Three County Council members were charged by their colleagues yesterday with "political grandstanding" after announcing support for limits on vacation time for legislative employees.
The three council members -- Diane R. Evans, R-Arnold, Carl G. "Dutch" Holland, R-Pasadena and George Bachman, D-Linthicum -- unexpectedly released a letter at Monday night's council meeting supporting a limit on the amount of vacation time legislative branch employees can accumulate.
They want to follow County Executive Robert R. Neall's new policyfor executive branch employees, which prohibits accumulation of morethan 35 vacation days, plus leave accrued during the year in which aworker leaves county government.
If the legislative branch also follows this policy, the county will save about $27,000, Evans said.
The council members' letter flies in the face of a Feb. 21 inter-office memo sent by Council Chairwoman Virginia P. Clagett, D-West River, suggesting that legislative workers be able to keep all vacation time accrued as of Feb. 1, 1991.
The letter also breaks with the council's longstanding tradition of not discussing personnel matters in public.
"What you're seeing is some political grandstanding, trying to grab some quick press," said Councilman Edward Middlebrooks, D-Severn.
Middlebrooks and Councilman David G. Boschert, D-Crownsville, said they wanted to know why Evans, Holland and Bachman didn't ask for their opinions about the Clagett memo.
"The same things they've knocked Virginia and Dave Boschert on, about doing legislation behind closed doors -- they're committing the biggest sins when it comes to doing it," Middlebrooks said. "This is the second time they've come out with agreements they've worked out between themselves in a back room."
In January, Evans, Bachman and Holland introduced a ultimately unsuccessful resolution to deny the school board extra money unless it implemented spending reforms.
In writing the letter, Evans, Holland and Bachman said, they simply were responding to Clagett's invitation to share their feelings on the vacation policy. They denied allegations of "back room" tactics.
"Where are you supposed towork out these things?" Bachman asked. "We were in our offices. If that's the back room, that's the back room."
As far as releasing the letter to the public and asking for a discussion at the March 18 council meeting, "The public has a right to know when (policies) involve taxpayers' money," said Evans, who has preached fiscal conservatismever since she announced her candidacy.
The limit on vacation time would affect five employees: Auditor Joseph Novotny and his assistant, Veronica Mixter; Council Administrator Judy Holmes and council aides Beth Slikker and Sylvia Jennings.
If the five left county government today and took their accrued vacation time with them, the costwould be about $65,000, Evans said. With the proposed limits, the cost would be reduced to about $37,700.
Clagett was vacationing and could not be reached.
Her memo suggests that accumulated leave forlegislative staffers be frozen at the amount on the books as of Feb.1; any leave accrued after Feb. 1 would have to be used in the year in which it was earned or lost.
Accumulated leave should not be taken away from employees who have already earned it since "it is not easy to schedule large blocks of time away from the office because of the constraints of meetings," the memo said.
County Personnel Director Richard Mayer said he asked Clagett for a clarification on the leave policy for legislative branch workers, who are not covered by Neall's policy. The council does not need to pass legislation on this matter, only to issue a policy statement, Mayer said.
Boschert, concerned about the legality of discussing personnel matters in public, said County Attorney Steve Beard confirmed yesterday that the vacation issue may be discussed publicly at the next council meeting.
Boschert, Middlebrooks and Councilwoman Maureen Lamb, D-Annapolis, have not yet taken a stand on the vacation policy.