Challenger is victorious in repeat village election

June 06, 1993|By Adam Sachs | Adam Sachs,Staff Writer

Roy T. Lyons, who won yesterday's repeat election for Long Reach Village's Columbia Council seat by 49 votes, called his victory "the icing on the cake.

"It vindicates our effort," said Mr. Lyons, who protested the results of the original April 24 election, in which he appeared to be a loser by a landslide to incumbent Dr. Gail Bailey.

Mr. Lyons challenged the first election after discovering that two apartment building owners had cast 276 votes -- one for each of their dwelling units -- for Dr. Bailey. Those votes turned what would have been a 45-vote victory for Mr. Lyons into a cakewalk for the incumbent.

For years, Long Reach has allowed apartment owners to vote on behalf of tenants, unless the renters arrive at the polls first.

The village election committee confirmed that the policy was valid at a pre-election meeting, but sought legal advice and reversed itself after lawyers from Venable, Baetjer & Howard said it had erred. The village board then scheduled a new election, rather than just recount the votes.

"Now that it's over, it was the best means to our objective," Mr. Lyons said. "There would be acrimony forever if the board simply turned the election over for me, right or wrong."

But the result could still be in doubt because Dr. Bailey sued last week in Howard County Circuit Court to determine which of the two elections is valid, based on village covenants.

"I was severely damaged by the village board's failure to uphold its own rules after the first election," Dr. Bailey said. "It was unfair to hold a second election, with me taking the blame for what the village board did the second time around."

In most Columbia villages, voting rights are based on property ownership, with owners of more than one rental unit or lot entitled to multiple votes. The issue of whether apartment building owners may vote for all their units had not been raised until this year.

Long Reach resident Jeanne Busch, who moved to Columbia from Virginia this year, said she is disturbed by Columbia's voting rules. Columbia is unincorporated and functions like a large homeowners' association, she said.

"There should be one person, one vote. There's no point otherwise," she said.

"Secondly, I'd like to see more forums for communication. I don't know enough about either candidate. It's tough to find out about voting records. There's too much closed stuff here, and I don't like that."

Ms. Busch said she "went ballistic" when she found out that two apartment building owners have the power to decide an election.

Long Reach resident William Smetak agreed that the policy change for the second election was a "fairer way to do things."

The Columbia Council sets policy and the budget for the Columbia Association, which operates recreational facilities and community programs and maintains open space areas.

Dr. Bailey's lawyer, Jan O'Connor, said the court case will go forward, and could be amended to reflect yesterday's election.

"There are dangling issues that need to be resolved," she said. "If it means a change in the covenants, or if the covenants are interpreted a certain way by the judge, the time is ripe."

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