Council standoff in the making? Vacancy could remain until 1995

October 14, 1993|By Katherine Richards | Katherine Richards,Staff Writer

The Manchester Town Council, which split down the middle Tuesday in two attempts at filling a council vacancy, may be digging in for a long standoff.

Nominations were opened Tuesday after Councilman John A. Riley resigned his seat. Three weeks earlier, Mayor Earl A.J. "Tim" Warehime Jr. had declared his council seat vacant.

In September, Councilman Robert C. Kolodziejski had also TC announced his pending resignation. His departure would have left three remaining council members and broken the tie.

However, Mr. Kolodziejski said yesterday he is not leaving -- for the time being.

He had written a letter of resignation to Mayor Earl A.J. "Tim" Warehime Jr. on Aug. 19. However, that letter gave no effective date. The agenda for the Sept. 14 Town Council meeting said Mr. Kolodziejski's resignation would be effective Oct. 14.

But Mr. Kolodziejski said yesterday, "I'm going to be staying around. . . . Most definitely. No time limit."

His term expires in 1995.

Mayor Warehime said yesterday that the deadlock over the council vacancy could last until the next council election in 1995.

However, he expressed optimism that, given time, the council would agree on a replacement for Mr. Riley.

He said that Elwin Wagner and Clyde Kreitzer had not been mentioned as potential candidates for the vacancy until Tuesday's council meeting, and that the council members may need more time to evaluate the nominations.

Councilwoman Kathryn L. Riley said yesterday she believes the council members could agree on a candidate if they talked privately, but state open meetings laws prevent such gatherings in groups of three or more.

Mayor Warehime said he knows of no provision in the town charter that would help break a deadlock. The Manchester charter does not give the mayor a tie-breaking vote.

Yesterday, Jon C. Burrell, executive director of the Maryland Municipal League for more than 20 years, said he could not recall a similar situation where a Maryland town council has deadlocked over a council vacancy.

Mr. Burrell said the town charter sets the rules for filling such a vacancy. In Manchester's charter, he said, "It sounds like they've got a hole somewhere."

The county has no authority to interfere in the dispute, he said.

"The state could," he said, "but it would probably take legislative action."

He said it would take a constitutional amendment to allow the state to intervene in the matter.

Mr. Burrell said the town could amend its charter to give the mayor a tie-breaking vote or to create an election mechanism for breaking such a deadlock.

"Somebody's got to break the tie, for good government's sake," Mr. Burrell said.

However, Mayor Warehime said yesterday that if the council deadlocks while trying to elect someone to fill a vacancy, it would surely deadlock over altering the town charter.

Mr. Kolodziejski said yesterday he had "seriously thought" that Robin Yingling, who had been a candidate in the Town Council election in May, would be acceptable to all the remaining council members.

During Tuesday's meeting, when Mayor Warehime opened nominations, Councilman Douglas E. Myers nominated Mr. Wagner, of Old Fort Schoolhouse Road. Mrs. Riley nominated Mr. Kreitzer, a former town councilman of Wertz Avenue. Councilwoman Charlotte B. Collett nominated Mr. Yingling, of Augusta Road.

Before Tuesday's vote, Mrs. Riley asked for a secret ballot, saying, "That's what we've done in the past."

The first ballot produced two votes for Mr. Yingling and two for Mr. Wagner. A second vote gave the same result.

When reporters questioned the secret ballot, Town Manager Terry L. Short left the meeting room to consult Town Attorney Charles O. Fisher Jr.

Mr. Short reported that Mr. Fisher said Maryland state law forbids legislative bodies from voting by secret ballot.

"That was my mistake for letting it happen," Mayor Warehime said yesterday.

The council will vote on the vacancy again, by open ballot, at its Oct. 27 meeting, he said.

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