Planning Director Avin To Leave By March 1, Ecker Says Public Information Head Also Departing

November 21, 1990|By James M. Coram | James M. Coram,Staff writer

County Executive-elect Charles I. Ecker said yesterday that outgoing planning director Uri P. Avin will stay on until March 1 "at the latest."

Ecker said the search for a successor to Avin will begin next week.

Avin, meanwhile, will work on six special projects for Ecker and will continue to draw his $73,025 annual salary.

Avin said he has already begun his job search in both the "private and public sector" and is free to leave the county earlier than March 1 if he chooses.

Ecker, upset that citizens had to file freedom of information requests or threaten lawsuits to obtain what Ecker believed routine data from the planning department, announced soon after his election that he would fire Avin.

Ecker said at the same time he planned to keep most of the other appointees of outgoing county executive M. Elizabeth Bobo and would be interviewing each of them personally.

One of Bobo's most recent appointees, public information coordinator William Toohey, said yesterday he will be leaving Nov. 29.

Toohey, 45, said he had received an offer Friday to return to his former job as director of public information for the Baltimore city office of housing and community development.

He waited until after meeting with Ecker Monday to accept. Ecker was "pleasant," Toohey said, but told him there was "no certainty" he would be retained.

With three children, 6, 8, and 10, and Christmas on the way, Toohey decided to return to Baltimore, where he will be paid $45,000. That is less than the $49,166 he was making here, but still more than $42,600 he had been paid when he worked there previously and was named 1989 "flak of the year" by a Baltimore publication.

Toohey, who had a 20-year career in radio prior to entering public relations, has been on the job here only since Oct. 1. He says he had "a good two months" here and leaves with "a lot of good feeling" about Bobo, Ecker and the county.

Roger Caplan, chairman of Ecker's subcommittee on public relations, said he expected Ecker adviser Beverly Wilhide would take over Toohey's responsibilities until a successor is named.

Ecker will probably begin advertising next week to fill the position, Caplan said. He said "there is a wealth of talent out there," and that several people have already spoken with him about being considered for the job.

Although Caplan served as a media adviser to Ecker during the campaign, he said he has absolutely no interest in applying for Toohey's job. Caplan is president of a local public relations and advertising firm.

Caplan said Ecker doesn't want to fill that position immediately "just to be appointing someone," and will probably delay interviewing people until after he receives a report from Caplan's subcommittee, expected the first or second week in December.

Ecker said planning director Avin's job is "wide open" and that he will be accepting applications from both current employees and people outside the county.

What he is looking for, Ecker said, is a planner who has "good human relations skills" and "good communication skills."

Avin said the six projects he will be handling for Ecker are things he was involved in already -- responding to the state's 2020 proposals, developing a draft outline for mixed-use zone legislation; working on revisions for the county road design manual; developing a system for monitoring and evaluating growth management steps in the general plan; looking at alternatives for "hamlets" in the western part of the county, and developing a draft outline for legislation concerning a new environmental zone in accordance with the general plan.

"It's an ambitious agenda," Avin said, adding that he does not expect to complete it before he leaves. He said the value of his working on the projects is that he will be able to "move them along" and provide "continuity" for his successor.

In other news yesterday, Ecker announced the formation of a transition team -- his seventh -- to deal with "intergovernmental relations." This committee will invite county residents to share perceptions of the workings of county government.

Ecker said he expects his transition teams to present him with progress reports at the end of this month -- he will be sworn in Dec. 3 -- and put together final reports by the first week in January.

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