Tax protesters cool to Hayden after face-off heats up Balto. Co. executive's opposition to assessment switch is decried.

March 24, 1992|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,Staff Writer

County Executive Roger B. Hayden, the darling of Baltimore County's property tax protesters during the 1990 election, isn't quite so appealing now, in the view of the group's founding father, David E. Boyd.

"He really isn't for us anymore," says a bitter Mr. Boyd. "We've been betrayed."

The newfound animus stems from a confrontation at a meeting in the executive's office Friday, which ended with Mr. Hayden having to call his police bodyguard before Mr. Boyd and three other protesters from Property Taxpayers United decided to leave.

The group met with the executive to discuss a failed state Senate bill it had supported. The measure would have allowed county government to regain control over property tax assessments and appeals for a five-year trial period, a process the state now runs.

The anti-tax crusaders charge that they were not told before a hearing on the bill that county lobbyist Patrick Roddy would testify against it. Mr. Roddy, who did not attend the Towson meeting Friday, says the Hayden administration opposed the measure because the bill's wording would have forced the county to spend $4 million to hire state assessors and hearing officers and to buy computers.

Several participants in the meeting say the executive played a tape recording of part of Mr. Boyd's testimony at the Senate committee hearing, when he warned Mr. Hayden to "look for a new job after the next election" if he opposed the bill.

Mr. Boyd also complains about Mr. Hayden's practice of hiring "high-paid executives," a charge his group often leveled at former County Executive Dennis F. Rasmussen. He criticized Mr. Roddy's $58,000 salary, the lobbyist's "big county car" (a former county councilman's Ford sedan), and Mr. Roddy's attendance at law school part time while he works full time for the county.

Mr. Boyd says that after playing the recording of the hearing excerpt, Mr. Hayden ordered the taxpayer group out of his office.

Harold Lloyd, the assessments expert in the taxpayer group, says he became angry because he did not get a chance to weigh in on the issue. Several participants say the executive called one of his bodyguards to remove Mr. Lloyd from the room when Mr. Lloyd refused to leave.

One member of the group pulled out a video camera to tape the confrontation, which further irritated Mr. Hayden, Mr. Boyd says. But the conflict abated because the tax protesters left before the bodyguard arrived, he says.

Recounting the meeting and his frustration over the Senate bill, Mr. Boyd warns: "Roger, you're dead in central and northern Baltimore County."

Mr. Boyd says he objects to other Hayden decisions as well, including a $13,000 pay raise for Police Chief Cornelius J. Behan last year and the hiring of former county attorney Arnold E. Jablon as zoning administrator.

Mr. Boyd also criticizes Kenneth Nohe, director of the county's Economic Development Commission, referring to a recent disclosure that Mr. Nohe ran up $1,700 in restaurant bills in January.

Mr. Lloyd and another tax protest leader who attended the Friday meeting say they do not share Mr. Boyd's bitterness, and, though they do not always agree with Mr. Hayden's decisions, they will continue to support him.

Mr. Lloyd characterizes the disagreement last week as a "father-son" type of argument. And John D. O'Neil, who helps lead an allied group called the Maryland Taxpayers Association, says "it was like an argument between a man and his wife."

Mr. Lloyd adds that he had "worked hard for Roger Hayden" in the last election and that while "his style is not maybe the best and his appointments aren't always good, and he's under personal stress, I still like him.

"I got angry," Mr. Lloyd concedes, but says he thinks the executive is doing a great job under tough fiscal circumstances.

Mr. Hayden refuses to comment on the details of the conflict with the taxpayer group. But he insists that "there is no argument" with the protesters over the failed Senate bill. He has agreed to work with the group on a differently worded bill for next year, he says.

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