Court Clerk May Be Made Appointed Post

STATE HOUSE WATCH -- A REPORT ON THE ANNE ARUNDEL DELEGATION

Delegate Sees Fault In Election System

January 24, 1991|By John A. Morris | John A. Morris,Staff writer Staff writer Jay Apperson contributed tothis story.

The recent firing of three senior courthouse employees has led Delegate Charles W. "Stokes" Kolodziejski, D-Carvel Beach, to propose abolishing the Clerk of the Court as an elected office.

Kolodziejski said he wants the administrative judge of the Circuit Court in Anne Arundel County to appoint a clerk to coordinate the day-to-day proceedings. He has had a bill drafted to place the abolition of the clerk asan elected office on referendum in 1992.

"Possibly, you could have have someone elected to that office every four years and that doesn't allow for any continuity," Kolodziejski said. "A person could be elected who knows nothing about the job and then just brings all her friends in."

The second-term delegate said he specifically wants to protect senior employees from future political firings.

Clerk of the Court Mary M. Rose, who was elected in November, fired the chief deputy clerk and two of four assistant deputy clerks within hours of taking over the job from incumbent H. Erle Schafer. The three, who Rose said were incompetent, had worked at the courthouse an average of 27 years each.

"That precipitated this," Kolodziejski said. "It didn't seem logical to me to fire three people with 80 years of experience. How could a person just elected to the job get a feel for it quickly enough to do that.

"The judges should make the decisions about who works there because they are there every day and know the system," he said.

Rose, who first heard about the proposal from a reporter, said she would oppose the Kolodziejski's efforts. She has even suggested an organized debate between Kolodziejski and herself.

"I look forward to addressing this and leading the charge to defeat it," Rose said.

During last fall's campaign, Schafer said he would work to change the clerk's office from an elected to an appointed post.

"I think Stokes is moving in the rightdirection," Schafer said yesterday.

"The courts 50 years ago werethe hub of these small counties. That's not so now. . . . They should be professionally run."

And some critics of the clerk's office also have suggested that the position is so obscure that voters aren'tfamiliar enough to make an informed choice.

Rose, a Republican, said she might have agreed with that before the November election in which she clobbered Schafer, the incumbent Democrat.

"I feel this is a position that the people should still continue to choose," Rose said. "The people of Anne Arundel County saw there was a problem in the Circuit Court and they made a change."

"It doesn't belong in thehands of the governor or any other one person."

Schafer predictedclerks from other counties would oppose the bill as well.

"They like their jobs and I can understand that," Schafer said. "I'm not toohappy about being out of mine. It's a nice job."

Rose and Schafersaid eliminating any elected office will require a constitutional amendment. And Kolodziejski acknowledged that some details of the bill,which the legislature's legal department is still drafting, are uncertain.

If Kolodziejski was concerned about the welfare of the employees, Rose said he never contacted her. And he never contacted her to discuss his bill, she said.

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