The Howard County Council has given preliminary approval to a resolution authorizing payment of up to $25,000 to Benjamin R. Civiletti as a legal adviser on redistricting.
At a recent work session, the council voted 3-2 along party lines to hire Mr. Civiletti, a Baltimore lawyer who served as U.S. attorney general from 1979 to 1981.
Council Chairman C. Vernon Gray, D-3rd, said the three Democrats wanted to hire an attorney "who is separate from what the executive is using." Mr. Gray said he expected the council to spend "far less than the $25,000" maximum established in the resolution, which authorizes paying Mr. Civiletti $150 per hour.
Republican County Executive Charles I. Ecker and the council generally rely on the legal advice of the Office of Law, but the County Charter allows the council to employ technical advisers, such as attorneys, to help carry out its functions.
Mr. Civiletti will advise the council on the constitutionality of redistricting proposals. Mr. Gray said the council is expected to propose one or two maps delineating new council districts at its Sept. 5 work session. A public hearing on the proposals is set for Sept. 11.
In other council action, the three Democrats moved last week to change county law and bar elected or appointed officials or political party officials from the county's five-member Ethics Commission.
The issue was raised June 3 when the Democrats, over the protests of Darrel E. Drown, R-2nd, and Charles C. Feaga, R-5th, tabled Mr. Ecker's nomination of Republican Howard County Central Committee member Allan Kittleman to the ethics panel. The Ethics Commission makes recommendations on potential conflicts of interest.
The legislation, prefiled last week by Mr. Gray, Paul R. Farragut, D-4th, and Shane Pendergrass, D-1st, would also bar county employees and lobbyists from serving on the commission. It is to be introduced at the council's Sept. 3 meeting and a public hearing is set for Sept. 16.
Ms. Pendergrass said she also filed legislation to establish a spending affordability committee that would report annually to the council on financial issues involving the operating budget.
She said the committee would be similar to the one set up this year by the county executive, and would include three private citizens and the county's auditor, budget officer, finance officer and administrator.
Mr. Ecker also has prefiled a resolution seeking council approval of five nominees for supervisor of tax assessment, which became vacant this summer with the retirement of Charles Baker. If approved, the names are to be forwarded to Lloyd W. Jones, the director of the State Department of Assessments and Taxation.