OC Election Analysis
I would like to congratulate the winners of the Ocean City Mayor and Town Council races. I frequently attend town meetings and when not there in person, I was able to be on many of the Zoom calls thanks to COVID-19. I have witnessed some deep discussions that at times became heated, but I can honestly say that I believe the outgoing council always had the best interests of the residents and vacationers in mind. Losing the institutional knowledge of Dennis Dare will hurt, but it appears that newcomer Peter Buas is prepared to hit the ground running. And if the new Council member Knight is half as good as the outgoing Council member Knight he will be just fine.
I was really happy to watch the candidate forum sponsored by the Coast Dispatch. It was respectful and informative and really showed the voters what people stood for and believed in. The Election Day results were exactly what anyone who watched the debate would have expected. In my opinion, the best four candidates won. While it is satisfying to have the voters agree with me and my choices, I realize that not everyone shares my views. Vocal government critic Tony Christ took the time to share his ideas by letter in the Oct. 30 edition of this paper. Once again, I find his positions to be quite troublesome.
In his letter he refers to Council member James and Council member-elect Buas as “rich kids”. Who cares? What does that have to do with anything? He accuses Dennis Dare of “jumping ship,” not giving any recognition for his 38 years of service to the town at various positions. He calls Council member Knight “fake Mary” and admonishes her newly elected husband as being a blind supporter for the mayor. As for the mayor, he questions his marital status as if anyone really cares. He trashes Council member Gehrig in a rather incomprehensible rant. Lastly, while he may be entitled to his opinion, he may have put himself in the libelous zone when he calls Council member Paddack not only “whacked out” but also a “psychopathic liar.”
Mr. Christ proudly instructed the voters in Ocean City to support the candidacies of Nico Eastman and Daniel Hagen, and a lesser extent for Peter Buas before resorting to trashing him. I am thinking the results of the election show what credibility Mr. Christ has and what the power of his endorsement means. Yet another of the countless reasons I love Ocean City and the vast majority of the people that live here.
If Mr. Hagen and Mr. Eastman really do expect to stay active in Ocean City politics, I would remind them that they are judged by the company that they keep.
Crofton and Ocean City
Council Refuses Again To Release Pier Minutes
I have requested that the city council president of the Town of Ocean City release the minutes of all closed sessions, held by the City Council regarding the deliberations, discussions and negotiations of the Pier Franchise for the period between May 2018 through November 2019. My first request was a verbal request at the work session on June 23, 2020. That request was later denied. On Oct. 17, 2020, I sent a formal written request to the council president, citing Section C-406 of the Town Charter, under the heading, “Rules of order and business; minute books,” which states in pertinent part, “The minute books shall be open to public inspection.” Note that Section C-406 makes no distinction between open and closed meetings of the City Council.
I further cited Section C-404 of the Charter, which states in pertinent part, “Except for those meetings permitted to be closed under state law, all meetings of the Mayor and Council shall be open to the public,…” It is clear from the opinion of the Open Meetings Compliance Board dated June 3, 2020, that all of these closed meetings should have been open to the public.
Maryland’s Open Meetings Compliance Board found that the City Council violated the Open Meetings Act on multiple occasions, stating in part, “…except to the extent that parts of the Council’s closed-door discussions about the pier franchise might have fallen within the legal advice exception, the Council violated the Act at every closed meeting at which it discussed the pier franchise.
The Board further stated, “We find that the procurement exception did not apply to any of the discussions about franchise matters and the legal advice exception seldom applied. We conclude that the Council violated…3-301-the core open meetings requirement-and…3-305-the Act’s prohibition on discussions exceeding the claimed exceptions-during every closed meeting it held on the franchise matters. Although some exchanges between the city solicitor and the Council fell within the legal advice exception, those exchanges were rare, and they did not provide the Council with a basis on which to exclude the public from any closed session in its entirety.”
The Board further wrote, “A public body’s secret creation of committees to address public business that is subject to the Act, coupled with the public body’s secret considerations of that business, at the very least goes against the stated policy of the Act to increase the public’s faith in government.” Particularly relevant is the Board’s citation of the Act’s policy which states, “The conduct of public business in open meetings increases the faith of the public in government and enhances the effectiveness of the public in fulfilling its role in a democratic society.”
The Board concluded that “For approximately eighteen months, the Council excluded the public from meetings that the public was entitled to observe and withheld from the public information that the public was entitled to have.” The Board added: “Finally, we encourage the Council to provide the public with minutes of the portions of the closed sessions from which the public was excluded in violation of the Act.”
In my opinion, Section C-406 does not give the City Council the option to exclude the public from inspecting the minutes of any meeting, especially those meetings that the Compliance Board found that should have been open to the public. I believe that the Council is duty bound by the Charter to allow for the inspection of the minute books.
In a letter to me dated Oct. 29, 2020, M’s Heather Stansbury, Office of the City Solicitor, wrote “The matter will not be readdressed by the Mayor and City Council.” Thus, the council has denied my request for a second time.
I am now appealing to the citizens of Ocean City to put pressure on their local elected officials to do the right thing, and to insist that these minutes be opened for public inspection. What is it that the Mayor and City Council are hiding?
Vincent dePaul Gisriel, Jr.
Holiday Luncheon Planned
Cancer hasn’t stopped, and neither can we. The American Cancer Society’s research advancements are being threatened by the current pandemic. The Society needs us to help them continue to save lives as the leading nonprofit funder of research. One person’s work could save countless lives, and at the Society where nearly 50% of their grantees are women, early in their careers, there is the fear that the next big discovery will be significantly delayed.
As a group of dedicated women, we have the opportunity to fund HER. Through ResearcHERS; a Women Fighting Cancer movement to support female cancer researchers, we will mitigate cancer and enhance the quality of life for many individuals.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we are also finding new ways to engage and overcome our funding challenges. The American Cancer Society’s Holiday Wrappings Fashion Show will therefore be a virtual event. You have an opportunity to become a sponsor, purchase a virtual seat, donate to honor a loved one, purchase a car raffle ticket, or simply donate to researchers.
During our 12-1 p.m. virtual event, we will be highlighting fashions from local retail stores, passing along holiday home decorating tips, holiday cocktail recipes, holiday gift giving ideas, and health tips to help us look and feel our best. Your ticket allows you to privately view our online mini-fashion shows, receive a virtual goody bag, participate in an online auction, and win prizes provided by our most generous business communities. Bring friends together for a “watch party” luncheon in your home, or tune-in where it is most comfortable
and convenient for you. Please consider supporting us by doing whatever you can to help save lives from cancer. We look forward to your attendance and contribution to the American Cancer Society.
Holiday Wrappings Committee