Fenwick Island’s new town council members on Friday, Aug. 27, took to the dais for their first regular council meeting since being elected Aug. 7, and they got right down to business.
With only one council member, Vicki Carmean, remaining from the former council following the election of four new members and the resignation of the other two incumbents, Carmean, as the new council president, opened the meeting with a short statement.
Most of the meeting revolved around actions the council needed to take in the wake of those resignations, as well as the related ones of the town manager, the town solicitor and many members of town committees. All of the resignations occurred after the town election Aug. 7 in which the four newcomers swept incumbents out of office following a contentious election.
One of the first actions taken by the newly elected council was to rescind their predecessors’ rules on public participation during council meetings, which had been limited to two minutes per person, with a total of 30 minutes dedicated to public comments at the end of each meeting.
“All of the old rules are gone,” Carmean said.
There is now no time limit on public comments, either overall or for individuals. Carmean said, however, that “after five or six minutes, if you’re not done speaking, we will leave it up to council what we want to do — whether we want to defer it into another meeting, whether we want to refer it to a committee or just thank you for your thoughts.”
As a demonstration of the new rules, Carmean asked for public input before the council approved the minutes from the July council meeting. Under the Aug. 27 resolution, public comments will be taken before the council takes action on any topic.
Addressing the recent resignations of members of town committees, council Secretary Natalie Magdeburger said, “There are a number of committees that do not have any members, or just a few.” Therefore, Carmean said, the council is suspending activity by most town committees “until we have a chance to review [new] applications.”
A member of three town committees, Charlie Hastings, used his public comment time to announce that he was resigning from three town committees — Budget, Audit and Dredging.
Carmean mentioned two committees — Charter & Ordinance and Audit — that would be filled by “rolling acceptances” as applications come in, since the issues those committees address often need action in a timely manner.
Likewise, Carmean said, the process of hiring replacements for Town Manager Terry Tieman and Town Solicitor Mary Schrider-Fox would begin immediately. Both resigned following the Aug. 7 election. The council discussed the need to fill the two positions during an executive session and voted to proceed following that closed council session.
Meanwhile, the new council members have been meeting with town employees to learn about each of their positions and responsibilities, Carmean said. In order to comply with Freedom of Information Act rules regarding council activity, the new council members have been meeting with the employees “two or three at the most” at a time. “At no time were there four together,” she said of the council members.
Magdeburger commended the staff for pitching in during the transitional period.
“I know it was a very unsettling and there was a little chaos in the beginning of things,” she said, “but you guys were amazing.”
The council also voted to restore the phrase “Quiet Resort” to the town seal. Carmean said it had been removed from the seal “three or four years ago.” Also, in what Carmean called “a measure of good will in the community and to bring the community together,” the council members passed a resolution regarding ethics, transparency and fostering good relations between the Town and all members of the community.