An August 4, 2015, Caroline Times Record article reported that the Caroline County Board of County Commissioners considered both expanding the board’s number from three to five commissioners and also moving towards a charter form of county government at their July 28 meeting. Information on both issues was provided by Baltimore City Chief Solicitor Victor Tervala, who has previously advised the county on those topics. The Commissioners ultimately decided to continue discussion on both issues and not make any changes prior to the 2016 elections. From the article:
Tervala said he recommended adding two commissioners. Having five members instead of three offers a number of advantages, he said.
“Eventually, you will elect someone who can’t get along with the other two, and those two will partner up against the third,” Tervala said. “At an extreme, all three can’t get along, and the county grinds to a halt.”
If there are five members, two could no longer partner up to dominate all decisions, Tervala said.
More members would also represent more views in county decision-making, Tervala said, relax the problem created when a single board member cannot attend a meeting and allow two members to informally discuss county business outside of a meeting without violating the state’s Open Meetings Act.
Tervala noted in the article that the decision to move to five commissioners was a completely local decision and would not need General Assembly approval unless the county sought a special election in 2016 rather than waiting for the 2018 general election. Creating staggered terms for the commissioners would require amending the Maryland Constitution. However, Tervala noted that moving to a charter form of government was more complicated but also gave the county more local autonomy:
Moving Caroline County from its current code home rule government to a charter government is considerably more difficult, Tervala said, but some counties have successfully made the transition in the last 15 years. …
A charter government also gives the county a broader ability to legislate any program it believes will benefit the community, Tervala said. The General Assembly’s ability to control local laws and zoning is also affected by whether or not the county has a charter, he said. …
Commission President Larry Porter asked if there is a process to find out if county residents are even interested in a charter government before going to the trouble of appointing a board and writing a charter. Tervala said the county could conduct a straw poll.