The Maryland Municipal League held its annual convention in sunny Ocean City last week, but members forecast a cloudy future if a court ruling giving county law precedence over municipal law is not changed.
The Maryland Court of Appeals decision was the main concern of many of the mayors, city council members and administrators who attended the conference.
The ruling was issued last October in the case of Tillie Frank, a fortuneteller in Forest Heights who was told she could not practice her craft there because town law prohibited it.
Frank and a fortuneteller in Mount Rainier, where a similar law exists, sued the two municipalities in Prince George's Circuit Court, claiming county law allows them to practice even if local law does not. The circuit court sided with the fortunetellers, and the Court of Appeals affirmed the lower court's ruling.
The decision infuriated Prince George's County municipal leaders.
"Municipalities should have the right to decide their fate," said Mount Rainier Mayor Linda M. Nalls. "If our charter contains a law we should be allowed to enforce that law. Unless, of course, the county wants to come in and enforce everything."
Municipal leaders have been lobbying state delegates and senators to find a legislative solution to the county versus towns problem.
Gov. Harry Hughes, who addressed the convention, said he was forming a commission to study the issue. Nalls said the Municipal League has adopted a wait-and-see attitude.
The league also held its annual elections.
Laurel Mayor Robert J. DiPietro, who ran unopposed, was elected president, and Rockville Council member John Tyner was elected first vice president.
Four Prince George's officials won seats on the league's nine-member board of directors. They are Landover Hills Council member James D. Britt, Laurel Council member James E. Cross III, Glenarden Council member James C. Fletcher Jr. and Greenbelt Council member Thomas X. White.
Chevy Chase Council member Anne K. Bushart also won a seat on the board.
Michael DiMario won the Prince George's regional vice presidency; Elizabeth H. Tolbert, mayor of Barnesville, is his Montgomery County counterpart.
According to Mount Rainier's Mayor Nalls, it is not unusual for Prince George's to win so many seats on the board because 28 of the league's 133 member municipalities are in the county.