Hiring A City Manager Would Usurp Power Of Mayor

September 16, 1990|By Amy L. Miller | Amy L. Miller,Staff writer

WESTMINSTER - The City Council proposal to strip the mayor of his power by hiring a city manager would leave Mayor W. Benjamin Brown the only figurehead executive in Carroll.

Although Brown said he supports the idea of a manager, he said he opposes the ordinance -- to be considered Sept. 24 -- because it removes his power to oversee city departments by having the council appoint and supervise the manager.

"The proposed ordinance would remove the mayor completely from the administration of city government," he said.

Town managers in Sykesville, Hampstead, Manchester and Taneytown are appointed by the mayor with council approval. The mayor supervises departments through the manager.

"You might call (the manager) my assistant," said Sykesville Mayor Lloyd R. Helt Jr. "He handles day-to-day functions of the city, and I direct him what to do."

Statewide, the Maryland Municipal League said most towns with a manager eliminate the mayor through council/manager government, but couldn't say whether Westminster's proposal was unusual.

"I would say that it is not unknown, but it is not a majority situation either," said Steve McHenry, MML's senior staff associate for legislative services.

In municipalities where the manager reports to the council, the mayor may have a council vote. Bel Air, Harford County -- which is similar in size to Westminster -- makes the mayor an honorary title.

"The board elects a chairman (among itself) who serves as mayor for ribbon-cutting ceremonies, but all are equal in power," said Joyce Oliver, Bel Air's town clerk.

For towns with council-supervised managers and the where mayor doesn't vote, he may have other powers.

Mayor Curt Lippoldt of Pocomoke City, Worcester County -- population 3,906 -- is the liaison between council and manager.

"I put programs together and put the agenda together for the city council," he said. "My role doesn't have much authority, but it has a lot of responsibility."

However, Kenneth J. Hornberger, the City Council president, said Westminster's proposed set up is necessary to keep the mayor from "meddling."

"It takes away the executive branch," Hornberger said. "(Brown) wants a say in the council and a right to veto, and he's not going to have both."

He said the ordinance relates directly to the council asking for Brown's resignation after a dispute during an April budget hearing. Hornberger also cited the council's long-standing battle with the mayor.

"He doesn't want to keep his hands out," he said.

However, Councilmen Mark S. Snyder and Samuel V. Greenholtz did not see a connection between the two actions.

"When we initially asked for (the mayor's) resignation, we were acting on the spur of the moment," Greenholtz said. "It's a decision we all regret now."

Yet Brown said he has faith the people will restore his power through the ballot box in May when Greenholtz, Hornberger and Snyder are up for re-election.

"I have every confidence that whatever this council votes to take from the mayor, the people will vote to return next May -- by electing three new council members," he said.

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