Baltimore County Executive Roger Hayden put a clamp on communications between County Council members and county departments heads this week, requiring council members to go through one of his deputies when they try to resolve a constituent complaint.
Council members said they were told this week that for the next 30 days rather than deal directly with departments in trying to help callers they should refer complaints to Nicholas Spinnato, a member of the Republican executive's personal staff.
Mr. Spinnato, in turn, will call department heads to resolve the matter, Mr. Hayden said.
County employees were told to set up meetings with council members through Mr. Spinnato.
In Baltimore, an outcry by city council members about a similar policy put in effect by Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke put the mayor on the defensive last March.
The mayor later said that the outcry was based on the misinterpretation of a subordinate's memo and that he never intended to interfere in council's involvement in the routine delivery of constituent services.
Mr. Hayden said last night that he took the step as a management tool necessary to monitor the amount of county staff time and money spent on handling constituent complaints.
He said the policy probably would remain in effect for 30 days.
"We want to see what kind of volume of questions we're getting in and get a feel for if it's had any real impact on costs," Mr. Hayden said.
He said he did not expect it to hamper council members efforts to serve constituents.
"There's no information that they [council members] were getting before that they can't get now," he said.
Council members said that they each handle up to 50 complaints a week from constituents.