7 Of 9 Charter Board Members Lead

March 04, 1992|By Daniel P. Clemens Jr. | Daniel P. Clemens Jr.,Staff writer

The charter board appeared as though it would emerge from yesterday's primary election largely unscathed, with seven of nine original appointed members leading in the bid to retain their seats, according toearly results.

With 13 of the county's 35 precincts reporting, only challengers Richard Yates and Lanny Harchenhorn were among the topnine vote-getters in the 17-candidate race.

"It frightens me that people that put that much faith in the politicians," Yates said last night after being informed of early results.

The members who appeared likely to retain their seats were: co-chairmen Jon Buck and Walter Bay, Charles O. Fisher, Damian Halstead, Barbara Pease, L. Gregory Pecararo and Neill Powell.

"With so manyof us remaining, I think we'll be able to move forward," Pecararo said.

Members Charles Cull and William Knill -- both Republicans on the bi-partisan board -- were not among the top nine, early results showed.

The county commissioners appointed the original nine-memberboard -- five Democrats and four Republicans -- last November, with directions to draft a charter for citizens to vote on.

Commissioner Elmer C. Lippy, who is opposed to the concept of charter, said he was pleased the original appointees fared so well.

"I'm all for it," he said. "They've worked so hard, I'd like to see them finish."

A charter, if approved, would serve as a constitution for Carroll, and change the county's basic form of government from the current commissioner form.

The eight challengers, all Republicans, were dissatisfied with the members selected by the commissioners, voicing concernabout a lack of conservative representation on the board.

Work onthe charter will continue "as soon as possible," Halstead said, in hopes of meeting the original goal of having the charter ready for theNovember general election.

Though the challengers effort led to partisan political bickering, Yates said he thinks such sentiment can be put aside while the board continues its work.

"There won't be any friction on my side," he said.

"I've said all along I'd help write a good charter."

In December, the eight-member challenger slate collected enough petition signatures to earn a place on yesterday'sballot. Some of the eight had stated they were openly opposed to theconcept of a charter government for Carroll, while most said they simply thought voters, not the commissioners, should pick the board.

The challengers weathered a Circuit Court suit that charged the group's petition did not adhere to state guidelines and should be invalidated. A judge threw out the suit, and the campaign was on.

The board began meeting in December, and had a series of public hearings last month to listen to citizens' views on what features a charter should include.

After the challengers mounted their campaign, the boardagreed to make no substantive decisions on the draft charter. Work on the actual writing of the charter would be postponed until after the primary, and the board would focus solely on gathering information.

State constitution guidelines required that all 17 nominees be listed alphabetically, with no party designation and no distinction between commissioner-appointed nominees and challengers.

Many voters interviewed at the polls yesterday said the tangle of names on the ballot led to some confusion when it came time to make selections.

"I looked at the ballot and said, 'Who are these people?' " said Winfield resident Cora Williamson, who looked for familiar names when making her charter board picks. "That's no way to vote on something like this. But we didn't really hear enough about it, so I didn't fully understand it."

Though he's not convinced Carroll needs a charter, Elmer Henry of Winfield searched for commissioner-appointees.

"(Thechallengers) are really there to mess up the process," the retired Westinghouse worker said.

Nancy Kane of Winfield said she "didn't understand it, so I didn't vote for it."

New Windsor retiree RobertBurleson, who thinks the argument for a charter government becomes more compelling as the county grows, also looked for familiar names onthe ballot. He was assured by the knowledge that no matter who wins seats on the board that will write the charter, citizens will have the opportunity to vote on the final product.

"Even if I make a bad selection, I'll have recourse downstream," he said.

Having previously lived under a county council and county executive in Baltimore County, Westminster resident Michael Shipley said he isn't "really pleased with either" charter or commissioners.

Jean Stogo, a resident of Main Street in New Windsor, said of charter government, "If it's better, let's do it. It sounds better."

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