224 apply to Howard for County Council post

January 23, 1995|By James M. Coram | James M. Coram,Sun Staff Writer

The ad seeking applicants for the Howard council administrator's job said it pays $55,918 and up, depending upon experience.

That was enough to draw 224 applicants from across the state and from as far as Florida, Alabama, Georgia and West Virginia to fill the vacancy left by the firing of former administrator Sheila Tolliver last month.

The level of applications is 43 percent higher than in January 1993, the last time the council had to fill the position.

At that time, a former state senator and an employee of the U.S. Supreme Court were among the 157 applicants for what was then the position of council "executive secretary."

Although the council would not release the names of the applicants, they include office managers, real estate salespeople, lawyers, employees from other counties and retired military, civil and federal workers.

But those applicants may not know all that's in store for them -- particularly the fact that the administrator can be fired on a whim by the council.

Skills are important, said Art Griffin, chief of the classification and pay section of the county personnel office, but "the bottom line is that this position can be viewed as political."

Indeed it can. Applicants don't have to go through a competitive process when hired and the administrator doesn't have to go through a review process when fired.

The administrator can be dismissed on the spot.

That's what happened to Ms. Tolliver, an Anne Arundel County Democrat fired for political reasons after Republicans assumed command of the five-member council.

Ms. Tolliver had held the job for 20 months.

To fill her vacancy, the county's personnel office has been asked to give the council a list of 20 finalists with administrative and legislative experience.

Finalists also are expected to have supervisory, budgetary and writing skills and "some political awareness."

If it were not an appointed position, council members would have to interview all 20 candidates and find them wanting before looking at anyone else who applied. But because the job is political, council members will be given the names of all 224 applicants. They can choose to interview anyone they want.

Council Chairman Charles C. Feaga doesn't like that procedure, however. The 5th District Republican would have preferred to look only at local people, but the council voted otherwise.

"I am certain that we have someone in Howard County who can fill that job," he said. "We're putting people to a lot of effort [putting together lists of applicants] -- maybe more effort than should be."

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