Lyons agrees to second election Candidate to 'get in the ring and fight'

May 20, 1993|By Adam Sachs | Adam Sachs,Staff Writer

Roy T. Lyons said yesterday that he will not challenge a Lon Reach village board decision to repeat the village's Columbia Council election.

"If I pursued an injunction or an action to delay, it would further complicate things," said Mr. Lyons, who filed a protest of the April 24 election. "The opposition could have done likewise and we could have had this thing dangling around forever. I decided to participate."

Mr. Lyons had threatened to take legal action in response to the village board's decision on Friday night to schedule a special election June 5 to resolve the controversy that has left the council in limbo.

The Long Reach election committee, on the advice of legal counsel, ruled that the election was "conducted incorrectly." The village board voted to negate three-term incumbent Gail Bailey's 386-157 victory.

"I think they made a political decision on a very difficult issue," said Ms. Bailey, who contends that she won the election "according to the rules and procedures in place at the time."

Mr. Lyons contended that the 276 votes cast for his opponent by the owners of two apartment complexes violated voting rules, and the election committee concurred.

The apartment owners cast votes for all of the units in their buildings. Voting rules in eight of Columbia's 10 villages, including Long Reach, entitle property owners to one vote for each dwelling unit or vacant lot owned.

The dispute has been about whether those rules permit apartment building owners to vote on behalf of tenants. Interpretations vary among villages. The election committee reported that Long Reach has operated under an "erroneous interpretation" of its covenants since about 1986 on that issue.

If "multiple-vote" ballots from apartment owners were disallowed, Lyons would have won by a comfortable margin. But even though the village board ruled in Mr. Lyons' favor, it rejected a proposal to recount the ballots and readjust the outcome.

"I was incensed [Friday] night," said Mr. Lyons. "I wasn't inclined to go along with another election. They chose the option that would put the least heat on them, and I can't say I blame them. They sort of dodged a bullet."

Ms. Bailey said it's not unreasonable to have a second election and that Mr. Lyons should be happy with a decision that gives him another chance.

"We've all been operating in good faith," she said. "No one is trying to deliberately do anything wrong. These covenants are difficult to interpret."

Ms. Bailey has come under pressure to step down from other council members and some residents who viewed her victory as an unethical manipulation of the system. Former Council Chairman John M. Hansen of Harper's Choice village resigned ** from the council, citing his objections to the Long Reach election as a prime reason.

Ms. Bailey said, "I don't think I'm going to resign. I don't think that would be appropriate.

"Some days I get up in the morning and say, 'I want to be done with this,' " she said. "We're both volunteers, we want to do the job, we don't want to fight."

The 10-member council acts as the board of directors for the Columbia Association (CA), which charges property owners an annual fee to operate recreational facilities and community programs and maintain open space.

Mr. Lyons said he won't protest the June 5 election retroactively if he should lose.

"That would be unethical," he said. "If I agree to get in the ring and fight, I'll get in the ring and fight."

The dispute has focused attention on the election process in Columbia, an unincorporated city of about 80,000 that functions more as a homeowners association than a government based on conventional democratic tenets. Some residents, elected representatives and a governance study group advocate a citywide "one person, one vote" policy, which has been adopted by two villages.

But covenants written by Rouse Co., Columbia's developer, require 90 percent of property owners in any village to approve amendments, a consensus that is difficult to achieve.

Council member Norma L. Rose of Wilde Lake village has proposed that the council investigate changes in CA's own incorporation documents to "provide a more representative system of quasi-governance."

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