"Our speaker won't be here," followed by a loud communal groan, marked the beginning of the meeting of the Carroll County Taxpayers Association last night.
U.S. Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett, R-6th, was a no-show at the meeting at the County Office Building.
The freshman congressman had been detained in Washington for an unscheduled vote. The speaking engagement had to take a back seat to legislative duties, said Bert Lego, a member of the taxpayers association.
"We pay the congressman to vote on our behalf and we want him to be there to vote," said Mr. Lego, whose organization, he explained, "makes sure those we elect spend our money fairly and efficiently."
The audience of about 60 people came to hear what the Republican congressman had to say on pending legislation. They had to be content with pamphlets detailing Mr. Bartlett's position on NAFTA and the Clinton health plan.
"He opposes both," said Mr. Lego. "He sent literature that spells out his stand on the issues."
Mr. Lego took the opportunity to drum up membership for the county association, which "does what it can to assure fair and reasonable taxation.
"We hope to affect goings-on in the legislature in Annapolis and Washington," he said.
Clout depends on increased membership, he said. The group now numbers about 20 and may not be able to continue without more active members, he said.
The county group is part of the Maryland Taxpayers Association, a 12,000-member organization -- active in 15 counties and Baltimore -- whose president, John D. O'Neill, also addressed the audience.
Mr. O'Neill warned of the fiscal consequences of pending state legislation.
"The taxpayer will really be stung by a horde of hornets by 1999, if all the state legislation passes," said Mr. O'Neill. "You have to get involved," he said. "Call [legislators] and keep the pressure on."