Council winners didn't violate Md. law State polling rules do not apply in Taneytown vote NORTHWEST -- Taneytown * Union Bridge * New Windsor * Uniontown

May 12, 1993|By Darren M. Allen and Traci A. Johnson | Darren M. Allen and Traci A. Johnson,Staff Writers

The three incumbent winners in Taneytown's May 3 City Council election could not have violated Maryland's electioneering law because the law does not apply to municipal elections, City Manager Joseph A. Mangini and state election officials said yesterday.

"I have an opinion from the state attorney general that clearly indicates that the city does not have any law on electioneering," Mr. Mangini said yesterday afternoon. "The state law does not apply here, either. There was no violation of any law."

On Monday night, unsuccessful council candidate Roger Keller accused Councilmen James L. McCarron, Thomas J. Denike and Henry C. Heine Jr. of remaining too close to the polls on Election Day.

He told the City Council that he believed the state's electioneering law -- which prohibits campaigning 100 to 300 feet from polling places, depending on the jurisdiction -- applied to Taneytown.

He said the incumbents held doors to City Hall open for voters and accompanied voters into City Council chambers, the city's only polling place.

Mr. Heine said he is seeking legal counsel for clarification on the law, but believes he was not involved in anything illegal as he, Mr. Denike and Mr. McCarron greeted voters on Election Day.

"For as much as Roger said he called around and found out about the law, both Tom [Denike] and I called for clarification on campaigning before the election," Mr. Heine said. "We checked with [the city's] election people and the county, so I feel . . . that I was within my right to be there."

"We certainly wouldn't have done anything we knew was breaking the law," he said.

Councilman Denike said he did not want to comment on Mr. Keller's accusations and preferred to leave the matter to the city attorney.

"We need to get back to the business at hand, and the No. 1 concern right now is the budget," Mr. Denike said. "We have to go beyond this and address the problems of the city."

City Attorney Thomas H. Stansfield was on vacation yesterday and could not be reached for comment. However, officials in the Carroll County Board of Elections Office said yesterday that they have no jurisdiction over municipal elections.

Pat Williams, a spokeswoman for the State Administrative Board of Election Laws, said that state electioneering laws do not apply to municipalities, apart from county, state and federal elections.

"The individual municipality goes by its own law," she said.

If a municipality doesn't have a law, the state law does not apply unless the municipality's code specifically says it does, Ms. Williams said.

Mr. Keller, a 46-year-old county maintenance worker, lost the four-way election on a day of low voter turnout. Of the 205 votes cast, Mr. Keller received 70. The other three candidates garnered 151 to 184 votes each.

Mr. Keller vowed yesterday to pursue his claim.

"This is something for a judge to decide," he said. "It's important not to intimidate people at the door. If it's not illegal, it's inappropriate and unethical."

He said he will press the City Council to pass an electioneering ordinance. Mr. Mangini said yesterday the council might address the issue in future meetings.

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