Council to rule on ethics commission, charter revision

July 05, 1992|By Dennis O'Brien | Dennis O'Brien,Staff Writer

The County Council will be deciding a series of issues in the weeks ahead, ranging from whether to set up an ethics commission to how much county workers should be reimbursed for education costs.

The council, which will meet Monday night, had a public hearing Wednesday to discuss scaling back tuition benefits, expanding the pension package for county police officers and updating the county charter.

Robert Agee, chairman of the charter revision commission and a chief aide to former County Executive O. James Lighthizer, submitted a report Wednesday that recommended setting up an ethics commission, giving the county executive more latitude in assigning duties for departments, and assigning the executive and council greater authority to cut the budget after it is adopted.

Council Chairman David Boschert said he wants an amendment limiting council members to three four-year terms. The Crownsville Democrat said the amendment would apply to anyone running in 1994; an incumbent's time in office would not count as part of the 12-year limit. The county executive is already limited to two four-year terms.

The review commission, which has been meeting for the past year, is expected to issue its final recommendations to the council July 1.

The charter serves as a kind of constitution for county government, spelling out how it should be set up and detailing responsibilities of elected and appointed officials.

By state law, it must be reviewed every 10 years. Any amendments passed by the council must be approved by voters on the Nov. 3 ballot.

The council also heard testimony Wednesday on a number of measures expected to be voted on later this month. Members were asked to:

* Authorize changing personnel codes so that county workers would pay more of the tuition costs for work-related courses.

Personnel Director Donald Tynes Sr. said that under the current plan, workers earning a C grade or better get 100 percent tuition reimbursement, 50 percent at the time of enrollment and 50 percent when they graduate. The new bill will provide only 65 percent reimbursement at enrollment and no payment at the end.

Aileen Talley, director of training, said the number of workers taking college courses has been "exploding," from 269 in the fiscal year that ended July 1, 1991, to 229 in the six months that followed.

She said the program is costing $20,000 to $30,000 a year and that county officials want to trim that expense by about $15,000. She said no other county in the area offers 100 percent reimbursement.

* Impose school impact fees in Annapolis, Glen Burnie, Pasadena and South County. The fees, which would be levied on developers, would add about $1,500 to the cost of a new home. They are being considered as a way to pay for new school construction in neighborhoods where growth has brought increasing numbers of children.

* Allow police officers with 20 years of service in the department to retire without financial penalty. The benefit was part of a contract package reached in May between the county and the Fraternal Order of Police, which represents 470 officers. The retirement package puts the department in line with others in the Baltimore-Washington area.

Under earlier contracts, officers with 20 years of experience who retired before age 50 would be penalized 2.5 percent of their pension annually.

While the new contract eliminates that penalty, it increases officers' contributions to the pension fund from 5 percent to 6 percent of their salary.

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