Crofton board broke its own rules in giving bonus WEST COUNTY--Crofton * Odenton * Fort Meade * Gambrills

January 25, 1993|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,Staff Writer

The Crofton Civic Association board of directors broke its own rules last month when it unanimously voted to give its comptroller a $2,500 bonus -- $500 more than allowed by its personnel manual.

Edwin F. Dosek, the president of the association, acknowledged that the board may have unknowingly failed to follow its personnel rules, which state, "A single cash award will not exceed $2,000."

Mr. Dosek called the rule a "guideline" that the board is free to change. "You shouldn't read anything into it," he said.

But that action, coupled with decisions to eliminate raises and other benefits proposed for the special tax district's nine employees, has at least one board member concerned that priorities have become skewed.

"If I were an employee of Town Hall, I don't think I would quite understand some of the reasons behind the budget decisions," said Cathy Trebelhorn, the only one of 12 board members to vote against the $558,000 budget.

The board passed the budget late last month and will present it to residents tonight. No vote is required because the budget is a 4.8 percent increase over last year, just under a 5 percent cap that triggers the need for voter approval. The budget maintains the community's tax rate of 28 cents per $1,000 assessed property value.

In a series of meetings, board members eliminated or cut several employee incentives championed by Town Manager Jordan L. Harding, including raises for two police officers, the community counselor and a boost in individual retirement account contributions.

The most controversial proposal was a $2,200 raise for Linda R. Smith, the community counselor, which would have brought her salary in fiscal year 1994 to $29,290. The 8.1 percent increase included the 2.9 percent cost of living adjustment given to all employees.

Mr. Harding had argued that Ms. Smith's salary was not comparable to counselors in other communities, who average $36,000 a year.

But after rejecting the proposal, citing hard economic times as a major reason, board members gave Barbara Swann, the comptroller, a $2,500 bonus.

Ms. Swann, whose salary for fiscal year 1994 will be $30,773, had already received a $499 bonus in June and another $2,000 in 1991 to recognize her 20 years of service.

"Barbara has been getting a fair number of bonuses," Ms. Trebelhorn said. "She has had a lot of leave to use up. Sometimes, we would buy out her leave. But [the $2,500] was a healthy bonus. We didn't recognize the police. Jordan didn't get anything. Linda didn't get anything."

Mr. Dosek said the rejection of Ms. Smith's raise and the bonus for the comptroller are two separate actions and added that the bonus came from last year's budget. "It takes a weird mind to link those together," he said.

Ms. Trebelhorn voted against the budget because she felt that $2,500 appropriated for a regional planning study proposed by member Jon Grant should go to employees instead.

But Mr. Grant said Ms. Smith's salary increase was rejected because of conflicting data on whether her salary was comparable with other counselors. He called Ms. Swann "the hardest working employee we have. The lady was paid for merit."

Police Chief Deborah Bogush said her officers are simply happy to get the 2.9 percent cost of living increase, something county and state employees didn't receive.

"I don't see any problem," she said. "We know we're not going to get everything. We've been asking for a sixth officer for a long time. It's like sending Santa a Christmas list. You always ask for more, but you're happy with what you end up with."

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