Rehrmann vetoes bill to give council review of settlements

June 22, 1994|By Phyllis Brill | Phyllis Brill,Sun Staff Writer

Harford County Executive Eileen M. Rehrmann has vetoed a bill that would empower the County Council to review and approve any settlement over $100,000 paid by the county from its self-insurance fund.

The council was expected to vote late last night on whether to override the veto. It takes five votes from the seven-member council to override a veto.

"I can't in good conscience sign a bill I firmly believe is in violation of the county charter," Mrs. Rehrmann said yesterday.

The bill, sponsored by six council members, grew out of concern about $400,000 the county paid the family of inmate William M. Ford, who died in the Harford County Detention Center in March 1992. The county maintains that the self-insurance fund to pay general and automobile liability claims and county property damage losses.

In a veto message to the council, Mrs. Rehrmann said the bill violated several sections of the charter, including one that forbids the council from conducting business in private and another that forbids "interfering with the County Law Department's normal business functions."

The administration authorized the payment to the Fords in March 1993, after the family alleged that Mr. Ford had been raped and murdered, and after the family threatened a federal lawsuit.

Mrs. Rehrmann later called the Ford matter "one of the worst cases of civil liability in the history of Harford County."

But after a grand jury report in February 1994 concluded that Mr. Ford died by his own hands or by accidental suicide, administration critics charged that the settlement had been premature.

The executive said the strength of a claim and its worth are "judgments better left to those with experience in evaluating such cases."

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