Familiar face rejoins panel after three quit last month in protest, indicted member submits resignation
By Alex Bridges -- firstname.lastname@example.org
MIDDLETOWN -- A familiar face rejoined a Middletown Town Council still trying to fill seats emptied last month when three members left in protest.
Members voted 4-0 at its regular meeting Monday to appoint John Copeland to a vacancy on the council. Copeland, who recently retired as a part-time deputy for the Frederick County Sheriff's Office, has served on council in years past and as mayor. Most recently Copeland served a four-year term from 2006 to 2010.
Applicants considered also included former Councilman Gerald D. Sinclair, Katheryn Cordero and Todd Nuri. Cordero said after the meeting she plans to reapply for the sixth vacancy on council and run for election to the seat in November.
But just as council filled the seat, members faced another challenge -- find a replacement for Carl Heinz Bernhards Jr. who resigned Friday.
Mayor Charles Harbaugh IV read part of Barnhards' short letter that had been submitted to council. In his letter Bernhards cites "personal matters" as his reason to resign. A grand jury in Frederick County Circuit Court indicted Bernhards on three counts of failing to file Virginia income tax returns and then a felony count of making a false statement on such a return in May 2011.
After the meeting audience members congratulated Copeland on his appointment.
"It looks to me like we have a good nucleus now," Copeland said. "And it looks like everyone is willing to work together. That's the main thing."
Mayor Marshall J. "Mark" Brown and Councilmen Gilbert D. "Gil" Barrington and John Wesley Blaisdell Jr. resigned March 12 in protest. Harbaugh took on the role of mayor, leaving three vacancies to be filled. Members have appointed Tom Simon and Clarence C. "Trip" Chewning III to fill the positions which come up for election in November. Now council must fill Bernhards' seat which also would have come up for election in November, according to Town Manager Joan Roche. Also, Harbaugh would need to run for the mayor's seat since he gave up his council position to take the vacancy.
Chewning admitted his inexperience in council matters but noted he wants to do his part for the town and called for civility among members.
"There is so much that you have to ingest that I don't understand and it's going to take a long time for it to happen," Chewning said. "But I'm up here because I am concerned about the town of Middletown and I want to do what I can to help get the town back to respectability."
The same day three council members stepped down, J. David Griffin resigned as town attorney for Middletown. Roche said after Monday's meeting she has two applicants for the attorney position she is considering.