TANEYTOWN -- County residents advocated placing limits on terms in office for elected representatives and asked the Carroll Charter Board to consider expanding the number of council districts from five to seven or more at a hearing on the charter draft here Thursday night.
The majority of the speakers also supported the charter board's decision to have a county administrator appointed by the council rather than an elected executive. At a Tuesday hearing in Westminster, most speakers advocated an elected executive.
The charter board is writing the document that would become the constitution for Carroll government if approved by voters. The board wants to place the charter on the November ballot.
A charter outlines the structure, powers, duties and limitations of government. It would replace the commission form of government, which has operated in Carroll since 1837, and allow the county to enact local laws rather than going through the state legislature.
About 40 people attended Thursday's hearing. A final hearing will be at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Eldersburg Library, 6400 Hemlock Drive W.
Former commissioner Lou Scharon and Carroll Farm Bureau President Gary Brauning each suggested limiting council members to a maximum of eight years in office. Two charter board members defended the decision to place no limits on terms.
Greg Pecoraro contended that the $7,500 annual salary for council members preserves the concept of a "citizens legislature" and lessens the chance of "professional politicians" staying in office and enriching themselves.
Co-chairman Walt Bay argued that it's the responsibility of the voters to remove from office council members who aren't performing satisfactorily.
Several speakers advocated creating seven council districts to provide better representation. Board member Joe Getty said he'd re-examine maps to develop that proposal.
Taneytown resident Robert Neal said he'd prefer an appointed administrator to run the county. He challenged board member Richard Yates to support his claim that not having an elected executive would be the "fatal flaw" of the charter. Yates responded that voters would not accept an appointed administrator and a system without checks and balances.
Taneytown resident Gene Straub advocated having an elected executive because it would be "more reflective of a democratic government, and that's what we're after."
Committee for Charter Government treasurer William Sraver said change from commission to the council-manager system would represent a "logical transition from chaos to organization."
Several speakers debated the merits of switching to charter and changing Carroll government's structure.
"I'm disturbed that people think Carroll County has had lousy government, but they think Carroll County is great," said Keymar resident Harold Thomas. "I want to know what charter government will do for me that I don't already have."
Westminster resident Dave McDonald said, "My enthusiasm for charter is not because we have poor representation or administration, but because we haven't been empowered."