Turmoil Engulfs Wilson

Unpopular Stands Frustrate Citizens

March 15, 1992|By Carol L. Bowers | Carol L. Bowers,Staff writer

Signs springing up on county roads the past few weeks say only "Impeach Wilson."

But the words sum up the frustration of some county residents with County Council President Jeffrey D. Wilson's performance in office.

The council president has yet to commit an impeachable offense, but he has come under fire lately for several unpopular political stands, and for speaking up as "a private citizen."

Other council members, for example, publicly chastised Wilson in November for urging the state to delay a Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. project that would benefit the town of Perryman.

Wilson instead wrote to the Public Service Commission -- "as a countywide elected official," and not council president -- saying he favored a project proposed by a BG&E competitor that would benefit South Baltimore.

Give him a way to avoid such controversy, "and I will write up a formula and repeat it when Iget up in the morning and put my shoes on," said Wilson, who is a minister at a church in York, Pa.

"I know that when I'm in the pulpit in York, I'm still the County Council president. When I eat, when Isleep . . . I'm still the County Council president. The worst they can accuse me of is not being clear."

Wilson said he's "never purported not to be the council president." He said he thought Harford residents, who voted most incumbents out in the last election, were "tired of the 'good ol' boy, go along to get along' politics."

"Do thecitizens of Harford County want citizen politicians or professional politicians?" he said. "I'm a citizen politician; I thought people were tired of having this elite class of untouchable professional politicians."

Other Wilson stands contributing to the recent controversy include his vote granting permission for an Abingdon rubble fill toexpand, despite protests from area residents.

The council also voted to reject the recommendations of a committee it appointed to drawnew council district boundaries.

And most recently, Wilson drew criticism for asking the Board of Education to include a raise for teachers in its budget proposal. Wilson said at the time that he was speaking as an individual.

County Executive Eileen M. Rehrmann has said no county employees will be given pay raises until the economy improves.

"You can't have the position of council president and then try, when it's to your benefit, to be a private citizen," said David W. Shrodes, chairman of the Harford County Democratic Central Committee. "As to Jeffrey Wilson's present circumstances, you can't judge his whole political career, by, say, a three-month period. I'm not necessarily defending any of the political stands he has taken, but all politicians have ups and downs."

Glenn A. Brown, a member of the county's Republican Central Committee, said that group has taken no official position on the controversy. But he did say some central committee members have tried to talk to Wilson about his recent stands.

"The 'Impeach Wilson' signs are in bad taste, but I don't know of a much more effective way for someone to express outrage. Someone's certainly got it out for Jeffrey," Brown said.

"A lot of us are dissatisfied with what he's done, but he certainly hasn't done anything to be impeached for," Brown said.

"Personally, I like the man, but I believe Jeffrey's ego has gotten in his way; he seems to have taken on more of an executive's responsibility. In my opinion, he's forgotten what the true meaning of the title of council president means."

Brown said Wilson "does what he wants to do and doesn't listen."

"He's just not attending to the goals and direction the Republicans ofthis county would like to go in," said Brown. "He seems to forget it's Republicans who put him where he is."

But Wilson maintains he has kept his three campaign promises.

"I said that I will stand up for you when you are right, regardless of the personal cost to me. I will stand up to you when you are wrong, regardless of the personal cost to me, and I will always give you the opportunity to persuade me of your opinion."

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