Mayor David S. Gysberts and the five newly elected Hagerstown City Council members continued to be briefed on the basic inner-workings of city government Tuesday afternoon in the group’s first work session.
Last Wednesday, the group met in an informal meeting where they heard a presentation about how they have to adhere to Maryland’s Open Meetings Act.
Monday night, Gysberts and the council members were sworn-in during a standing-room only ceremony in the Council Chamber.
In Tuesday’s work session, city attorneys John H. Urner and Bill Nairn briefed the group on the basic governance of the city and the city’s ethics code.
City council members can pass laws for the city and if there is a tie vote among council members, the mayor can cast the deciding vote, said Urner.
Laws, or ordinances, passed by the council go to the mayor for approval and usually the mayor approves them, Urner said.
If the mayor decides not to give approval, that is the mayor’s veto power and he must advise council members within 10 days of his decision not to give approval, Urner said.
There are also provisions for emergency legislation and the ability for council members to override a mayor’s veto, Urner said.
Besides voting in a tie, other duties of the mayor include presiding over council meetings and making an annual report on the activities of the city, Urner said.
The mayor does not have any authority in the administration of the city’s daily business and has no direct power over city workers, Urner said.
Nairn talked about how the mayor and council members must conduct themselves in closed, or executive sessions.
Nairn said in some cases, council members or the mayor cannot talk publicly about what is discussed in executive sessions.
Council member Kristin B. Aleshire asked Nairn about a possible scenario of something that was labeled as confidential by an administration 11 years ago.
Aleshire asked Nairn if that is something that would still have to be held as confidential in the current administration even though it was marked secret by a different administration.
Nairn said he did not know the answer and would have to research the issue.