Glade Valley Government 

Burgess and Commissioners Joint Statement

We, the Burgess and Commissioners of the Town of Walkersville, are coming together to issue a joint statement on Michael McNiesh’s forfeiture of office. 

We want to first acknowledge the good work McNiesh did as a commissioner. He initiated and followed through the establishment of the Walkersville Wire to improve direct communications to residents using different mediums (email or text), he was fiscally conscious of the tax rate, and was supportive of improvements to parks and infrastructure. He did all of this as he represented the views of his constituents. McNiesh did great work as a commissioner, and the board acknowledges that. While at times we all have disagreed with one another, we hold no animosity towards Mr. McNiesh. Ultimately, his forfeiture was a combination of involuntary actions that McNiesh took, and the board’s constitutional duty and obligation to uphold the laws of the Town of Walkersville. 

Until this statement was issued, the only information anyone has received on McNiesh’s forfeiture was one sided, from McNiesh’s perspective. We are here to give the facts and circumstances that lead to the board’s finding that McNiesh forfeited his office pursuant to section C6-2D of the Town Charter. Our Town Charter states that “The Burgess or Commissioner shall forfeit his office if he fails to attend three (3) consecutive regular meetings of the commissioners without being excused by the commissioners.” This clear attendance standard has been a part of our code since its inception. if the facts of the forfeiture provision are met that the party in question, McNeish, automatically forfeits their office. The Frederick News Post and others have been the primary culprit in this misinterpretation that the board “voted to remove McNiesh.”  It is incorrect legally and by matter of fact. 

We further wish to make residents aware that Mr. McNiesh was made aware that he was approaching his third unexcused absence and the impending consequences that would ensue if he failed to attend the third meeting and was not excused. Mr. McNiesh never asked to be excused from his absences on September 29, 2022, September 14, 2022, or August 24, 2022.  

Many have referred to McNiesh’s extended absence during his prior term due to active-duty military deployment. It should be noted that McNiesh made a formal request for excuse to the board which was acknowledged. Reference has also been made to Resolution 2019-01. This resolution was drafted and introduced by Mr. McNiesh and Commissioner Bailey. It was presented by Mr. McNiesh at the town meeting. This ordinance states a commissioner may call into or attend a town meeting virtually, but the commissioner is unable to vote and will be counted as absent. The intent of this law was clear. While reasonable minds can disagree, we think that Commissioner Bailey did not give the appropriate weight to the intent of the law which was clear that one could call into a meeting but would not be counted as “present.”

Prior to the Public Hearing, a town resident sought to broker an agreement by which Mr. McNiesh would acknowledge that he missed three meetings and did not request to be excused and that he was formally requesting that his absences be excused to avoid a public hearing and excuse McNiesh’s prior absences. McNiesh initially agreed to this but then changed his mind the Monday before the hearing. 

McNiesh was also afforded the opportunity to be appointed by the commissioners on November 9th to his forfeited seat if he agreed to a compromise that would state that he missed three meetings, did not ask to be excused from those absences, and that he would agree to make formal requests for excuse if he were to need to miss meetings in the future. The board sought two good faith opportunities to bring McNiesh back into his role as a commissioner if he would simply acknowledge that he missed meetings and did not ask to be excused from those meetings and would agree to ask to be excused from future meetings. Therefore, McNiesh rejected 2 good faith efforts to bring him back into his commissioner role. 

At the end of the day, we as a commission for the Town of Walkersville have an obligation to uphold the Charter and code, even when it is difficult. We did so and will continue to do so in the future.

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