Hard Year Ahead for Hayden?

February 03, 1994

One of the worst-kept secrets in Towson during the past few years has concerned the personal travails of Baltimore County Executive Roger B. Hayden -- specifically his troublesome relationships with women, ranging from his two ex-wives to female professional colleagues.

But now the allegations of sexual harassment on the part of Mr. Hayden, raised in a formal complaint by his former personal secretary, have brought the matter into the open.

The particulars of the dispute between Niculina V. "Nicki" Robinson and Mr. Hayden will be judged by the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, where Mrs. Robinson filed a complaint against the county executive last September.

In the meantime, Mr. Hayden has dismissed the charges as little more than a political vendetta. He may be taking the matter too lightly. Consider that at least three women now have publicly accused him of abusive behavior toward females and that such accusations are viewed with increasing seriousness these days, as they should be. Anyone doubting this latter point need only recall the tales of two other Baltimore County officials, Del. John S. Arnick and Judge Thomas J. Bollinger Jr., who took a great amount of heat last year for their respective cases of insensitivity toward women.

How much heat Mr. Hayden takes over this matter will determine the extent of the political damage. If the issue blows over soon, he could survive with relatively little harm. However, if women's groups and other critics keep it on the front burner of public discussion, the executive could be in for big problems as he makes his bid for re-election.

In fact, Mr. Hayden will likely learn in 1994 how tough it is to be the top gun and to have others aiming for you and your job.

Four years ago, he enjoyed the role of the little-known challenger firing flak at fat-cat officeholders. This time around, he's the incumbent who has angered a number of voting constituencies. He must brace himself for a campaign in which he will come under criticism from the anti-tax fanatics who once backed him, from municipal employees who feel overworked in the wake of the Hayden reduction of government, from county unions angered by these work force reductions, from citizens who are angry over the decline of public services since the downsizing. And now possibly from critics of his behavior toward women.

This could be a very long year for the Baltimore County executive. And it's only February.

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