Rehrmann veto overridden

June 23, 1994|By Phyllis Brill | Phyllis Brill,Sun Staff Writer

For the first time in Eileen M. Rehrmann's administration, the Harford County Council has overridden an executive veto, assuring its role in authorizing the most expensive settlements from the county's self-insurance fund.

In a 6-1 vote Tuesday night, the council overturned Mrs. Rehrmann's veto of a bill that gives the council approval power over any settlement of more than $100,000.

In her veto message, Mrs. Rehrmann said the bill violated several sections of the county charter. But the council was buoyed by a two-page advisory from its attorney, H. Edward Andrews III, which suggested that its wishes were not contrary to the charter.

"This system will allow the council to have oversight of taxpayers' funds," said Barry Glassman, a District D Republican who left a sickbed to vote for the override.

The bill grew out of criticism of the administration's authorization last year of a $400,000 payment to the family of inmate William M. Ford, a Delaware laborer who was found dead in the Harford County Detention Center in 1992. His family claimed he had been raped and murdered, and threatened to file a federal lawsuit. But a grand jury report concluded he died by his own hand, either intentionally or by accident. The legislation, which the council passed unanimously May 31, calls for the council in groups of three or less to consult privately with county lawyers to review a settlement. A motion to approve the settlement and the council's vote on it would be made in a public session. The bill forbids council members from disclosing settlement amounts.

Mrs. Rehrmann said the council's private consultations would violate the charter's open meetings section. She also said the council does not have the legal staff's experience in negotiating claims and said its control over line-by-line expenditures ends when the budget process is completed.

But council members Tuesday invoked Mr. Andrews' advisory that this would not be the first time the council has met privately in small groups with the executive branch and legal counsel to discuss litigation, contracts and other issues.

Joanne S. Parrott, R-District B, withdrew her support of the bill and voted against the override.

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