Ocean City Today

Gehrig: full council was bypassed

By Katie Tabeling | Nov 09, 2017

(Nov. 10, 2017) Ocean City Councilman John Gehrig confronted the council’s members on the Police Commission Monday night for what he saw as a backroom decision on the fate of the resort’s longtime car shows.

In front of a large audience of supporters, Gehrig asked why seven proposed measures restricting or eliminating the shows emerged from a closed-door commission meeting last month instead of having a motor vehicle task force address the subject as was discussed during strategic planning sessions in September.

“That [task force] includes the eight of us [the council and Mayor Rick Meehan], department heads that would be impacted, and the promoter, although they haven’t been the problem,” he said. “You wasted my time with strategic planning, where we agreed to do something, only to come back through the commission and bypass it.”

Council Secretary Mary Knight, Councilman Wayne Hartman and commission chair and Councilman Dennis Dare reportedly approved seven actions while the Police Commission was in closed session on Oct. 13.

Mayor Rick Meehan also is a commission member but has no vote.

Under the Open Meetings Act, the council, and its subordinate bodies, is limited to 15 topics it can discuss in closed session. Those include obtaining a legal opinion and issues of public security.

Recommendations, presented by Dare, included discontinuing the rental of the inlet parking lot and the convention center for spring and fall cruising events among others.

“What happened to getting everyone in the same room? The businesses are obviously interested,” Gehrig said, referring to the packed council chambers. “We’ve discussed this in public and private, and we know that ending the events is just political optics. The truth is that it won’t fix the problems — the people causing the problem don’t care if there’s an event or not.

“We need to fix them, and we need to fix them together, not four people in a room that supersedes what we’ve been telling residents for six months.”

The crowd broke into applause, and Council President Lloyd Martin banged his gavel to call for order.

“This is for further consideration, and whatever comes out of this,” Martin told Gehrig. “This is what the Police Commission saw in their eyes is what could be done, as we asked them to do. What comes out of it is up to us.”

Knight pointed out that no vote was taken during the strategic planning sessions ton the creation of a task force.

“We had a lot of discussion on a lot of things,” she said. “I was also asked by several people why wasn’t this put before the Tourism Commission, and the council felt that it was a safety issue.”

“That’s just spin,” Gehrig retorted. The crowd burst into applause again before he continued.

“When we talked about it, it was mentioned that the Boardwalk task force worked out so well, that a motor events task force was a great idea,” he said. “For you to use the fact that we didn’t vote on it is crazy.”

Knight said she was “correcting the record.”

“You can be angry, but that’s how government works,” she said.

“We can be people too,” Gehrig said. “We can mean what we say. It’s not a team of eight and an elite team of four.”

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