Bethany council discusses committee size

Anyone can attend Bethany Beach committee meetings to offer input but they don’t necessarily have to be a part of that committee, town council members ultimately agreed in a workshop Monday.

Council limited the number of associate members — non-voting — in a committee to two Monday unless the committee chair decides otherwise. Council members agreed to that change to the guidelines for establishing a new committee at Monday’s workshop but the new rule will not be official until they vote at the 7:30 p.m. council meeting tonight at town hall.

No more than nine members are allowed to sit on any committee unless “otherwise designated by Town Council,” according to the guidelines.

“It’s not like people who aren’t members of the committee … were not heard,” Councilman Jerry Dorfman said Monday. “We had people in the crowd that were heard from. (But) if you have too many members it can get unwieldy.”

Dorfman’s opinion stood as the majority one Monday but not after some argument. Steve Wode and Tracy Mulligan argued that the number of a committee’s associate members should be left wholly to the discretion of that committee’s chairperson.

According to the guidelines, associate committee membership allows town employees, minors and people who are not qualified voters in Bethany Beach to serve. Regular, voting members of a committee must be “qualified” (eligible) voters in the town. Associate membership is particularly beneficial for town employees, who regularly serve on committees, and experts in the committee’s field of interest.

“I don’t see any reason to put a limit on a committee,” Mulligan said.

Wode cited the Intergovernmental relations committee as one that could benefit from more outside participants when discussing issues such as Route 26, a comprehensive plan and beach replenishment.

“There are a lot of people that should be involved,” Wode said. “I think it ought to be up to the chair with town council approval. The committee becomes unwieldy when there’s no assignment of responsibilities.”

With Monday’s re-write, chairpersons will be able to add associate members, —and voting members — with approval of town council, if they deem such a move necessary.

Wode even argued Monday, though, that the number of voting members should be determined solely at the discretion of the committee chair — a move that was un-favored and struck down.

“Having served on committees for 40 years … if a committee exceeds a certain size, it flounders,” Councilman Tony McClenny said. He and others added that the chair can ask for more members, anyway. “I would suggest that nine is a reasonable number.”

Council members, all of whom were in attendance on Monday, continued the hour-long debate about the new committee guidelines, mostly debating petty word changes and arguing semantics.

In the definition for a committee, for instance, the guidelines read that the committee’s purpose is to “serve in an advisory role to town council.” Wode said that town committees make recommendations to town council, arguing that this was not clear in the guidelines’ definition. The difference between registered and qualified voters was also debated and changed. Anyone vying for a voting committee spot now must be a “qualified voter” before being considered for the post.