Flap over gay appointee cools for now

June 14, 1992|By James M. Coram | James M. Coram,Staff Writer

What was shaping up as a sizzle of a confrontation between the county executive and the County Council is turning into a fizzle.

For a while, it looked like the three council Democrats would scorch County Executive Charles I. Ecker tomorrow night for refusing to appoint a gay Columbia man to the Human Rights Commission.

Now, it appears that the searing, if it comes at all, will come next month when Ecker resubmits his list of nominees.

Council Democrats wanted Bob Healy appointed to the commission. When Ecker refused to nominate him, the council refused to consider the two people Ecker did nominate to the commission: Verna Lawes and Veronica Mariani.

Appointments to most boards and commissions are made by the executive and are subject to the council's approval.

Ecker said the council is trying to play both the nominating and approval roles. He said he has no problem nominating gays or lesbians to serve on the Human Rights Commission and is

actively seeking such applicants.

"But they should be people I want to nominate," not people the council wants to nominate, Ecker said. "I'd be tickled to death if two [gays or lesbians] applied tomorrow. I've encouraged Asian and Hispanic applicants to apply and they have. I am actively seeking applications from all 14 protected classes. Until this controversy, it was very difficult to get applicants."

Ecker said he would prefer that women fill the three vacancies on the commission to give it more balance. The present makeup is six men and two women. He said he also wants at least one applicant to be from the Savage-North Laurel area for geographical balance.

Although Ecker said he never looks at political affiliation when making appointments, County Councilman Darrel Drown, R-2nd, said that "If asked, I would tell Chuck not to appoint Healy because I understand he is a Democratic activist."

Healy could not be reached for comment. Council Democrats were so appalled by a partisan nominee to the county Ethics Commission -- Republican Central Committeeman Allan Kittleman -- that they changed the law to exclude politicians from serving. They also rejected both Kittleman and his mother-in-law as Ethics Commission nominees.

It is not Healy's politics, but the fact that he wrote a letter to a local newspaper, and the paper published an article about his bid for the post that makes him "too controversial," Ecker said. "There's been too much publicity."

Council Chairman Paul R. Farragut, D-4th, said he was surprised by Ecker's reaction.

"I read the letter and saw the article and saw nothing objectionable," Farragut said. "It appeared that [Ecker] had someone apply from one of the protected classes and was not giving him serious consideration."

Farragut said he was pleased to hear Ecker say he is actively recruiting gays and lesbians to serve on the commission, which investigates complaints of county human rights violations.

"People in protected classes should seek and be appointed," he said.

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