Charter Board Challengers Belong On Ballot, Officials Say

Supervisors Call For Dismissal Of Suit Challenging Group's Petition

February 09, 1992|By Daniel P. Clemens Jr. | Daniel P. Clemens Jr.,Staff writer

County election officials say the eight people contesting charter board seats should be on the March 3 election ballot, despite a suit calling for their removal.

The Board of Election Supervisors, a defendant in the suit, asked a Circuit Court judge Wednesday to throw outthe suit, which says that the petition that put the challengers on the ballot was invalid.

The timing of the suit has "placed the (election board) in an untenable position, and made it impossible to plan for this election," Wesley D. Blakeslee, the board's attorney, wrote in the motion.

In a suit filed Jan. 27, Finskburg resident Frank H. Rammes said the challengers' petition should be invalidated because it violates the state constitution on two counts. The challengers did not submit with their petition a required expenditure form listing costs associated withthe petition drive.

Also, Rammes said, the petition violates the state constitution's stipulation that "no certificate of nomination shall contain the name of more than one nominee for each office to be filled." Nine names appeared on a single petition.

But those requirements apply to referendum petitions, not candidacy petitions, say the challengers, who call themselves Citizens for an Elected Charter Board and who also are defendants in the suit.

"I did not file sucha financial statement because the law does not require one," RichardT. Yates, one of the challengers, wrote in his response.

Rammes said the subsequent withdrawal of petition candidate Doris W. Harner presents an additional "irregularity" that provides further grounds for invalidation. He claims that some county residents would not have signed the petition if Harner's name had not been among the candidates.

Rammes filed the suit after failing to persuade the county commissioners to reject the petition. In refusing, the commissioners said the state Attorney General's Office advised them that Rammes' arguments are not sufficient to warrant striking the petition.

The charter board was appointed by the commissioners last November and charged with writing a document that would fundamentally change Carroll's form of government.

However, the emergence of the slate and Rammes' suit have cast uncertainty over the appointed board's work. The nine-member board, which has been meeting for several weeks, is working to complete the charter in time to be placed on the ballot for the November general election. That would save the county the cost of a special election, or about $50,000.

The controversy over the challengers' petition could cost the county another $50,000 if the matter is notresolved before the March 3 Maryland primary and a special election is needed to select charter board members.

Circuit Judge Raymond E. Beck Sr. declined to comment Friday on when he expects to hand downa decision on the suit. Previously, Beck sped the process by giving parties in the suit 10 days to respond to Rammes' charges. The 10 days expired Friday.

Earlier, the board decided to limit its efforts to collecting information and taking public testimony on what should be in a charter for Carroll. The board agreed to put off substantive work on the charter until after the election.

The charter continues its work at 7 p.m. Tuesday with a public hearing at Liberty High School. The hearing is the second of four such sessions in February.

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