Annapolis Drug Policy Director Eric Avery resigned yesterday, leaving the future of the department in question.
Avery said his decision to resign came after weeks of talks with Mayor Alfred A. Hopkins over the direction of the department, but he did not give specifics. Hesaid the decision was "mutual."
"We're just not compatible in our philosophies of how to solve the problems, and you have to decide whether you can get the support todo the things you want to do," Avery said. "I'm really happy and proud of what we've been able to do here. The things we've done here areworking. I just hope they continue, and I wish Mayor Hopkins well. We're parting amiably."
Avery resigned his post effective June 1. Aldermen and other officials expressed concern about the department's future.
"I don't know what Eric Avery's leaving signals, but I hope it doesn't signal a diminished role for the department," said Alderman Ellen O. Moyer, D-Ward 8. "I think it's the single, most-important domestic issue we need to address. It drives all the other issues -- crime, quality of life. Eric played a big role in bringing attention to the issue and was instrumental in obtaining grant money. In a time of diminishing funds, we need all we can get."
Hopkins declinedto comment on the reasons for Avery's departure. He said the department will continue to operate full-time, but suggested that Avery's responsibilities may be taken over by another employee.
"I'm lookingat the whole city of Annapolis," Hopkins said. "Our greatest cost issalaries, and I'm looking for ways to combine jobs and save on the cost of government."
Former Mayor Dennis M. Callahan created the Office of Drug Policy two years ago amid fanfare and hoopla. Avery, 37,had worked as deputy director of the National Campaign for a Drug Free America, under Ronald Reagan's cabinet.
Hopkins' transition team recommended abolishing the department, but Hopkins made Avery a full-time city employee. Under Callahan, Avery had worked 30 hours a week as a contract employee. However, Hopkins cut the department's grantprogram last year from $90,000 to $50,000.
Callahan criticized Hopkins for the dispute that led to Avery's resignation and called on drug prevention groups to protest his departure.
"Eric's a man of the '90s and Al's a man of the '40s," Callahan said. "Philosophically,they're opposites. Eric is a man of the highest principle, and it was very difficult for him to remain in that atmosphere.
"It's a loss the city can ill afford at this time. I hope that the prevention people are more vocal than they have been historically. They sit back and think that nice guys always win, but they don't."
However, Alderman John R. Hammond, R-Ward 1, chairman of the council's finance committee, questioned whether the department was necessary. He said the city should consider letting the county Office of Drug and Alcohol Programs take over the city's drug-prevention efforts.
"This may be an appropriate time to examine the direction we're going, and maybe combine with the county's efforts and get a bigger bang for the buck,"Hammond said.
Avery said he got up at 6 a.m. yesterday to write down a list of his accomplishments:
* Created the Alliance for a Drug Free Annapolis, a coalition of 100 business and community leaders dedicated to fighting drug abuse. The alliance won a 5-year, $1.1 million grant last year to develop drug prevention programs.
* Increased the number of groups involved in drug prevention efforts from five to 29.
* Developed a comprehensive employee drug-testing programwith City Attorney Jonathan Hodgson, and created employee drug abuseeducation programs.
* Developed the 2-month-old neighborhood drugwatch program, which he said already has led to the arrest of several drug dealers.
* Created the annual Red Ribbon Week of drug prevention activities.
"He's been a real pioneer in the area of drug and alcohol abuse, so it will be with real sadness that he leaves," said Alliance Chairwoman Kathy Miller.