Talbot County voters will decide on four proposed amendments to the county charter during the November general election.
Three of those ballot questions concern Talbot’s tax cap; the first would allow the Talbot County Council to waive a residency requirement for certain appointed officials.
Question A asks Talbot voters to vote for or against a charter amendment that would allow a supermajority of the county council (4 members out of 5) to waive a requirement that the county attorney, engineer, and planning officer live in the county.
The charter currently requires those three officials — and the county manager — to live in Talbot County. Under existing charter provisions, the county manager, engineer, and planning officer must become a county resident “promptly” upon appointment; the county attorney also must be a county resident at least two years before appointment.
The measure would not allow the county council to waive the residency requirement for the county manager.
During a July 21 vote on putting the question on the ballot, members said the council should be allowed to hire the best person for the job — regardless of residency — and noted family situations, such as medical issues or a spouse’s employment, could mean an official would need to live outside the county.
County council members also noted that Talbot’s tax cap results in Talbot paying its officials less than surrounding counties, which are not constrained by revenue caps.
In the current budget, the annual salaries for the four positions are: county manager, $147,400; county engineer, $110,162; county attorney, $115,000; and county planning officer, $94,856.
The county council voted unanimously July 21 to put Question A on the general election ballot.
As explained on vote411.org, a voter information website from the League of Women Voters Education Fund: “The proposed change would add a new Section to the Charter, Section 407, Residency Waiver, as follows: ‘The requirement that the County Attorney, County Planning Officer and County Engineer be residents of Talbot County may be waived by the County Council by an affirmative vote of four-fifths of the full Council.'”
The need for the proposed charter amendment arose after officials realized two appointees did not meet the residency requirements when hired.
Mary Kay Verdery was appointed as planning officer on Oct. 29, 2014. She had a Caroline County address at the time of appointment until Aug. 30, 2018, when she listed a Talbot County address.
Anthony Kupersmith was appointed as county attorney on Jan. 1, 2018, after being named acting county attorney on May 1, 2017.
Kupersmith began working for the county on Aug. 30, 2013, and lived in Talbot County until June 2016. He also was a resident of Talbot County from January 2018 through the end of 2018; he currently does not live in Talbot County.
At the direction of outside legal counsel, Verdery and Kupersmith are now listed as acting planning officer and acting county attorney, respectively.
R. Andrew Hollis was county manager from 1999-2010 and appointed to the post a second time on Dec. 15, 2014. During the gap in his service as manager, Hollis was elected and served on the county council.
Ray Clarke was appointed as county engineer on Aug. 7, 2000.