Neall Ready To Rearrange Government

Executive Branch Changes May Conflict With Charter

October 25, 1991|By Elise Armacost | Elise Armacost,Staff writer

County Executive Robert R. Neall is expected today to announce a major reorganization of the executive branch that he says would save thecounty at least $600,000 a year.

Under the restructuring, Neall would reduce the number of people who report directly to him, merge several offices and eliminate seven appointed position and one merit position. He also wants to streamline management by naming department heads to oversee groups of related agencies.

"I'm going to be the Supreme Court," Neall said yesterday. "The Supreme Court doesn't consider everything, it only considers those issues that are brought before it. I have to run the government with fewer people, so I'm trying to assemble a fewer number of people with multiple qualifications."

Neall is holding a news conference at 1 p.m. today to explain which departments and offices would be affected.

Though some of the positions Neall wants to abolish are vacant, a few appointees -- including the heads of two offices -- would lose their jobs, he said. Others would be reassigned.

Though he is announcing the restructuring now as a way to save money during the budget crisis, Neall has been looking into a reorganization of the executive branch for months and said he would have pushed for a restructuring even if the economy were booming.

"I'm using the current emergency to accelerate this," he said.

Neall strongly objects to the current organization as specified in the County Charter. Amendments pushed by the Lighthizer administration in 1988 increased the layers of bureaucracy -- "a major mistake," Neall said. "It's like an albatross. Technically, I can't deviate from that."

Technically, the charter cannot be changed until the November 1992 election, when any proposed amendments would be put on the ballot. But these are not normal times,he said.

With the county facing a $17.2 million cut in state aid,Neall has introduced a bill that would reopen the fiscal 1992 budgetprocess. The bill also would allow him to declare a state of emergency and, he says, enable him to reorganize the executive branch now.

Within the next few days, he says, he plans to ask the council to approve his plan, either through legislation, a resolution or changes to the fiscal 1992 budget.

Neall wants the restructuring to remainin place until next year's election, when he hopes to have a charteramendment placed on theballot giving the executive broader powers toorganize his branch of government.

Some council members are concerned that what Neall wants to do may violate the charter.

Neall, however, is not. He says he sees no reason why his plan cannot be usedfor the next year, even if is not strictly in accordance with the charter.

"Who is going to drag me to court and prevent me from saving $600,000?" he asked. "Basically, this is inside baseball. People donot care that I have a director of thus and so, and we need the money.

"The charter charges me with responsibility of running government in an effective fashion. This is a vintage 1988 chart," he said, pointing to the organization outlined in the charter, "and we are definitely not in 1988. This chart inhibits me from being faithful to my oath of office."

Council members -- who had not yet been briefed on Neall's plan -- said they want to review the plan to see if its scope transcends what is mandated by law under the charter.

"When we took an oath of office we voted to uphold (the charter)," said Councilman David G. Boschert, D-Crownsville. "That's where I'm coming from.I am very cautious about changing anything right now."

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