Nine Republicans intend to run as a slate in an effort to elect "conservative leaders" and supplant some or all of the county commissioners' appointees on the charter board charged with writing Carroll's constitution.
In a news release coinciding with the board's first meeting Monday, Citizens for an Elected Charter Board announced it intends to collect by Dec. 31 approximately 1,650 petition signatures -- 3 percent of the registered voters -- necessary to place the slate ona special election ballot.
If the petition is approved, the slate will run in a March election against the nine members -- five Democrats and four Republicans --appointed to the board Nov. 1 by the commissioners.
Several members of the new board expressed concern that the committee supporting the slate of Republican candidates appears to be turning the writing of the charter into a partisan issue. Charter board member Charles O. Fisher Sr. emphasized that the board intends to "write a non-partisancharter -- not a Democratic charter or a Republican charter."
Fisher had served as chairman of the Committee for Charter Government, which initiated the process for changing Carroll's form of government.He and four other members of the charter board have resigned from their positions on the Committee for Charter Government to avoid any appearance of a conflict.
Charter government typically involves an executive and a council, but can take other forms. It allows county government to pass its own laws, rather than going through the General Assembly as the commissioners must. It can allow regional representation. The charter outlines the structure, powers and limitations of government.
Carroll is the only jurisdiction in the Baltimore regionthat does not have charter government.
The citizens committee says "conservative thinkers" would analyze how to create a "less costly"charter government than others in the region. They also would striveto complete the document in time to place it on the November 1992 ballot.
The slate has no recommendations concerning the structure ofgovernment, says the release. Some slate candidates are opposed to changing Carroll's commission form of government but would be committed to writing the "best charter possible," it says.
"That's a heck of an attitude to take if you're going to write a charter," said GregPecoraro, a member of the appointed board and Carroll Democratic Central Committee chairman.
He expressed concern that slate candidates might try to "scuttle" the effort launched 18 months ago by a groupof private individuals that culminated in the recent appointment of the non-partisan board.
Slate member Joseph M. Getty, Carroll Republican Central Committee chairman, said that even though some candidates might be opposed to a change in government they would not aim to "muck things up so nobody would vote for" a charter, but to "serve ingood faith and come up with a good charter."
C. Rogers Hall Jr., chairman of Citizens for an Elected Charter Board and a Westminster attorney, said some slate candidates may be "1,000 percent" for charter government and others may be "1,000 percent" against it.
"We didn't take a poll on how they were going to vote."
The Committee forCharter Government advocated placing the question on a special 1993 ballot, giving a charter board sufficient time to write the document and to educate voters.
However, the Carroll Republican Central Committee recommended that the charter board complete its work in time for the 1992 presidential election because voter turnout likely would be higher and costs lower.
On Monday, Commissioner President Donald I. Dell also urged the board to place the charter on the 1992 ballot for those reasons.
Fisher said that it is premature to decide when the question will be placed on the ballot and that writing a serviceable document should be the foremost issue. The board has one year from its appointment, or one year from a special charter board election, to write a charter.
Commissioner Julia W. Gouge agreed that educating the public is important and could be worth the additional time. Several efforts to change to home rule government failed partly because voters didn't understand the issue, she said. The defeat last month of charter in Frederick County also could rile voters in Carroll, she said.
"People will ask why we're doing it here," she said. "They'll have a lot of questions. There will be a lot of distrust about it."
Candidates on the proposed slate are Getty of Manchester; J. Norman Graham of Linwood, former commissioner; V. Lanny Harchenhornof New Windsor, former state delegate; Doris W. Harner of Taneytown;Richard T. Yates of Sykesville; John P. Buchheister Jr. of Hampstead; Donald C. Frazier of Manchester, Tri-District Republican Club president; Sandy M. Gover of Finksburg; and E. Scott Hollenbeck of Sykesville.