The chairman of Baltimore County's Arts and Sciences Commission said he was not consulted by anyone in the administration of County Executive Roger B. Hayden before a decision to eliminate funds for the commission's staff in next year's budget.
James B. Laubheimer, a commission member for 16 years, disputed a comment by Hayden that he made the decision only after consultations with the commission. Hayden said these consultations convinced him that elimination of the staff would not hurt the arts.
"No one's contacted me, ever, at all, at any time," said Laubheimer.
The commission's longtime director, Lois K. Baldwin, 63, has decided to take early retirement by Jan. 31 rather than be shifted to another agency after July 1.
Laubheimer, a retired coordinator of the arts for county schools, said he asked County Administrative Officer Merreen E. Kelly about the cut after Baldwin was told of the decision. But Laubheimer said no one asked him beforehand what the effect of the cut would be. He said no other commission member has toldhim of being consulted beforehand.
Kelly said the commission will cease to have its own office and will have headquarters in the Economic Development Commission offices.
The arts commission makes recommendations on county grants, which have amounted to more than $1 million each year, to cultural groups.
Its staff has represented the commission before the administration and County Council when decisions on these grants are made, andit acts as an advocate for the arts within county government. Hayden said this function will be assumed by the Economic Development Commission staff. The shift is expected to save about $63,000 a year.
The arts commission staff consisted of Baldwin and two secretaries. One secretarial position is already vacant, and another secretary will be shifted soon to some other county agency, Hayden said.
Laubheimer said a staff is vital to the commission's work of screening arts groups that apply for county grant money. "We have to have someone to do the legwork, the letter-writing, to check the grants we screen and make recommendations on," Laubheimer said.
Baldwin said she was upset to learn her position was to be eliminated. The daughter of Christian Kahl, the county's first executive, Baldwin has been director for 12 of the commission's 16 years.