(Dec. 28, 2018) Some 2,500 resort residents cast ballots in the 2018 Ocean City municipal election in November, selecting newcomer Mark Paddack to join incumbents Lloyd Martin and Matt James on City Council, while also reinstating Mayor Rick Meehan and approving binding interest arbitration for the firefighter’s union.
Council members Martin, James and Wayne Hartman ended their respective four-year terms in 2018, along with Mayor Rick Meehan concluding a sixth consecutive two-year term.
In December 2017, with the municipal election filing deadline scheduled the following October, Councilman Wayne Hartman declared b his 2018 candidacy for the Maryland House of Delegates District 38C, which encompasses parts of Worcester and Wicomico counties.
“If for some reason I’m not successful in the primary race for the House of Delegates, there still is the option to run for council or another office in the city,” he said.
On June 26, Hartman topped three other Republican primary candidates, capturing 49.3 percent of the electorate with 1,996 votes, to finish ahead of Joe Schanno at 39.1 percent with 1,584 votes, Ed Tinus at 8.2 percent with 333 votes and Jim Shaffer at 3.3 percent with 134 votes.
Following the primary victory in June, Hartman assumed the campaign was over after Democrats failed to field a candidate.
Within a week those plans were amended when Ed Tinus, fresh from losing the Republican primary, changed party affiliations to meet the July 2 registration deadline for Independent or third-party candidates, ultimately mounting a write-in campaign as a constitutionalist.
Regardless, Hartman handily took the general election in November, with 95.4 percent or 14,437 of 15,139 votes cast.
In October the candidate pool for mayor and council began to fill up, when in addition to incumbents Martin and James, then-soon-to-be-retired OCPD Sgt. Mark Paddack tossed his hat in the ring.
Rounding out the candidate list by the Oct. 9 filing deadline were Ocean City Board of Zoning Appeals member Christopher Rudolf and Emily Nock, president of Salisbury-based Nock Insurance Agency.
Breaking recent tradition, Mayor Rick Meehan, who was first elected in 2006 after serving on council since 1985, faced competition for only the second time in a dozen years.
Although Ocean City resident Joe Cryer, who since 2006 has staged several unsuccessful campaigns for council, eventually abandoned plans to run for mayor, in October former City Councilman Joe Hall filed to oppose Meehan for office.
Hall, who previously operated Hall’s Restaurant on 59th Street and served on council for three two-year terms, was defeated by 74 votes during the 2006 election. In 2012, Meehan defeated his last challenger, political newcomer Nick Campagnoli by a margin of 2,238 to 629 votes.
Besides choosing elected officials in November, resort voters were also presented with a ballot question referendum from Ocean City Firefighters Union, IAFF Local 4269, to permit binding interest arbitration if collective bargaining negotiations with the city reach an impasse.
IAFF President Ryan Whittington said the issue arose following a stalemate during the union’s most recent contract negotiations, which started in January 2016 but were not resolved, albeit to varying degrees of satisfaction, until February 2017.
In February 2016, negations ended over the city’s plan to change shift schedules for fire/EMS personnel from the long-standing policy of working four 24-hours shifts followed by 72 hours off. The city sought to implement two 10-hour day shifts, followed by two 14-hour night shifts, followed by four days off.
After the disagreement dragged on for more than a year, union members voted last February to ratify the collective bargaining agreement, but contended the city failed to negotiate a fair compromise.
At the same time, Whittington said the fire union began collecting signatures for a petition to amend the city charter to permit binding interest arbitration if future contract negotiations reach an impasse.
“Binding interest arbitration is simply a safeguard against bad decisions, that’s it,” he said. “Hopefully, the citizens vote in favor of the charter amendment.”
Under this change, if the city and the union failed to reach agreement on contract terms and declared that further negotiations would be pointless, a neutral third party would decide the dispute.
In 2002, resort voters approved a collective bargaining with binding arbitration request from the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 10, by a 1,090 to 927 tally. Never has a contract dispute gone that far, however.
Meehan said the city granted the IAFF collective bargaining without binding interest arbitration in 2007 and since that time have bargained successfully during the last four rounds of contract discussions.
“In each of those contracts, the 41 members of the IAFF that are there today have received salary and benefit enhancements,” he said. “We worked with the IAFF to make sure they’re positioned correctly, and I do believe we’ve been able to bargain in good faith.”
Looking ahead, Whittington said the union’s current contact, which expires in June 2019, would be renegotiated next year.
“For the upcoming year, there has been a notice of intent to negotiate by both parties,” he said.
When the dust settled and votes were tallied on Nov. 6, Meehan defeated Hall by a 1,695-to-733 margin to win a seventh two-year term as mayor.
In the council race, of the five candidates jockeying for three openings, Councilman Matt James was the top finisher with 1,787 votes.
Newcomer Mark Paddack, who retired after three decades with OCPD one week prior to the election, finished second with 1,187 votes, narrowly ahead of Council President Lloyd Martin who had a 1,183 tally.
Only four votes off the mark was Emily Nock, whose inaugural campaign garnered 1,179 votes, with Chris Rudolf’s 848 total placing fifth.
Voters also approved the IAFF Local 4269 ballot referendum to amend the city charter and permit binding interest arbitration by a 1,288-to-1,048 margin.
In total, resort residents cast 2,566 votes in the municipal election on Nov. 6, including 139 absentee ballots, marking a slight uptick from the 2016 contest when 2,380 votes were counted, including 105 absentees.
Overall, 44 percent of the 5,808 active voters registered in the Ocean City precinct weighed in, with an additional 530 names on the inactive rolls. In 2016, voter turnout was roughly 41 percent of the resort’s 5,818 registered voters.