Framework Of Charter Has Started To Emerge

April 05, 1992|By Greg Tasker | Greg Tasker,Staff writer

For the Carroll County Charter Review Commission, the real work of drafting a new government -- one that would replace the commissioner form -- has begun in earnest.

In the three weeks since the primary election -- when three Republican challengers were successful in gaining seats on the board -- the panel has proposed how council members would be elected and what kind of county executive would serve.

Council members would be elected both at large and by districts. The nine-member board has not yet determined how many members would serve on the council or how many would be elected at large or by district. That decision is expected to come at the board's weekly meeting Tuesday at the Ag Center in Westminster.

Eight Maryland counties -- six in the Baltimore and Washington metropolitan areas and two on the Eastern Shore -- now operate under charter government.

Carroll's charter board marks the county's third attempt in 30 years to replace its commissioner government. The last effort, in 1984, was defeated by Carroll voters by a 2-to-1 margin.

The decision to have a Carroll council elected at large and by district came after much discussion among board members. Some said electing council members by district was best because it held members accountable.

L. Gregory Pecoraro favored electing some at-large members. He said at large members would not be bogged down with demands from district constituents.

At-large members also would look at issues on a countywide perspective, he said.

There was little debate on other issues, including legislative powers, compensation, terms of office, vacancies and procedures.

The board has proposed paying council members a $5,000 annual salary -- a figure far below that paid to council members in Harford,Baltimore, Anne Arundel and Howard counties.

Barbara S.F. Pease said compensation should be tied to the size of the county. Anne Arundel and Baltimore counties, for example, are more populous than Carroll.

"The larger the county, the more time you have to put in the job," she said.

Carroll's proposed wage would be line with less populated Talbot and Wicomico counties, which also have appointed executives.

However, a check with Talbot and Wicomico county officials showed council salaries were higher. Wicomico council members receive $14,000 a year, while Talbot members earn $9,000.

Powell said he believed the proposed salary for Carroll would not deter people from seeking office.

"We feel that this should be a labor of love, if youwill," he said. "Anyone who has a genuine interest in serving their county would work for the lower salary. They're going to be participating but will hold on to a full-time job."

Powell conceded, though, that $5,000 "may be a little low." He said in the final analysis ofa proposed charter -- expected to be before the voters in the November general election -- the salary could go up toward $10,000.

But,he noted, "No one seems to have concerns about the salary."

In choosing to have an appointed county executive oversee daily government, the board has followed the charter governments of less populated Wicomico and Talbot counties, and not Carroll's neighboring counties inthe Baltimore metropolitan area.

The choice to have the executiveappointed -- instead of elected -- was not unanimous. After much discussion, six members voted in favor. Three dissented.

The majoritybelieved an appointed manager would be less costly to dollar-conscious Carroll voters and less political than an elected one. The minority believed an elected executive would better represent voters.

Richard Yates said an appointed manager would take "the government farther from the voters of this county and allow appointments by politicalcronies."

Joseph Getty cited many advantages to an elected executive, including recourse for voters if they become unhappy with the county head's direction or work.

Like the appointed managers in Talbot and Wicomico counties, Carroll's executive would serve at the pleasure of council.

Comparisons to Wicomico and Talbot have become routine because the board visited those counties and has elected to choose an appointed manager, like those counties.

"Only those two counties have the form we're looking at," Pease said. "If we had gone with gone elected executive, we would be making comparisons to other counties."

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