Village election dispute ready for court today Judge to decide if trial necessary

July 27, 1993|By Adam Sachs | Adam Sachs,Staff Writer

A Howard Circuit Court judge will consider today whether former Columbia Councilwoman Gail Bailey's claim that she was unjustly denied victory in Long Reach village's April 24 election merits a trial or dismissal.

The Long Reach Community Association and the Columbia Association, defendants in the suit filed by Dr. Bailey, have asked the court for a summary judgment, a procedure for promptly disposing of actions in which facts are not in dispute.

Councilman Roy T. Lyons, who defeated Dr. Bailey in a repeat council election June 5 after the Long Reach village board invalidated the first vote count, was added as a defendant after his victory.

But Dr. Bailey, who served on the council from 1987 until this spring, contends she legitimately won the April 24 election, 386-157. She has asked the court to interpret Long Reach village voting rules and to uphold the original count.

"My goal is to try to get the village to follow their own rules and procedures and to determine what they are in a court of law so in six months they don't change them again by fiat without a public process," she said.

The council sets policy and the budget for the nonprofit association, which runs the unincorporated city's recreational facilities and community programs and maintains open space areas.

The controversy centers on whether apartment building owners are entitled to one vote for every dwelling unit they own under Long Reach village covenants. Two apartment building owners cast 276 votes in the April 24 election for Dr. Bailey, carrying her to victory.

Mr. Lyons protested the election, prompting village officials to seek legal advice from a private law firm. In a legal opinion, the Baltimore firm of Venable, Baetjer & Howard advised that apartment owners should be limited to one vote for an entire property. The village election committee subsequently ruled that the election had been conducted incorrectly, and a new one was scheduled.

Covenants in seven other Columbia villages entitle owners of more than one residential unit or lot to multiple votes. But the issue of whether apartment owners could cast votes for each of their units hadn't arisen until this year. Only two villages follow a simplified "one person, one vote" policy.

James P. Ulwick, attorney for the Columbia Association, said he plans to argue that Dr. Bailey doesn't have a valid claim, based on interpretations of legal documents governing elections in Long Reach village.

The Columbia Association is charged with enforcing covenants in the 10 villages.

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