The county's new director of economic development is named in Harford Circuit Court judgments for unpaid loans totaling more than $213,000, and the disclosure has County Council members shocked.
Lien judgments were filed against James D. Fielder Jr. on March 5 and May 15.
The loans were made by the Bank of Maryland-Harford County to owners of WHRF-AM, a Bel Air radio station, which Fielder owned two years ago. The bank contends Fielder is a guarantor of the loans. Loan guarantors are ultimately responsible for repayment.
Last week Fielder dismissed concerns about the debts. He said the new owners of the radio station are "totally liable" for the loans and that he expects the judgments to be settled when the owners sell the station soon.
Council President Jeffrey D. Wilson said he and other council members were not aware of the judgments filed against Fielder and his business associates before their 5-1 May 14 vote on the appointment.
"My initial reaction is that I'm shocked that this has not been disclosed," Wilson said. "I should not be finding this out from a newspaper reporter."
Councilwoman Joanne S. Parrott, R-District 2, who votedagainst Fielder's nomination, said she wants County Executive EileenM. Rehrmann to ask for Fielder's resignation.
"I'm very much concerned his integrity is in question here," said Parrott.
Fielder said, "(The judgments) are not a reflection on the job. It's a reflection of the recession and a company that did not perform as expected."
Larry Klimovitz, Rehrmann's director of administration, said he thinks a request for Fielder's resignation would be too drastic a measure.
Klimovitz said, "I would much prefer to the let the courts do their jobs. I am not going to prejudge, and I don't think the county executive should prejudge anyone on a private, personal business matter."
Klimovitz said Fielder told him and Rehrmann that he had "continuing liabilities" with the radio station during interviews for thejob. Klimovitz said it was the council's responsibility to question Fielder about the radio station, since the council was given copies of his financial statement.
Rehrmann did not return phone calls.
In addition to Fielder, the Bank of Maryland-Harford County filed the judgments against Fielder's wife Patricia, Harford County Broadcasting Inc., Impax Inc. of Timonium, Stephen and Susan Zachary of Perry Hall and David and Gloria Green of Sparks.
Fielder was owner and president of Harford County Broadcasting, which operates WHRF-AM, between March 1988 and November 1989. Fielder and his wife sold their interests in the company to Impax, the Greens and the Zacharys for $320,000, court documents say.
The documents say the lien judgments cover:
* A $40,000 line of credit issued to Harford County Broadcasting on May 18, 1990 -- six months after Fielder sold his interest in the company. The full amount of the line of credit was extended on Feb. 6, and the bank demanded that the company repay the money, documents say. When the money was not repaid, the credit line was put in default.
Harford Broadcasting now owes $40,875 on the credit line, documents say. The bank filed the judgment on March 5, asking the court to order the company to repay the full amount, plus $15 a day in interest since Feb. 6, and attorneys fees of $8,175.
* A $200,000 loanissued to the broadcasting company on June 17, 1988. The company still owes $172,745 of the loan, the bank says.
The bank is asking the court to order the company to pay back the loan, plus $67 a day in interest since Feb. 6, attorney fees of $25,910 and court costs, according to the suit.
The March 5 judgment was filed against the Fielders and the other defendants. The May 15 judgment for the loan namedthe Fielders only.
The bank contends in the suits that the Fielders -- as well as Impax, the Greens and the Zacharys -- signed as guarantors of the loans and are responsible for repayment. The Fielders' attorney, Avrum M. Kowalsky of Bel Air, filed motions in circuit court on April 16 asking that the judgments be killed. Hearings on that request are scheduled July 15 and Aug. 19.
In response to the judgments, the Fielders say they were only guarantors of a $60,000 credit line that was issued in 1989 and has since been paid. The Fielders contend in court documents they are not responsible for the $40,000 line of credit because they sold their interest in Harford County Broadcasting six months before the loan was issued.
The bank's attorneyssaid the $40,000 note was a renewal of the first credit line, and not a new loan as contended by the Fielders. Because the credit line was renewed, the Fielders were expected to continue to guarantee the second loan, the bank contends.