was to be returned to them per the directive in the original deed.
And what did the city do? Despite what was clearly written in the deed, the attorney for Ocean City at that time, Dale Cathell, filed suit against the Taber family. This case was finally adjudicated in Annapolis and the resultant decision was that the city had to return the property to the Taber family. The question could be asked, “Why was the original document misread?” It was Ocean City taxpayers who footed the bill for this attempted “land grab.”
Case No. 2. In the mid-80s, an attempt was made by the Town of Ocean City and its attorney, Guy Ayres, to take the two Windsor Resort/Trimper properties located on the east side of the Boardwalk/Atlantic Avenue just 162 feet from my family’s property. Windsor lost the case in Worcester County, subsequently filing an appeal with the Court of Special Appeals in Annapolis. Windsor won its case in Annapolis, but the city would not accept that verdict. The city then filed with the highest court in Maryland to contest the Court of Special Appeals decision. The high court declined to hear the case and the two properties remain today with the Trimper’s. Again, the taxpayers of Ocean City footed the bill for the four years of failed litigation.
Case No. 3. In May of 1991, the Town of Ocean City through their attorney, Guy Ayres, sent an “eviction” letter to our family. Using a 1966 Agreement between my grandfather and the city as the excuse, they gave my family and Dumsers three months to vacate our property. However, the Sept. 20, 1966 Agreement, drawn by Marcus Williams, the attorney for the city, between Nathan Rapoport and the Town of Ocean City was written for two purposes only — to issue a building permit and to establish a basis for regular real estate taxes to be paid on our property. In prior years, a donation to the fire company in an amount more than the taxes was made.
However, as with the Tabers’ deed, the 1966 Agreement was blatantly misinterpreted by Ocean City and the city essentially said, “Gift us your property.” When our family would not accede to this extortion, a lawsuit was filed in the fall of 1991 by Guy Ayres for the Town of Ocean City with the goal of bullying my family into giving up (with no remuneration) the property that had been in our family for more than five generations. In 1991, 25 years after the 1966 Agreement, the city falsely claimed that it was their right, not ours, to extend the term of the Agreement for an additional 25 years. Judge Eschenburg, in 1992, ruled for our family on summary judgment. Ocean City taxpayers again bore the cost of 15 months of failed litigation.
Case No. 4: The Current Case. In May of 2016, the Town of Ocean City, through its attorney, Guy Ayres, ordered that my family leave our property by Sept. 19, 2016. A property that has been occupied and controlled by my Family since 1912. The May 2016 letter stated that the city was going, “to exercise all legal and equitable rights to protect the public ownership”. However, in the 1966 Agreement, the City clearly stated that our property “is on land that the City does not claim to own but only administers.” Further, the 1966 Agreement does not claim that Ocean City has any easement over our property or that our family had to vacate our property at the end of 50 years or that our family was waiving any of our rights resulting from our undisputed continuous occupancy and control of our property since 1912. If Ocean City claimed any easement over our property, then why in the world didn’t it say so in the 1966 Agreement. The 1966 Agreement is completely silent as to what is to happen at the end of its term. Further, the 1966 Agreement indicated that “the Mayor and City Council shall, commencing with the year 1967 and during each complete calendar year until the expiration of this Agreement, issue to Mr. Rapoport an annual license permit.” However, no such annual license permit was ever issued, and there is a letter from the City Clerk attesting to this fact. Our family has paid state, county and city real property taxes on our property for 53 years through June 30, 2019 and all such taxes have been accepted and deposited by the state, county and the city. Our property is regularly assessed for real estate taxes just like everybody else’s property.
Our current case was heard by Judge Dale Cathell, Ocean City’s former attorney. He stated at the 2017 trial that the city had complied with the 1966 Agreement. However, in 1991 the city did not honor the renewal exercised by the Rapoport family, erroneously claiming that it had the right to extend. The city also did not issue any permits. Judge Cathell ruled for the city and then denied our two motions filed with him to stay his order to “tear down/remove the building by the end of 2017” until our appeal could be heard in Annapolis. The Court of Special Appeals in Annapolis, however, did readily grant our motion and stayed Judge Cathell’s order until our appeal could be heard. This is what will take place on Nov. 8.