MAYOR AND COUNCIL
SEPTEMBER 21, 2020
Mayor Cerino called the meeting to order at 7:30 p.m. In attendance were Councilmembers David Foster, Thomas Herz, Ellsworth Tolliver and Meghan Efland, W. S. Ingersoll (Town Manager), Kees de Mooy (Zoning Administrator), Jennifer Mulligan (Town Clerk) and guests.
Mayor Cerino asked if there were any additions or corrections to the minutes of the Mayor and Council Meeting of September 8, 2020. Rev. Tolliver moved to approve the minutes of the September 8, 2020 Mayor and Council Meeting, was seconded by Mr. Foster and carried unanimously.
Mayor Cerino stated that operating funds on hand was $1,064,745.16.
Mayor Cerino asked for a motion to approve the payment of the bills. Ms. Efland moved to approve payment of the bills as submitted, was seconded by Mr. Herz and carried unanimously.
Mr. Stetson attended the meeting and gave a report on the Dog Park. He stated that the Friends of the Dog Park had donated $1,000.00 to the Town and tested, limed and fertilized the soil at the cost of $960.00. He said that another dog jump was on order and David Slama would build it free of charge. The trees were mulched in the Dog Park at the cost of materials only. Mr. Stetson stated that he would like the Council’s permission to put in an 8’ strip of stone dust to line up the jumps and free up additional area for the dogs to play. Mr. Stetson stated that the the Friends of the Dog Park has enough money set aside to pay for the stone.
Mr. Stetson stated that the Town Crew does a beautiful job keeping the grass cut and the weeds down and that the park was an asset to the Town.
Mayor Cerino thanked Mr. Stetson for his work on the Dog Park. He said that the Dog Park was beautiful, and he would agree with the addition of stone at the park. Ms. Efland moved to approve the gravel bed to the Chestertown Dog Park, was seconded by Mr. Foster and carried unanimously.
Mr. Stetson complimented the Council stating that he was impressed with how the Town Council was handling situations during this difficult time of Covid.
Chief Dolgos presented the Chestertown Police Department report for August 2020. He said that overtime was high this month due to a Covid exposure where other officers had to fill in.
Rev. Tolliver asked what the officer was doing in the Task Force. Chief Dolgos stated that currently the officer was working on CDS investigations. Rev. Tolliver asked if the new officer was on the street working yet. Chief Dolgos stated that Officer Mary McLaughlin was from the Baltimore City Police Department and as of Friday evening, was officially certified to work in Chestertown. Chief Dolgos stated that he also received clearance on an eleventh officer today for the CPD.
Mayor Cerino stated that Chief Dolgos was going to give a presentation on police reform in Town. Ms. Arlene Lee of the Social Action Committee for Racial Justice was also present. Chief Dolgos stated that he wanted to make it clear that this was a joint presentation between the CPD and the Social Action Committee for Racial Justice. He said that he was not pressured in any way to go along with the recommended changes they would like to enact, adding that it would better the police department and the community overall.
Ms. Lee stated that a list of reforms was presented to the police department on June 20th and Chief Dolgos added to the initial list. She said that they were building a great rapport with the police department and said that the meeting Chief Dolgos had over the summer with representatives of the community was a perfect way to work with the black community.
Ms. Lee stated that Chief Dolgos developed a new hiring policy to include information about an applicant that may imply they are racist.
Ms. Lee stated that CPD, Rock Hall and the Kent County Sheriff’s Offices will have scheduled de-escalation training for the near future. Ms. Lee stated that a Duty to Intervene will become policy where if excessive force was being used by an officer, other officers will have the duty to intervene and stop the officer using force.
Ms. Lee stated that CPD has a use of force policy and she thought there were opportunities to expand it. She said that any display or open hand controls of firearms would be reviewed addressing forms of force.
Ms. Lee stated that a civilian review board will be put aside until the General Assembly finished their work this year, but CPD will add someone to the Police Hearing Board and provide training to that individual. Ms. Lee stated that they would look for ways to reduce and divert or bring in funding to the Police Department for community-based programs. Ms. Lee stated that bicycle patrols will be re-established in Town, hopefully in spring 2021.
Mayor Cerino stated that any budgetary items must be a Mayor and Council decision and with Covid, this may be an even more difficult year than the last budget year. He said that grants were always welcome.
Mr. Herz asked about the restorative justice program. Ms. Lee and Chief Dolgos stated that they were looking into funding for the restorative justice program.
Ms. Lee stated that there were hundreds of volunteers to help paint the murals and thanked the Mayor and Council for their help and time to get the job done.
Rev. Tolliver stated that as a follow-up to the last meeting, he would like to amend the fifth item of the Resolution, which he changed to read, “Commits to establishing a Human Rights Commission to be empowered as an independent board with the task of gathering information for review, analyze data and make necessary recommendations toward the effort of resolving allegations of discrimination in employment, housing, education recreation and others human relation areas by Town agencies and by businesses. The Commission will be comprised of at least fifty percent People of Color. The commission will issue an annual racial justice and equity report.” Rev. Tolliver stated that he would like to move forward with the revision.
Mayor Cerino stated that this language was much more realistic of what the Human Relations Commission can accomplish in Town adding that they would also have to figure out how many people would serve on the Commission.
Rev. Tolliver stated that the duties and functions of the commission should become a Town Ordinance solidifying the duties of the members into the record. He said that when someone is appointed to the Commission he would like them to be an independent group of people whose information is shared widely. Rev. Tolliver stated that Ms. Barbara Jorgenson would serve as the Chairperson of the committee and said that this was a constructive step moving forward. Rev. Tolliver stated that he would like for this to become effective by January 2021.
Ms. Efland asked about training for the Commission members. Rev. Tolliver stated that he would address that information the next time they met.
Mayor Cerino stated that he would like to have input on who would be the chairperson and who would serve on the commission. Rev. Tolliver stated that he would like to nominate Ms. Jorgenson as Chairman.
Mayor Cerino stated that there was no Town commission that was independent of the Mayor and Council and further, there had been no indication that this proposed ordinance was coming before the Council this evening. Mr. Herz stated that residents of the Town should be given the opportunity to send in resumes and the Commission should be filled by the entire Council.
Rev. Tolliver stated that there was a need for an independent commission in Town. He said that other commissions do not present findings to the Mayor and Council. He said that the Historic District Commission makes laws all the time without coming before the Council. This Commission was to avoid any sense of impropriety and anyone whose name was brought to the table should be well-qualified in the sense of law and be open and transparent.
Mayor Cerino stated that anyone on the Council could go to another Commission meeting and the Council did receive monthly reports from them. Rev. Tolliver stated that when he had attended the Commission meetings he was told by the Commission members that he was the first (councilperson) to come to a meeting. He said that all Town Commissions should come before the Council to give a report about what they were doing.
Rev. Tolliver stated that there is a sense of politics and personal agenda regardless of how the boards meet and operate. Rev. Tolliver stated that the independency was paramount in making this proposed commission work.
Mr. Foster asked about the hearings that would be held. Rev. Tolliver stated that if someone came in about a discrimination complaint, the Commission would gather information on the nature of the complaint and bring in the opposing party to see if there was a valid claim or misunderstanding. Mr. Foster stated that it sounded like a judicial proceeding. Rev. Tolliver stated that it was not a judicial hearing. The Commission would have the right to send this to an agency without the interference of Council.
Rev. Tolliver stated that this was a unique situation for a unique time in history. He said that there may be changes or amendments necessary to current ordinances to allow for the commission.
Mr. Foster stated that he was supportive of the commission but before this became a judicial proceeding he needed more time to review how it would run.
Mayor Cerino stated that he agreed with the change to paragraph 5 of the Resolution as Rev. Tolliver presented it, with the understanding that the group was a conduit to other agencies where the commission’s role is to direct people to proper resources to handle their issue. Rev. Tolliver stated that was what this Commission would do and he envisioned it to happen in an independent fashion.
Mayor Cerino stated that this Ordinance wanted the Commission to vote on the merits of an application without the Mayor and Council looking over their shoulder, but the Council had to be responsible for the ultimate oversight of a project.
Mayor Cerino asked how the Commission members would be chosen, stating that he thought it should come from the elected officials with resumes being received by the Town, the Mayor making the nominations and the Council either accepting the nomination or suggesting other candidates. Rev. Tolliver stated that he would like to open the door to allow the Chairperson, in this case Ms. Jorgenson, to vet the resumes and make nominations to the Council.
Mayor Cerino stated that the Commission itself usually appoints their own Chair, Vice-Chair, etc. Mr. Herz stated Rev. Tolliver was asking for a list vetted by the Chairman, but it should begin with the Mayor accepting resumes of interested parties and putting forth a slate for membership. Mr. Herz stated that the genesis of the Commission should be with the Mayor and Council.
Rev. Tolliver stated that he was looking to remove personal agendas. He asked if Ms. Jorgenson could collect the information necessary for the Commission and then return to the Council with her recommendations. Mr. Herz stated that Rev. Tolliver was injecting politics into this discussion by putting forth his own power over the Commission.
Mr. Foster stated that it sounded like Rev. Tolliver wanted a commission independent of Chestertown but to speak for Chestertown. He said that the committees and commissions work on behalf of the Town. He said that he was not quite sure that this could be both ways. Mayor Cerino stated that he could not have a Commission work independently yet speak for the Town.
Mayor Cerino stated that resumes should be collected with the Council vetting them. He said that if Rev. Tolliver wanted commissions to come before the Council for reports they could ask them to do so.
Mr. Herz asked for an executive summary of this Commission for the Mayor and Council to review. He said that he would like to see the statutes and ordinances that were used in the language of the proposed Ordinance adding that any changes to the Resolution should also be outlined.
Ms. Jorgenson stated that she and Rev. Tolliver read through the Annapolis and Cumberland statutes and modeled the proposed Ordinance after that. She said that when the Ordinance is passed it was about making recommendations. She said that she was asked to help in the initial stage to collect resumes which would be made public for transparency. Ms. Jorgenson stated that there was too much emphasis being put on “independent” as this was to give the idea that it was not involved in the politics of the Town. She said that this would be a resource for the community free from the politics of the Mayor and Council.
Ms. Jorgenson stated that this was more of a group where the Commission could send people for help that they needed using mediation as an example. She said that the commission would report to the Council how many groups they met with and how they helped to resolve their issue whether it be sending the matter to the ACLU or another agency.
Mayor Cerino suggested digesting this information over the next couple weeks and introducing the proposed ordinance then. Ms. Jorgenson stated that the language could be clarified, along with the roles of the members of the Commission.
Mr. Queen was present and stated that he would like to see if this could be on a ballot for the community to vote on it. He said that he was concerned that this Commission would go rogue and that the members may not know anything about the law. He said that there were already mediation services available along with other entities like the NAACP and LGBT organizations. He said he felt like Rev. Tolliver was reinventing the wheel. Rev. Tolliver stated that he did not think this was a ballot issue but could be further vetted by the Council. Mr. Queen stated that he thought this proposed Commission was creating new politics.
Mayor Cerino asked what Rev. Tolliver would like to do at the October 5th meeting. Rev. Tolliver stated that he would like for the Council to review what was put forth so it could be acted on at the next meeting. Mayor Cerino asked if he could forward the Council the resolutions from Annapolis and Cumberland along with his draft ordinance for their review as the Council had not had the time to review any of it. Rev. Tolliver stated that he appreciated the comments and saw this as an opportunity to have people start putting their resumes together.
Ms. Arlene Lee stated that the conversations were amazing and said that this was educating the public on what was possible. She said that it was important for the community see what the Council was doing to advance racial justice and equity.
Mr. Ingersoll stated that the Council has had a long term policy of not passing or voting on matters the first the night they are introduced.
Mr. Ingersoll stated that Dr. Michael Powell, the new President of Washington College was going to introduce himself this evening but had to leave the meeting early. Mr. Vic Sensenig stated that Dr. Powell was looking forward to meeting the Mayor and Council.
Mr. Ingersoll stated that Ms. MacIntosh submitted a permit to establish al fresco dining each Saturday at Casa Carmen and the Kitchen at the Imperial on alternating weekends. The dinners would run through October.
Ms. MacIntosh stated that the New York Yacht Club is coming into Town on Friday, October 16th and she expected additional closures to accommodate the large group so that they can dine on the streets. The Council agreed.
Mr. Ingersoll stated that the Kent County Local Management Board submitted a permit to hold a final Census Day event from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Wednesday, September 30th. They requested the closure of High Street from Cross Street to Lawyer’s Row. There will be music and a free food truck for anyone who fills out the census and social distancing measures will be in place. The Council agreed to the permit request.
Mr. Ingersoll stated that an additional letter had been drafted to go to MDE on the matter of the Silica Gel process being used. After sending the September 10 letter to MDE on the subject of the use of the Silica Gel process, the attorney representing the Hospital had more or less sent a rebuttal to MDE on September 11. He said that there is a new oil remediation team in place and there had to be a fresh start from this point forward. Mayor Cerino read the letter into the record, which was written by Michael Forlini, Esquire (the attorney for the oil spill).
Mr. Foster stated that Mr. Ralston has danced around answering the Town’s questions but if they are going to change the tests for compliance purposes the Town needs to know why. The Council agreed to the letter being sent to MDE.
Mayor Cerino stated that there was an approval for the 16-month Chestertown Unites Against Racism Plan at the last meeting and the advisory committee would be used for the Town as a conduit to the community, noting that he was hoping to appoint members from community agencies in place to vet the plan and set priorities. He said that he was hoping these members would help the Council in decision-making. Mayor Cerino stated that he would like to take time to write a mission statement and asked if each Councilmember would be comfortable nominating two (2) members to the Committee, adding that they did not have to stay within their ward for member nomination.
Mayor Cerino stated that it was important to know that each Councilmember was not nominating the same people, but he would like to see a wide cross-section of membership from all areas of Town.
Mayor Cerino stated that he would have the mission statement at the October 5th meeting and said he would like to take nominations for membership from the Council at the October 19th meeting.
Mayor Cerino stated that he would be giving a presentation on the status of the bulkhead at the Wilmer Park at the meeting of October 5th, with possible solutions spelled out and perhaps to schedule a charrette about funding.
Mayor Cerino asked for ward reports.
Mr. Foster stated that everything was fine in the First Ward.
Mr. Herz stated that Mr. Coleman at the Marina continually gets compliments and thanked him for his work.
Rev. Tolliver stated that he wanted to thank everyone for the lively discussions in dealing with sensitive issues. He said that this was the nature of democracy and he was proud that it was being handled well.
Rev. Tolliver stated that he did learn about an ordinance that does not allow for chickens to be raised in Town limits.
Rev. Tolliver stated that he attended the Redistricting Committee meeting and said that he would like to see “uptown” neighborhood retained in the Third Ward.
Mr. Efland stated that the deadline to register to vote was October 13th and persons could also request a mail in ballot by October 20th.
There being no further business and no other questions or comments from the audience, Mr. Herz moved to adjourn the meeting at 9:29 p.m., was seconded by Rev. Tolliver and carried unanimously.
Submitted by: Approved by:
Jennifer Mulligan Chris Cerino
Town Clerk Mayor