Uncertainty rules Manchester council Status of 2 councilmen is unclear

September 24, 1993|By Katherine Richards | Katherine Richards,Staff Writer

If you're confused about the status of the Manchester Town Council, you're not alone.

Several pieces of the puzzle that is Manchester government remain unresolved. It is unclear:

* What action will be taken by Councilman John A. Riley, whose seat was declared vacant by Mayor Earl A.J. "Tim" Warehime Jr. Wednesday night.

* How the council will break potential tie votes if Mr. Riley's seat is vacated, leaving the panel with four members.

* Whether Councilman Robert Kolodziejski, whose resignation was announced as effective Oct. 14, will go or stay.

Mr. Riley said yesterday he did not attend Wednesday's council meeting because his son was visiting from out of town and there was "not much" on the agenda, which included discussion of a "council vacancy."

"It was a surprise to me," Mr. Riley said. "I didn't know the council vacancy was me. I'm still in shock."

He said he does not know what he will do about it, and has not yet received his lawyer's advice on the Sept. 15 opinion from the state attorney general's office, which said he is in violation of the Maryland Declaration of Rights by holding paid positions as Hampstead town manager and as a Manchester councilman.

"I just tried to handle it as best I could to protect the town," said Mayor Warehime of his surprise announcement at the council meeting.

Mayor Warehime said that if Mr. Riley remains on the council and retains his Hampstead job, future council decisions in which Mr. Riley participates would leave the town open to lawsuits.

"I had to do what I did," the mayor said.

When he announced the vacancy Wednesday, Mayor Warehime supported his decision with an opinion from attorney Richard S. McKernon, who was hired as a consultant. Mr. McKernon said that Mr. Riley legally had vacated his Manchester council seat when he accepted reappointment to his job in Hampstead.

While Councilman Riley may be leaving the panel, another councilman may be settling in for an extended stay.

"I may stay, for the best interests of the town, for the time being," Mr. Kolodziejski said yesterday.

The agenda for the Sept. 14 council meeting announced that Mr. Kolodziejski, who was elected in 1991 to a four-year term, would leave office effective Oct. 14.

"I can't string on the town and myself," he said.

When Mr. Kolodziejski resigned, he said it was because he lacked the time to devote to town business. But he said yesterday that he did not get into two evening college classes he had hoped to take this semester, and that freed some of his time.

"I've been approached by some residents" to remain on the council, he said.

Town Attorney Charles O. Fisher Jr. said yesterday that, generally, if a person resigns a position, that person could rescind the resignation before the effective date.

Mr. Kolodziejski noted that he had not specified an effective date in the two letters of resignation he sent to the mayor.

Mayor Warehime said it would be "excellent" if Mr. Kolodziejski remained on the council, until an appointee to Mr. Riley's chair becomes acclimated.

"It would make a much better transition," the mayor said.

If Mr. Kolodziejski stays, and if Mr. Riley leaves, the council would have four members and would be susceptible to tie votes.

Mr. Fisher said yesterday the mayor does not have a tie-breaking vote. If a council vote is tied, the measure under discussion fails, he said.

The first opportunity for a potential impasse may be the vote on the appointment of Mr. Riley's replacement. Nominations are scheduled to open at the Oct. 12 meeting.

Mayor Warehime said yesterday that the recent political wrangling in Manchester has delayed some of the town's business, such as strategic planning.

"We could have had the water rates worked out [Wednesday] night," he said.

"I think when we get a new council member on line, everything will fall into place."

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