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Mayor, Council to Appoint 11 to Charter Review Panel

Mayor: City finalizing contract with firm to probe discrimination claims by former employees.

A panel to review Rockville’s charter will comprise 11 members, the City Council decided after a lengthy and sometimes contentious debate on Monday.

Each of the four council members will choose one panel member, whose appointment cannot be vetoed. The mayor and council together will select another five members. Mayor Phyllis Marcuccio will select an 11th member, the chairperson.

Marcuccio last month.

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The appointment process, proposed by Councilman Mark Pierzchala, was a compromise that broke a council deadlock after about 45 minutes of debate.

The commission will examine the city election calendar, term lengths for the mayor and council and the number of members on the council and will make recommendations to the council by the end of the year.

The council will review the panel’s recommendations and decide which questions to put to voters on the November 2013 ballot. The referenda will be nonbinding, and it will be up to the council to decide which changes to make to the charter.

Residents, including , called for appointments to the commission to be made after an open call for volunteers.

Councilman Tom Moore offered a resolution on Monday that called for the council to allow city residents to apply to serve on the panel using procedures prescribed in the city’s “Guidelines and Procedures for Citizen Boards and Commissions.”

Moore on Rockville Patch last week.

Moore’s formal resolution on Monday called for the panel to comprise no more than 15 members. Under Moore's proposal, council members and the mayor would each select three members. Once formed, the panel would select its chairperson.

The council voted 3-2 against Moore’s resolution, with Moore and Pierzchala voting for it.

The discussion was not without controversy. Pierzchala said that when Marcuccio said during a council meeting on April 10 that she had it was a “politicization of the process.”

Moore, when it became apparent that his resolution did not have the votes needed to pass, said that the appointment process amounted to a “power grab by a majority on this Mayor and Council.”

Councilman John Hall disagreed.

“There is no majority on this Mayor and Council,” Hall said. “We’ve proven that with our split votes tonight.”

The council has yet to discuss a deadline for applications, Moore said in an email on Tuesday.

“We have to advertise the position for a set amount of time,” he said. “I expect that we will choose the commission's members very quickly once all the applications are in."

Mayor: City finalizing firm to probe former employees' claims

The council received an update in a closed session on Monday from acting city manager Jennifer Kimball and city attorney Debra Verg Daniel on the city’s investigation into , Marcuccio said.

Marcuccio read a prepared statement during the public portion of Monday’s meeting that said: “They—meaning our acting city manager and city attorney—are proceeding quickly to procure an outside law firm to complete the work. After considering several options they are currently in the process of entering into a contract with a preferred firm.”

In an article in The Sentinel this week, Marcuccio pledged that employees coming forward as part of the investigation would be “protected.”

The Sentinel , ranging from managers who were required to change performance evaluations to racist comments from supervisors.

In an interview with Rockville Patch last week, Councilman John Hall said that the council has discussed what hiring an outside firm would cost, but would not disclose the price tag.

“I think members of the governing body have all been focused on this,” Hall said. Because the matter involves personnel issues it is therefore covered by state law allowing discussions to be held out of the public eye, he said.

“Not to put too fine a point on it: You don’t want to screw it up,” Hall said.

With city managers and employee rights involved, “This is not one where you hop up on the dais and start shooting your mouth off,” he said, adding that the investigation must be “by the numbers.”

Peter Mork May 04, 2012 at 01:17 PM
I am pleased that the Charter Review Commission will include a public call for applications, and changes to the charter will be put to public referendum. The approved resolution is much more transparent.
Joseph Jordan May 04, 2012 at 02:21 PM
There is probably no one way to select members of the Charter Review Commission that would please everyone. Had Councilmember Moore’s resolution passed as written, there would have been nothing to prevent each Councilmember from getting the individuals they originally picked named to the commission. All people had to do was send in an application. I don’t think this is what citizens wanted when they asked for an open, fair and transparent selection process. The solution proposed by Councilmember Hall, and supported by Councilmember Newton and Mayor Marcuccio, was an attempt to avoid what could be viewed as a way to game the system. He suggested all five councilmembers would review the applications and vote on each name selected by each councilmember. While not the perfect solution, it would give more people interested in serving on the commission the opportunity to be considered. Mr. Pierzchala’s proposal to let each councilmember name one veto-proof commission member and have the Council vote on the other five is a compromise, but reduces the opportunity for people to be considered for the commission. Still, it is better than the original resolution. It was nice to see the motion pass unanimously.
Theresa Defino May 04, 2012 at 04:38 PM
Joe Jordan said: "I don’t think this is what citizens wanted when they asked for an open, fair and transparent selection process." Let's make it VERY clear: SOME citizens (and Joe, I do not believe I have heard you support this, but please correct me if I am wrong) have asked for this, most notably RCC and representatives from the Twinbrook Homeowners Association, the mayor was not, and still has not, endorsed an open process except through her vote of the compromise. I believe she only supported that motion because it allowed her to retain her chair selection. The closed session that she hastily called to discuss the commission proved as much. As was discussed during the open mayor and council meeting, the names that some members of the council proposed--supposedly "veto-proof" -- were indeed shot down. Those who played along with the "system" can't now be accused of trying to "game" it.
Theresa Defino May 04, 2012 at 05:00 PM
Also, Councilmember Moore's resolution was about as close to what RCC could have hoped for and had asked for, and it was accepted by the recent of the council except for two changes, but the open call for applicants and a referendum were approved, and we thank him for that. In contrast, no one else put anything forward. We also thank those who truly support openness and transparency.
Roald Schrack May 05, 2012 at 01:45 AM
I hope that sufficient time is now given for a large number of citizens to know that there is an opportunity to serve and to make application for it. The problem will then be how the most able are chosen from the applicants. It would be interesting to know how this is done in an objective manner - as our new city manager is supposedly being chosen. The packing of committees in Rockville to achieve the desired outcome is a dreadful way to govern. The Charter Review Commission empanelled .ten years ago was open to the public and all decisions were based on an intensive consideration of all the facts. The final report is available on the city website. Whatever report that is produced by the present commission should be compared to the report produced 10 years ago.

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