Mayor claims con­spir­acy in Ches. City elec­tion

Cecil Whig - - LOCAL - By JA­COB OWENS jowens@ce­cil­whig.com

CH­E­SA­PEAKE CITY — In his last leg­isla­tive ses­sion be­fore his planned res­ig­na­tion, Mayor Dean Geraci­mos did not go qui­etly into the night Mon­day, once again de­fend­ing his record and claim­ing that an op­po­si­tion bloc of town coun­cil mem­bers con­spired ahead of the Dec. 4 special elec­tion to keep their po­lit­i­cal ad­van­tage — an as­ser­tion they flatly de­nied.

Af­ter months of heated de­bate over fu­ture land use in the small town, the pas­sage of a con­tro­ver­sial park­ing law and a mu­nic­i­pal elec­tion that saw a new wave of can­di­dates voted in, Geraci­mos sur­pris­ingly an­nounced that he would step down from his role by the end of the year, cit­ing a grow­ing vi­sion for Ch­e­sa­peake City that doesn’t fit his own.

On Mon­day, the mayor specif­i­cally claimed that Coun­cil Vice Pres­i­dent Frank Vari, who has twice un­suc­cess- fully run for mayor in the last three elec­tions as the only other may­oral can­di­date aside from Geraci­mos, chose not to run in the special elec­tion due to char­ter pro­vi­sions that would have given his coun­cil seat given to for­mer Town Coun­cil­woman Trudy Carter, who was sup­port­ive of Geraci­mos and fin­ished fourth in June’s elec­tion of three coun­cil seats, should Vari have won.

In order to main­tain the vot­ing bloc of Vari and town coun­cil­women Re­becca Mann and Carolyn Blevins, all of whom were elected in June amid a wave of op­po­si­tion to Geraci­mos’ ad­min­is­tra­tion, the mayor main­tained that they re­cruited for­mer Town Coun­cil­man Rich Tay­lor III to run against cur­rent Coun­cil­man Harry Samp­son, who also has been sup­port­ive of Geraci­mos.

Geraci­mos claimed that since Tay­lor would not con­firm that he would seek re­elec­tion in the town’s reg­u­larly sched­uled June elec­tion should he win next month, it fur­ther bears out that Vari or an­other would seek the mayor’s seat then, when ad­di­tional coun­cil can­di­dates could be re­cruited to re­tain the de­sired ma­jor­ity of three votes on the five-mem­ber coun­cil.

“This kind of pol­i­tics is what scares me for the fu­ture,” Geraci­mos said in clos­ing Mon­day’s meet­ing, say­ing it was mis­lead­ing the pub­lic. “The town doesn’t de­serve it … I’m sad­dened that I’m leav­ing on such a note.”

On Tues­day, Vari, Mann, Blevins and Tay­lor all de­nied con­spir­ing in any way to have Tay­lor run as a stop­gap to keep a po­lit­i­cal ad­van­tage.

“I have more self-re­spect than that,” Tay­lor said of be­ing a po­lit­i­cal pawn. “Run­ning for mayor was a de­ci­sion that I came to on my own, al­though I had con­ver­sa­tions with many peo­ple in town about run­ning. I am go­ing to be in­de­pen­dent of any and all coun­cil mem­bers.”

Re­gard­ing his in­de­ci­sion about run­ning in the June elec­tion should he be elected in the special elec­tion, Tay­lor said he sim­ply didn’t want to make prom­ises he couldn’t keep.

“My in­ten­tion is to serve out that six months or so and, if noth­ing changes in my life or ca­reer, I would run again,” he said. “I’d rather be hon­est now and let the ques­tions come up rather than say some­thing I don’t feel I can prom­ise.”

Vari, who en­dorsed Tay­lor in an in­ter­view with the Whig last week, said he was shocked by Geraci­mos’s “melt­down” and his de­ci­sion to chas­tise his col­leagues.

“Pol­i­tics should not en­ter into a town meet­ing. A town meet­ing is for town busi­ness,” he said. “I think he owes the town an apol­ogy.”

De­fend­ing his de­ci­sion not to run in the special elec­tion, Vari said that he felt that his time to run for mayor may have passed and re­it­er­ated that he considered not run­ning for re-elec­tion to the coun­cil this year.

“In pol­i­tics I’d never say never, but with my age — I’ll be 72 at the end of my term — and other things I don’t know if (run­ning for mayor again) is in the cards,” he said. “I think peo­ple like Rich are the fu­ture of this town.”

Mann ad­mit­ted Tues­day that she had spo­ken with Tay­lor and en­cour­aged him to run, but flatly de­nied that she dis­cussed that sup­port or any kind of con­spir­acy with any of her fel­low coun­cil mem­bers.

“I think he’s a strong can­di­date who would do an ex­cel­lent job,” she said. “I think he would help achieve a more even bal­ance on the coun­cil.”

Mann crit­i­cized Geraci­mos for voic­ing his claims dur­ing a town meet­ing, call­ing it “pro­pa­ganda”, and at­tempt­ing to smear a can­di­date ahead of the elec­tion.

On Mon­day, Geraci­mos said he too thought Tay­lor was qual­i­fied to be mayor, but ques­tioned the rea­sons for his run. The mayor said that he would not en­dorse Samp­son or Tay­lor ahead of the elec­tion as he pre­vi­ously said that he might.

In other com­ments, Geraci­mos warned the coun­cil about fu­ture ac­tions that could leave them li­able for law­suits, par­tic­u­larly con­sid­er­ing it is al­ready fight­ing a cir­cuit court ap­peal of the re­cently passed, con­tro­ver­sial or­di­nance con­cern­ing park­ing.

“In planning and zon­ing, most of the con­ver­sa­tions al­ways go back to one prop­erty,” he said, re­fer­ring to the Ch­e­sa­peake Inn res­tau­rant and ma­rina, which was a the cen­ter of the con­tro­versy of the park­ing or­di­nance. “As a busi­nessper­son my­self, I think this town is lin­ing it­self up for a ma­jor law­suit.”

Geraci­mos said he was proud of the legacy he would leave af­ter more than five years in of­fice and, de­spite re­cent op­po­si­tion, ar­gued that he al­ways had the in­ter­ests of res­i­dents at heart. Specif­i­cally, he noted that wa­ter rates set in re­cent years are more fa­vor­able for res­i­dents than com­mer­cial busi­nesses and projects like the canal trail helps the town ob­tain re­sources like side­walks from the state.

“Over­all, I feel we are leav­ing the town in a re­ally good spot, a much bet­ter spot that it pre­vi­ously was,” he said.

GERACI­MOS

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