Chestertown charter amended regarding councilmembers’ qualifications

CHESTERTOWN — Without dissent, and following minimal discussion, the mayor and council here on Monday night unanimously adopted a change to the town charter that would allow a councilmember who has served at least two years of their four-year term to complete the term if they move from the ward from which they were elected.

The stipulation is that they must continue to live in the town limits of Chestertown. 

Before a motion was made, First Ward Councilman Tim O’Brien, elected to a first term in November 2021, acknowledged that he would be impacted so he recused himself from the vote.

According to the state Department of Assessments and Taxation online records, O’Brien and his wife on Oct. 31 settled on a home in the Fourth Ward — about a block outside of the First Ward.

Resolution 06-2023, which addressed the section about councilmembers’  qualifications, was introduced at the Oct. 16 mayor and council meeting.

A public hearing was held Monday night during the regularly scheduled meeting.

“This has to do with continuity of government,” Mayor David Foster said as a lead-in to the public hearing Nov. 6

“The question is if an individual moves from one ward to just outside that ward. We didn’t think that it was in the interest of the town or efficiency of government to immediately have to have a whole new election, get somebody else for the remainder of that term,” Foster said.

He said the change was “desirable” from the public’s point of view in terms of continuing with someone they already know and has been representing them.

Foster called it “a relatively minor modification” to the town charter, but one that he strongly felt was appropriate.

No one from the public signed up to speak, but there were a couple of questions from audience members.

They were told that currently, in the case of a change of residency, the ward representative would have to resign and the vacancy would be filled by appointment of the mayor and remaining councilmembers or by a special election.

In answering another question from the audience, Foster said to his knowledge this was the first time that a councilmember moved during their term.

The resolution passed by a 4-0 vote.

Fourth Ward Councilwoman Meghan Efland made the motion. Third Ward Councilman Jose Medrano, who seconded the motion, Foster and Second Ward Councilman Tom Herz also voted “yes.”

The resolution becomes effective Dec. 26.

 

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