Annapolis City Council Weighs In On Market House And Kenny Kirby

| February 28, 2012 | 0 Comments

Last night’s City Council meeting started off mundane enough. The Council talked about boat shows, dock space rental, annexation and appeal processes for about two and a half hours.  And then as the crowd thinned out, things started to get heated as they discussed a $300,000 budget transfer to further improve the beleaguered Market House and how to handle the issue surrounding the residency of Alderman Kenny Kirby.

The Market House

As expected, the City authorized a $300,000 budget transfer to re-fit the interior of the Market House to enlarge the women’s bathroom and place seating on the inside perimeter of the building. The vote was close, but Mayor Cohen prevailed with Aldermen Israel, Hoyle, Finlayson, and Kirby all voting to spend the money.

Aldermen Paone and Arnett were the most vocal opponents. Paone said, “we have spent good money after bad and it has come full circle and now you want to spend more?”  He also called the planned improvements “unproven and borderline amateurish.”

Alderman Hoyle, who last week was lobbying for not spending the money and considering selling the property did an about face. As she addressed the Council, she said that she now thought it was a “great idea” and that she has heard that “the third time’s a charm.”  Alderman Finlayson was also against spending the money last week and also did an about face. “If this doesn’t work, we will end up not owning the Market House. But I am willing to give it one more try.” said Finlayson.

And when the vote was called, Cohen, Israel, Hoyle, Finlayson and Kirby were in favor; Paone, Silverman, Pfeiffer, and Arnett were all opposed. The measure passed 5-4.

Alderman Kirby

Alderman Kenneth A. Kirby - Ward 6

Another contentious issue before the council was to address the constituent concerns that Ward 6 Alderman, Kenny Kirby, was not a resident of the Ward since he told the Baltimore Sun that he does not have a residence.  After the Election Commission declined to investigate, City Attorney, Karen Hardwick, was to provide an opinion at this meeting. Her 8-page written opinion was distributed to the members of Council and media one minute before adjournment.

With not time to review the opinion, the Mayor and Aldermen all declined to comment. However, in the opinion, Hardwick asserts that to remove the Alderman from the Council that there must be “undisputed evidence” presented to the Mayor; and, if so, that removal from office would require the “unanimous concurrence of the entire city council, the member affected not being entitles to participate in the decision.”

It appears that the evidence presented to date is hearsay. The opinion goes into great length trying to define the terms “residence” and “domicile” but Hardwick opines that many factors including where he receives mail, addresses on banking records and tax returns are all viable means to make the determination.

If “undisputed evidence” is presented, it is unlikely that there will be 100% concurrence of the remaining Council members to oust Kirby. The address Kirby has used is owned by the Aunt of Alderman Classie Hoyle; additionally several aldermen spoke with me, off the record, and felt that Kirby was indeed a very good Alderman for his constituents.

What remains to be seen is what actions any constituents might take. This opinion can be challenged and it could end up in a court battle to remove Kirby. We have reached out to several citizens who have filed complaints with the Mayor and have not been able to get a statement or a sense of direction from them. If this does go through a legal process, the clock will be ticking. If there is not a resolution prior to August 2012, there will be less than 15 months till the next election and rather than having a special election, the Council will be able to appoint a successor should the courts rule against the City Attorney’s opinion.

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