ANNAPOLIS — Carroll State's Attorney Thomas E. Hickman assured county legislators recently that his plan to have the law reflect how his office operates contained no "surprises" or "hidden agendas."
But County Attorney Chuck Thompson Jr. raised enough questions in his six-page, late-hour analysis of the proposal to doom it for this year.
Citing "flaws" illuminated by Thompson, the county commissioners surprised the Carroll delegation at a Wednesday meeting by opposing the proposal. In two presession meetings, the commissioners offered the proposal with their own requests.
At least four of the six delegation members said they supported the legislation after Hickman's Jan. 22 presentation.
But Thursday -- the deadline for submitting bills -- the delegation unanimously rejected the proposal, primarily because the commissioners opposed it, said Del. Richard C. Matthews, R-Carroll, delegation chairman.
Hickman sought legislation to authorize the appointment of investigators and define their duties, powers and limitations. The office employs two full-time investigators who conduct "police-type" investigative work, and the legislation would have authorized them to make arrests, serve court papers and carry a weapon.
It also would have authorized appointment of special assistant attorneys to handle cases involving conflicts of interest.
The commissioners objected because Hickman's proposal omitted a provision in current law requiring the state's attorney position to be a full-time job.
Hickman claimed the omission was unintentional and said he fully intended the elected office to remain a full-time job.
"I feel he didn't deliberately take it out," said Matthews. "I'm giving him the benefit of the doubt."
But the proposal wasn't amended because other issues troubled the commissioners, including permitting investigators to carry a gun, legalities concerning authority over positions, salaries and benefits, and increased liability risks for the county.
Hickman said he was "amazed" at the commissioners' sudden change of heart and disappointed that nobody contacted him about problems in the proposal, which had been in the commissioners' legislativebook for months.
Commissioner President Donald I. Dell said the board has been preoccupied recently and was not aware of the conflicts. He said the board did not promote the bill, but allowed Hickman to request it.
In his Tuesday memo, Thompson ascribed "good motives and objectives" to Hickman, but expressed concern that a future state's attorney could exploit language in the proposal.
"I do not mean to imply by this advice that (Hickman) would use this legislative authorization in any way to adversely affect the people of Carroll County or (the commissioners') fiscal authority," he wrote.
Meanwhile, the State's Attorney's Office continues operating in certain ways notspecifically covered by law.
Other bills discussed Wednesday were:
* Bond Authorization: The commissioners requested authority to borrow up to $15.3 million through a bond sale in fiscal 1993 to pay for public facility projects.
The Carroll Department of Management and Budget has recommended a $23.1 million capital budget for the year beginning July 1. About $900,000 would come from available county revenues and $6.9 million from state, federal and other sources.
The current year's adopted capital budget is $30.5 million.
The bondproceeds would be targeted to these major projects: $4.3 million fora new Westminster senior center; $2 million for the Mechanicsville Elementary renovation and expansion; $760,000 for a landfill leachate treatment facility; and $510,000 for Sykesville Park.
* Weed investigation: The delegation agreed that weeds must be 12 inches or higher to be considered a nuisance. The delegation is sponsoring a bill that would allow county government to investigate and abate uncontrolled weed growth, at the property owner's expense. The bill would not apply to lands enrolled in agricultural conservation programs.
The function had been handled by the Carroll Health Department, but was discontinued because of budget cuts.
COUNTY SUN -- ALGERINA PERNA
GS: THE CARROLL COUNTY SUN -- ALGERINA PERNA