Council hunting a lawyer after Andrews' swift exit

January 01, 1995|By Phyllis Brill | Phyllis Brill,Sun Staff Writer

With the expiration of Bel Air attorney H. Edward Andrews III's contract with the County Council only days away, the council will begin to advertise for a new lawyer in newspapers this week.

At its last meeting in December, the council agreed to run ads for the $27,500-a-year, part-time job in the Daily Record, the Baltimore-based trade paper for the legal community, this week.

Ads will also run locally, in the Aegis Wednesday and The Sun next Sunday.

The quest for a new lawyer comes as the council enters its fourth week without its chief counsel in attendance at meetings or in contact with any council members.

Mr. Andrews formally resigned at the first meeting of the newly elected council Dec. 6, citing philosophical differences with some members of the council.

Mr. Andrews had supported Democrat Theresa M. Pierno in the race for the council presidency, which was won by Joanne S. Parrott.

The terms of his contract required Mr. Andrews to remain on staff for 30 days after giving notice, which would make his termination official Jan. 6.

But on Dec. 12, Mrs. Parrott instructed Acting Council Secretary and Assistant Attorney James Vannoy to call Mr. Andrews and inform him that he would be paid for another month, but his services would not be needed for the remainder of his term and he should not attend any more council meetings.

"My first reaction was that it was illegal. And from a practical standpoint, it was ridiculous," Mr. Andrews said later. "Here, Ms. Save-the-Taxpayers'-Dollars Parrott had managed to throw away $2,500 at once."

At the council's Dec. 13 meeting, Councilwoman Susan B. Heselton, of District A, questioned Mr. Andrews' absence. Mrs. Parrott told her that the council's three-member Personnel Committee had decided that his services were no longer needed.

The Personnel Committee, which was created the same night Mr. Andrews resigned, consists of Mark S. Decker, Barry Glassman and Mrs. Parrott.

Mrs. Heselton moved for discussion of the matter by the entire council, but the motion failed for lack of a second.

In a letter to the County Council a week later, Mr. Andrews questioned the legality of dismissing the chief counsel on the consensus of only three council members.

"It is the opinion of this attorney that the decision made by the Personnel Committee is not binding upon the County Council," he wrote. "It must be brought before the council for a vote in public session in some fashion."

He also warned that he would not be responsible for any legal troubles the council might encounter during the month for which he was paid but prevented from going to work.

Mr. Andrews said last week that he wrote the letter because, "after I thought about it, I knew I had to put in writing the fact that I was not just staying away from meetings on my own, but that this was at Mrs. Parrott's direction. And it was done in a clearly illegal fashion; it should have been done in a public session."

"Typically, Joanne Parrott didn't have the courage to call me personally or ask me to come over or even send me a memo," he said.

Mrs. Parrott said her action was not unusual.

"He just has a difficult time accepting defeat," she said last week, referring to Mr. Andrews' bid for the Council District C seat.

The attorney lost the Democratic primary to John Haggerty, who lost in the general election to Mr. Decker, a Republican.

In addition, Mrs. Parrott said, "The [council] agendas have been very light and there was no need for an interpretation of the law. Besides, Mr. Vannoy was present at the meetings."

Councilman Glassman said the decision to cut short Mr. Andrews' term also was "based on the tone" of the attorney's resignation and the fact that he said he disagreed philosophically with the new council.

"The council attorney is supposed to be an impartial legal counsel; yet he had said he couldn't work with this council," Mr. Glassman said. "So it probably was in the best interest of the council to accept the resignation on the spot and not have him show up for any more meetings."

Mr. Glassman said he disagreed with Mr. Andrews' opinion that the early dismissal should have been discussed in an open meeting by the entire council.

Mrs. Parrott said the Personnel Committee will begin interviewing applicants for the post in a couple of weeks.

The committee plans to narrow the field to a handful of applicants, who will be interviewed by the entire council.

She said that "hopefully" a new attorney will be chosen by the end of February.

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