The Crofton Civic Association will debate a proposal tonight that recommends sweeping changes in how the special tax district operates.
The changes, drafted by the rules committee, would reduce the number of officers from 13 to nine. But the proposal also calls for allowing representatives from businesses and developments owning land in Crofton to be elected as officers.
The proposal already has been criticized by Town Manager Jordan Harding.
The civic association president, Ed Dosek, said he has many questions, but prefers to reserve comment on particular aspects of the plan until after he gets clarification at tonight's meeting.
"There are some by-laws that needed to be added," said Dosek, adding that he was surprised at the number of changes the committee is suggesting. "We didn't need to address the whole thing."
But David Lombardo, the chairman of the three-member rules committee that has been working on the revised by-laws for more than a year, defended the committee's work
"I believe the last time they were revised was February 1981," he said. "A lot has changed in Crofton since then."
Lombardo said the board of directors needed to be reduced because Crofton's incorporation papers limit the number to no more than 11.
"The county council has seven members for more than 400,000 people," Lombardo said. "We have 13 members for less then 10,000 people."
But Town Manager Harding said the changes would mean giving the police chief, the comptroller and other department heads equal say, stripping him of power and weakening the decision-making process.
"I have got to have control," Harding said. "I cannot implement the policies of the board without having the money, too.
"The report deserves and will get a lot of thought before any changes are made," he said. "But when management principals of centralization are so important, you have got to be very careful about making sweeping changes that could create a situation in which questions are raised about who is in charge. What they have done is create an administrative nightmare," said Harding, a former New Carrollton mayor.
Lombardo said the committee's intent was not to dilute power, but merely to clarify the role eachdepartment head has.
"I don't believe we weakened the power of town hall," he said. "It expressly says the town manager is the managerof the tax district. He has prime administrative authority, but he does not have unbridled authority.
"He may be confusing the mayoralpowers he had in New Carrollton with the administrative powers he has in Crofton. Look at the duties of town manager. He'll see he has plenty of power."
Some residents also are worried about the proposalto allow property owners who don't live in Crofton the right to vote. Under the by-laws, only people living on property in the district can have a say in how they are governed.
Lombardo said that amountsto taxation without representation, since property owners may have aconsiderable amount of money invested in land and certainly are affected by board actions.
That proposal also extends to partnerships or corporations that own property in Crofton. They would be allowed to designate a representative to vote on behalf of the company. That representative could become a member of the board or even an officer.
Dosek said the fear is that developers and corporate property owners could gain a political foothold in the governing process, making it easier for them to influence votes.
But Lombardo said that concerned is unjustified. He said that while it is possible that a developer or a proxy could become a board member, it is unlikely to happen given the anti-development feeling that prevails among voters.
"We did not see it as a threat," Lombardo said. "They pay an awful lot intaxes. They should at least get one vote to have a say."
Tonight's meeting, which starts at 7:30, will be the first time the committeeand board of directors meet to discuss the draft.
Final recommendations could go before the general membership in November. Some of the highlights from the report include:
*Cutting the board of directors from 13 to 9, including reducing the number of election districtsfrom six to five.
*Establishing six standing committees, including one for finance, to aid in preparing a budget.
*Allowing owners of residential and commercial properties in the tax district who do not live on the property the right to register as association members and vote.