Town of Forest Heights, MD
Prince George's County
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[HISTORY: Approved 3-15-2006, effective 3-15-2006; amended in its entirety 5-16-2012 by Ord. No. 07-12, effective 6-15-2012. Subsequent amendments noted where applicable.]
Purpose. The purpose of this Article is to set forth the practices, procedures and requirements for all Town-appointed bodies serving the Town and to further prescribe certain legislative practices and procedures of the Mayor and Council. Every board, committee or other appointed body shall have a specific statement of purpose and function as approved by the Council or otherwise prescribed by law. Unless otherwise prescribed by ordinance or resolution, the size of each body shall be dictated by its duties and responsibilities as determined by the appointing authority.
Scope. Unless otherwise provided elsewhere in this Code, the Town Charter or by applicable resolution, the provisions of this Article shall apply to all boards, commissions, committees or other appointed bodies established by Charter, separate legislation of the Council, or by order of the Mayor.
Definitions. The following definitions shall apply to this Article:
The Town Council or, in the case of task forces, the Mayor.
A standing group of persons with managerial, supervisory, governmental or investigatory functions and expressly delegated power.
An ad hoc or standing group of persons directed to perform some duty and often may act in a quasi-judicial or planning capacity or otherwise serve to recommend some action to the Council.
An ad hoc or standing body or individual to whom either the Mayor or Council has delegated or committed a particular duty in the expectation of its act or recommendation being confirmed by the appointing authority. A committee's purpose is solely advisory in nature.
A committee of the Council with its voting membership limited solely to the elected members of the Town Council.
An ad hoc body or person appointed by the Mayor to study or work on a particular subject or problem relating to the administration of the Town government or an executive function. A task force will cease to exist upon completion of its charge as given by the Mayor.
All members of the Town Council of the Town of Forest Heights, and the officers, employees, and appointees of the various boards, committees and other appointed bodies, and all other persons shall abide by the rules, policies and practices stated in this Article or by any other duly approved ordinance, resolution or order to ensure the proper conduct of Town business, proper administrative interaction with agencies outside of the municipality, and proper administration of employees, appointees and bodies of the Town of Forest Heights.
Appointment of Council committees. Within 30 days of taking office, the Mayor shall establish, at a minimum, four standing oversight committees to include, Ways and Means, Finance, Public Works and Sanitation, and Public Safety, and shall appoint Chairs with the approval of the full Council from among the sitting Council persons to each of these committees. These Council committees shall provide oversight of an advisory nature in their respective areas. Unless otherwise stated in this section, the standing committees of the Council shall include as members (voting and nonvoting) only elected and appointed officials of the Town. The Mayor from time to time may further appoint with consent of Council certain ad hoc committees of the Council. Appointment of Council members or other ex officio Town officials to a committee of the Council shall not be deemed a violation of the dual office or position prohibition found in Section 33-71 of the Town Charter.
Council's powers should Mayor fail to appoint. Should the Mayor for any reason fail to establish the standing committees as stated in Subsection A or appoint the Chairs as provide in Subsection A within 30 days of taking office or should the Mayor fail to fill the vacancies in the Chairmanship positions within 30 days of any vacancy, the full Council may fill such vacancies within the four standing committees enumerated in Subsection A from among its members except that the Mayor shall not be appointed to any of said Chairmanship positions, but the Mayor may participate as an ex officio member of any committee of the Council.
Governance and responsibilities of appointed bodies.
Reports. At each Council meeting a report from the standing or ad hoc committee of the Council or any other appointed body shall be made by the Chairperson or other designee when requested, and staff assistance to a committee or other body shall be assigned by the Mayor.
Council committees. Except as otherwise stated in this Article, no committee of the Council shall consist of more than three Council members but may include officers, employees or other professionals or consultants to assist the voting members.
Authority. Unless otherwise provided by law or resolution, a committee or other appointed body shall not have any authority to act on behalf of the full Council, nor shall such committees or other appointed bodies conduct hearings or take testimony or public comment unless specifically authorized by resolution of the Council or as permitted by other law.
Appointment procedures. Except for Council committees appointed pursuant to Subsections A and B, other appointed body vacancies shall generally be advertised in the Forest Heights News and posted at the Forest Heights municipal building. Any interested person or stakeholder is encouraged to submit an application to the Mayor and Council in care of the Town Clerk. From time to time when appropriate, after applications have been received, the following selection process shall occur:
[Amended 6-5-2014 by Em. Ord. No. 06-14]
Copies of applications shall be distributed, and the Mayor may further recommend Chairpersons of mayoral task forces for Council approval. Committee and other appointed body members shall be approved by the Mayor and Council from among the applications submitted. Except as otherwise stated in this Article or other law, committees and other appointed body members shall choose their own Chairperson.
Short interview meetings (i.e., 10 to 15 minutes) may be scheduled with the Town Council.
The Town Council shall decide shortly thereafter who shall be appointed to any vacancies or positions. The individuals shall receive from the Town Clerk notification of their appointments along with any relevant background material regarding the appointment.
Applicants who are not appointed will be so notified and advised that their applications may remain on file for consideration should future vacancies occur.
Without further legislative action, the Mayor, when deemed appropriate, may activate and appoint members, with approval of the Council by motion entered into the journal, the following ad hoc, standing, or advisory committees or bodies:
[Amended 2-1-2016 by Ord. No. 01-16]
Annexation and 210 Corridor Planning Commission;
Beautification and Appearance Committee;
Cable TV Commission;
Charter and Ordinance Committee;
Communications Committee;
Community Surveillance Cameras Committee;
Economic Development Committee;
Emergency Preparedness Committee;
Environmental Concerns Committee;
Forest Heights Day Committee;
Housing and Community Needs Committee;
Neighborhood Watch Committee;
New Sidewalk Project Committee;
Newsletter Committee;
Plus 60 Committee;
Public Safety Advisory Council;
Scholastic Achievement;
Special Events Committee;
Stormwater Drainage Upgrade Commission;
Strategic Planning Commission;
Streetlighting Committee;
Sustainability Planning Commission;
Youth Advisory Committee;
Youth, Parks and Recreation Committee; and
Youth Theater Committee.
Compensation and budget.
Appointed members shall receive no compensation, although they may be reimbursed for actual expenses incurred in the performance of their duties in accordance with appropriations for the various bodies or purposes as made by the Council.
In general, an individual board, committee or other body often may not have a budget. If a board, committee or other body anticipates a need to expend funds not currently budgeted, it may request funds through the Mayor's office. Such a request is subject to a review and evaluation of need, availability of funds, and approval by the Council. For those bodies having budgeted funds set aside for their purposes, no contract shall be entered into without approval of the Council and no expenditures shall be made without approval of the Mayor or Council as authorized by law.
Qualifications. Except for mayoral task forces, the Mayor shall appoint, with the consent of Council, all members of any other appointed bodies created by ordinance, this Article or resolution unless otherwise prescribed by law. Unless prescribed otherwise by Charter or other law, all bodies shall have appointees who shall meet the following qualifications for appointment: i) A member shall be a resident of the Town or a nonresident stakeholder; ii) With the exception of a young adult or youth member of the Youth Advisory Committee who shall be permitted to take a leave of absence to accept a summer job with the Town, a member shall not be a person employed by or under contract to the Town except as a non-voting liaison; iii) Except for Council members serving on Council committees, a member may not currently serve on any other Town board, council, committee or other appointed body, including ad hoc committees or task forces; and iv) A member shall not be a convicted felon, or be a party to a lawsuit currently pending against the Town for monetary damages unless otherwise waived by a unanimous vote of the full Council. For the purposes of this section, a "stakeholder" shall mean a person having an interest in or affiliation with the Town as determined by the appointing authority.
[Amended 6-5-2014 by Em. Ord. No. 06-14]
Terms of appointment and removal. Unless otherwise prescribed by law, the terms of appointment for the various appointed bodies shall generally be one year; however, certain appointments may be for two years. The appointing authority shall make appointments such that the terms are staggered to the maximum extent possible. Whenever new bodies are formed, or new appointments are made to replace resigning members, approximately half of the initial appointments shall be for shorter one-year periods. Task forces formed for specific purposes do not have terms and exist only until their purpose is accomplished. The following requirements shall also apply to terms of appointment, and removal or suspension of members:
Upon appointment and as a condition thereof, an appointee shall take and subscribe to the oath or affirmation of office as provided for in Section 33-84 of the Town Charter;
Prior to the expiration of a member's term, the Town Clerk shall send a letter to the individual with a survey form, notifying the member of the impending term expiration and requesting if the member would like to serve another term. The Mayor and the Council shall be provided with the member's response. Members who are interested in being reappointed shall be considered along with other applicants;
Members are free to resign at any time, should their personal circumstances prevent continued effective service. A letter of resignation or other writing shall be submitted to the Mayor and Council in care of the Town Clerk but the resignation shall not become effective until approved by the appointing authority; and
Excessive absenteeism, excluding short-term illness or necessary travel, is cause for removal of a board, committee or other non-elected body appointee. Unless otherwise prescribed by law, a body's appointee may be removed from office for cause or without cause by the Mayor with the consent of Council. A member of a task force may be removed from office for cause or without cause solely by the Mayor. Unless otherwise prescribed by law, a member of any appointed body may be suspended from office by the Mayor for any reason or no reason whatsoever until such time as the Council decides to lift the suspension or remove the appointee from office. Notwithstanding any provision of this subsection regarding suspension or removal to the contrary, any charter violations, pending criminal charges or criminal convictions involving an appointee shall be governed by Section 33-93 of the Town Charter.
Meetings. Unless the appointing authority declares otherwise, the Chairperson shall be chosen by the appointed body and shall be responsible for setting the proposed meeting agenda, unless the body decides on another procedure. A Councilperson shall be assigned to coordinate with each body and shall assist in drafting the agenda, scheduling meetings, and in the preparation and distribution of meeting materials. The following operating policies and procedures shall also apply:
[Amended 6-5-2014 by Em. Ord. No. 06-14]
Except for those boards, committees and other bodies that have adopted their own rules of procedure and unless otherwise specified by law, the most recent edition of Robert's Rules of Order shall generally be followed when conducting meetings;
All board, committee and other body meetings shall be open to the public after reasonable notice is given and conducted in accordance with the State of Maryland's Open Meetings Law. A body may convene in closed session only for those reasons set forth in State Government Article, § 10-508(a) of the Annotated Code of Maryland and a body should consult with the Town Clerk prior to a consideration of so doing;
Certain bodies may have standing meeting times, while others may meet on an as-needed basis. Unless otherwise prescribed by law, each board, committee or body may meet as frequently as necessary to carry out its responsibilities. A body may also cancel a meeting from time to time if there are no agenda items in need of consideration or if a quorum cannot attend. A quorum for conducting business shall be a simple majority of the membership of the board, committee or other body;
With the exception of meetings where transcripts are required, the minutes should be brief and essentially reflect decisions, motions, votes and recommendations of the body. A copy of the minutes should be sent to the Town Clerk for custodial purposes, who shall forward a copy to the Council; and
The Council recognizes the importance of civil discourse at all levels of the government including those who volunteer their time and services on behalf of the town. Boards, bodies and committees should conduct themselves so as to maintain public confidence in their local government and in the performance of the public trust. They should strive at every meeting to treat every person fairly and with respect. In turn, it is expected that those members from the community attending Town board, body or committee meetings will display respect to the public, board, body and committee members and Town staff. Professional respect does not preclude differences of opinion but requires respect for those differences and the people who express them. Everyone should strive for civil discourse on all matters. Disruptive behavior may result in removal by the Chair of any person responsible for such behavior.
Summoning witnesses; requiring production of papers; refusal to obey summons.
The Town Council, through the Town Clerk, and any of its standing or ad hoc committees, through its Chairmen and with the consent of the full Council, may summon and require the testimony of any witness and require the production from any witness summoned of any paper or other thing which may be of value or interest in any hearing which is ordered by the Town Council or any committee of the Council.
Any person who is summoned under this section and fails to appear, or who refuses to testify or produce such papers or other things as directed or who is otherwise guilty of disrespect to the Town Council for failure to comply, or any of its committees, during any hearing before them, shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and may be fined $1,000 and/or imprisoned for a period not to exceed one month.
Member liability. Members of a Town-appointed body are considered municipal officials, regardless of whether they receive compensation. Subject to certain exceptions and limitations, state law allows a municipality to indemnify its officials and employees from personal financial loss, while acting in a discretionary capacity, without malice, and within the scope of the official's authority. The Town has purchased various liability insurance policies for this purpose and intends to indemnify its duly appointed committee, board and other body members in substantially the same manner as its other appointed and elected officials.
Use of Town Attorney. The Town Attorney provides legal services to all Town departments, boards, committees and other bodies upon request of the Mayor or Council. Unless the matter involves an alleged violation of the Town's Ethics Ordinance, a board, body or committee Chair shall make a formal request to the Mayor for approval to confer with the Town Attorney. The Town Administrator shall coordinate and submit the request to obtain legal advice with the Mayor or Council. Except in an emergency or ethics complaint, the board, body and committee members may not contact the Town Attorney directly. The request submitted to the Mayor or Council must include the subject matter of the legal advice requested and any written materials to provide background information for the request. With certain exceptions, questions presented to and advice received from the Town Attorney are ordinarily protected by the Town's attorney-client privilege. That information should be labeled as such and segregated in the board's, body's or committee's files to avoid inadvertent disclosure and waiver of the privilege.
E-mail usage. The use of electronic mail creates certain issues related to the state Open Meetings and Public Records Laws. There is no distinction in the law between written and electronic records. As a result, it is likely that e-mail messages written or received in the capacity of a board, committee, commission or body member are public records which must be made available for public inspection in the same manner as hard-copy documents. Use of one's own home computer and personal e-mail accounts may not exempt such communications depending on the context. Unless subject to a privilege provided for by law, employees, board and committee members acting in their official capacity should have no expectation of privacy in their use of electronic mail for Town purposes. Appointees are encouraged to establish or obtain separate e-mail accounts from the Town or another provider dedicated solely for their use as a Town official.
Speaking for a body. An individual appointed member has a right to speak publicly as a private citizen but should not purport to represent the board, body or committee or exercise the authority of the board, body or committee except when specifically authorized by that body to do so. If members identify themselves as members when speaking as private citizens, it may be perceived that they speak for the board or committee. Such a perception should be avoided.
Finance Committee. The Finance Committee shall handle matters relating to the review of the budget and continuous surveillance of the budget. The Finance Committee shall have power to review and make recommendations with regard to the Mayor's annual operating budget, financial reports and shall submit recommendations with regard to the proposed budget to the Mayor not later than the first Monday in June of each year. The Finance Committee shall further review all proposed amendments to this Code relating to taxes, fees and finance.
Public Safety Committee. As an advisory body of the Council established consistent with the limitations set forth in the Charter and any other applicable ordinances of the Town, the Public Safety Committee shall be primarily responsible for reporting on all matters pertaining to health and safety, animal control, code enforcement and public safety, including the operations, policies, directives, functions, and maintenance of the Police Department, and all other matters and issues related thereto. The Chief of Police shall be a non-voting member of the Public Safety Committee. One Council member of the Public Safety Committee, as designated by the Mayor or Council, shall hold the designation of police liaison and shall act as liaison between the Police Department and the Mayor and Council. The police liaison shall not be considered to have any supervisory control over personnel within the Police Department unless otherwise delegated.
Public Works and Sanitation Committee. As an advisory body of the Council established consistent with the limitations set forth in the Charter and any other applicable ordinances of the Town, the Public Works and Sanitation Committee shall be primarily responsible for reporting on all matters pertaining to the Town's public works and infrastructure programs, real and personal property, fees, equipment, and vehicles in the areas of municipal sanitation, recycling, facilities and public works.
Ways and Means Committee. As an advisory body of the Council, the Ways and Means Committee shall inquire into and consider the methods and sources for raising revenue, and propose the means for providing the funds needed by the Town government.
Council Committee Chairs. Except as stated herein, Council Committee Chairs shall be authorized to solicit funding from federal, state, or local officials and other such agencies having a purpose that falls within the scope of their respective committees. Council Committee Chairs shall keep the Mayor informed about any communications they may have with such officials or agencies to procure funding. Any negotiations to procure funding or expedite funding must involve the approval of the Mayor and two Council members, provided that no binding agreement shall be entered into without the approval of the Town Council. Except as otherwise stated herein, a violation of this Article shall be deemed a municipal infraction subject to a fine not to exceed $1,000.
Council liaisons. The Mayor shall assign one member of the Town Council to serve as Council liaison to the various boards, committees and other bodies. The Council liaison shall advise the body on issues or on the procedure for bringing matters to Council and shall attend meetings of the body on occasion, if needed and when scheduling allows. Because it is important that the boards, committees, and other bodies advise Council with an independent voice, the Council liaison should not participate directly in the body's deliberations nor vote on any matter.
Other body liaisons.
A liaison shall be chosen by each board, committee or other body and may be the Chairperson or Secretary. These individuals shall provide administrative support to their respective boards, committees or other bodies, and they are directly responsible to the Town Council.
The liaison may assist by initiating the draft agenda, scheduling meetings, reserving a meeting space, preparing and distributing meeting materials, and drafting minutes of meetings. When minutes have been approved by the body, the liaison shall forward a copy to the Town Clerk, who shall convey them to the Town Council. The liaison shall make sure that any formal communications or reports from the advisory bodies to Council are received at the Town Clerk's office the Tuesday before a regular Council meeting.
Each month the Forest Heights News shall include public notice of when advisory body meetings will be held. The liaison is responsible for giving this information to the Town Clerk no later than the Monday of the week of the 25th of the month.
Delegation of executive powers. Any delegation of the Mayor's powers, duties or responsibilities to individual Council members, committees, department heads, subordinate officers and employees and any expression of his or her official authority to fulfill executive functions shall be made in writing by the Mayor or by standing executive orders. Executive orders shall be sequentially numbered by years and shall be kept in a permanent file.
Penalty for usurpation of executive powers. Except for a sworn police officer acting within the scope of his authority and discretion in enforcing and prosecuting the laws of this State and the Town's ordinances, any individual Council member, department head, subordinate officer or employee who willfully and knowingly gives a command, issues an order, purports to enter into a contract or intergovernmental agreement, directs the actions of employees, or otherwise takes action on behalf of the Town without proper authority as issued by executive order or permitted under the Charter, ordinances and resolutions of the Town or the laws of this state, upon conviction, shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and subject to a fine not to exceed $500, or imprisonment not to exceed 30 days, or both fine and imprisonment. A conviction for one offense shall not be a bar to a conviction for a continuation of such offense subsequent to the first or any succeeding conviction.