City Mulls Changes To Election Code
Gaithersburg's Board of Supervisors of Elections recommends changes to the definition of a political committee and financial reporting.
The Gaithersburg Board of Supervisors of Elections is recommending multiple changes to the city's election code.
An ordinance introduced at Monday's Mayor and City Council meeting would revise the definition of a political committee within the city by defining a "slate" and requiring a fifth additional finance report due 14 days after city elections.
"A slate would be defined as two or more candidates who join together to conduct and pay for joint campaign activities," according to a city staff report.
The amendment would revise the definition of a political committee from a group of two or more to a group of three or more that collects or spends $1,000 or more "to assist in the promotion of the success or defeat of any candidate or slate of candidates for city elective office." The current committee collection and spending threshhold is $250.
The primary reason for this change was to prevent a donation from a husband or wife from being considered a political committee, City Attorney Lynn Board said. Slates were previously mentioned in the code, but not defined.
The city's definition of a slate mirrors that of the state, Board said.
Mayor Sidney A. Katz and councilmembers raised many concerns regarding the proposed ordinance, with many centered on slates and an individual's affiliation with one or more political committees.
The ordinance states that slates would be subject to the same reporting requirements as political committees.
Councilmember Jud Ashman said he anticipates a hotly contested public hearing on March 18.
"There are essentially three aspects here — the last one, the financial disclosure reporting requirement, I'm inclined to say it's a good thing," Ashman said. He does not support the proposed changes to political committees or the definition of a slate within the city, he said.
"What I'd like to see from the public are some good arguments for why we need those things," Ashman said.
Gaithersburg resident Tom Rowse, who ran unsuccessfully for City Council in 2009 and 2011, says the city's leaders need to adopt the changes regardless of public input because of who's recommending them: the elections board.
"They're asking for public comment but that's besides the point. This is what the BOSE recommended," Rowse said. "Why can't they act on this quickly? Why when the BOSE asks them, or suggests this, does it have to be blown back and forth and be a problem?"