[HISTORY: Adopted by the Mayor and Council of the Town of Forest Heights 7-20-2011 by Em. Ord. No. 10-11. Amendments noted where applicable.]
The Mayor, or a hearing officer appointed by the Mayor with the consent of the Town Council, may conduct informal administrative review (i.e., quasi-judicial) hearings pursuant to Town Resolution 51-11 (Policy governing requests for public information and public records), Town Ordinance Code Section 15.7 (Towing and impounding, right to hearing) or any other enabling ordinance or resolution permitting such review of a municipal agency's or official's decision.
The petitioner shall request a hearing in writing and shall provide complete contact information including the petitioner's full mailing address and telephone number. The petitioner shall further file a prehearing statement with the Town Clerk no later than 10 days prior to the date set for the hearing. The Clerk shall deliver copies of the statement to all parties of record. The statement must include the following information:
A statement of the grounds upon which the petition or request is based;
Copies of all documents intended to be introduced at the hearing;
A summary of expert testimony and credentials which will be proffered at the hearing;
Identity of all witnesses who will testify;
Whether the applicant will be represented by an attorney; and
The estimated time required for presentation.
Failure by the appealing party to comply with this section may be cause for a postponement or continuation of the hearing, or may cause the Mayor or hearing officer to leave the record open for a specified time to permit the submission of rebuttal evidence.
All hearings shall be conducted in accordance with the Maryland Open Meetings Act (§ 10-501 et seq. of the State Government Article of the Annotated Code of Maryland, as amended from time to time), and all proceedings shall be recorded. The following rules apply to the conduct of a hearing:
All hearings shall be recorded on tape or other media readily capable of transcription. The Mayor or the appointed hearing officer shall not undertake to transcribe any testimony taken at a hearing except at the request and expense of any party to the proceedings that seeks judicial review of the matter. A request for transcript must be in writing addressed to the Mayor and accompanied by a deposit of such reasonable sum to cover the costs of transcription and administration.
All parties are entitled to appear in proper person, by a corporate officer, or by an attorney. A corporation may appear in proper person through one of its officers as evidenced by a corporate resolution. All parties are entitled to have witnesses summonsed to appear, and the Council shall issue such summons upon request at least seven days in advance of the next regularly scheduled Council meeting and before the subject hearing. Only one person for each party may conduct the examination or cross-examination of each witness, unless otherwise permitted by the Mayor or the appointed hearing officer.
Documentary evidence may be produced by any party in support of his or its position. Such evidence, however, must be introduced through the testimony of a witness (either in person or by affidavit) who is competent to testify to or otherwise explain the contents of said documents. Such documentary evidence shall become a permanent part of the record of the hearing, except that, with the permission of the Mayor or hearing officer, originals may be withdrawn upon the substitution of a photocopy of the same which the Mayor or hearing officer judges to be clear, readable and on substantial paper. The applicant may move all marked exhibits attached to the application into evidence at the commencement of the hearing, and any objection to the documents attached to the application must be raised at that time.
The applicant or appellant may make a brief opening statement at the outset of the hearing, and any opposing party shall be accorded the same privilege. Opponents of the application or appeal may also make brief opening statements at the outset of the hearing or defer such opening statement until the close of the applicant's case. The sequence of direct and cross-examination shall be at the direction of the Mayor or the hearing officer at the time of the hearing. The Mayor or hearing officer reserves the right to limit the length of examination of any witness to a reasonable time and not to accept duplicative or cumulative testimony. The applicant or appellant shall offer its witnesses and evidence at the outset of the hearing and at the conclusion of the applicant's or appellant's case, any opposing party shall offer its witnesses and evidence. At the conclusion of all evidence, each party shall be permitted a reasonable period of time for closing argument.
In an appeal of an administrative decision, it shall be the burden of the party noting the appeal to prove the alleged error.
The Town may call employees of the Town of Forest Heights as witnesses. The timing of when these witnesses are called shall be within the discretion of the Mayor or hearing officer.
The Town Clerk shall cause to be published a notice of each hearing, giving the time and place of the hearing and the type of relief requested. The notice shall be published in the Town newsletter or posted at a conspicuous place within the municipal building. Notice of multiple hearings to be held on the same date may be advertised in a single advertisement or posting.
Hearings may be adjourned from time to time, and if the time and place of the continued hearing be publicly announced at the time of the adjournment, no further notice of such continued hearing shall be required; otherwise, notice thereof shall be given as in the case of the original hearing.
At the conclusion of the hearing, or within a reasonable time thereafter, the Mayor shall render or approve a written decision containing a statement as to the findings of facts and the conclusions of law upon which such decision is based. Copies of such written decision shall forthwith be furnished to the applicant or appellant or his or her counsel. The Mayor or hearing officer may ask parties to submit proposed findings of fact and memoranda of law.
The Mayor or the hearing officer shall consult the Town Attorney or, with the consent of the Town Council, may employ other legal counsel to advise them in all matters, including, when deemed necessary, advice in connection with the conduct of hearings and preparation of written decisions.
Appeals may be taken in accordance with the applicable Maryland Rules of Procedures and the enabling ordinance. Upon the filing of a petition for judicial review, the party filing the petition shall be responsible for the transcript for the proceedings pursuant to Section 25.3.
Any person aggrieved by a decision of the Mayor or a duly appointed hearing officer shall have standing to bring an appeal.