printed 04/24/2020


Councilmember Dennis Dare has been involved with the activities of the Ocean City government for at least 35 years.

During the April 16, 2020 special meeting of the City Council to discuss issues related to the covid-19 situation, Councilmember Dare told his fellow council members that while he did not want to give them a civics lesson, they needed to understand that the “Mayor is in charge.”

In a pontificating lecture, he went on to admonish the other council members because their discussion on future actions needed to respond to the covid-19 situation was “premature” and the council was acting “out of its lane.”

While I do not mean to give civics lesson to Councilmember Dare, the Ocean City Charter, the legal document controlling Ocean City government, makes it very clear the City Council is in charge.

The Ocean City Charter established the council-manager form of municipal government with a mayor that has very limited authority. Section C–413A of the charter states the “Council shall consist of seven members elected at large and shall hold all the legislative and except for the mayoral veto, all the executive powers of the town.”(Emphasis added.)

Under its legislative authority, the council can pass an ordinance and use its executive authority to make sure the provisions of the ordinance are carried out as intended. The day-to-day administrative operations are performed by the professional city manager.

Under the charter, the mayor can take only one action without the approval of the council.

The mayor is authorized to approve or veto a bill passed by the council.

The charter also permits the mayor to be a member, along with three council members, of the Ocean City Police Commission, act as the city manager of the town during the pendency of any vacancy in the position of city manager, appoint members to all city boards, commissions and committees created by the council and be the spokesperson of the town before all state, federal and other local governmental bodies.

Of course, if Councilmember Dare wants to make sure the “mayor is in charge,” he can always request the city attorney for a public legal opinion to clarify the issue.

Joseph H. Potter

Ocean City

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