Odd man out Two commissioners freezing out the third is no way to run government.

November 09, 1995

IT IS COMMON knowledge that threesomes rarely work. Carroll's three-member board of commissioners continues to confirm that bit of folk wisdom. It's the love triangle of local government. Relations among the three have deteriorated to the point where conflict rather than compromise defines the governing style. The board is also deliberately excluding the public from observing this conflict.

Strained relationships among Carroll's commissioners have become all too familiar. On the previous board, then-commissioner Julia Gouge found herself shut out of important deliberations and decisions. With this board, Commissioner Donald I. Dell fills the role of odd man out. Mr. Dell is not happy with his new situation and has openly expressed his justified frustration.

Under the commissioners' current system of conducting business, vice president W. Benjamin Brown, with president Richard T. Yates' acquiescence, controls the board. Mr. Brown is more interested in enacting his agenda than in observing the principles of democratic government. As a result, the board has had an inordinate number of closed sessions.

The manner in which the commissioners amended the radio tower ordinance is one example of how arbitrary their decision-making has become. Mr. Dell wasn't even aware an amendment was in the works. Mr. Brown said he consulted with Mr. Yates but didn't bother to include Mr. Dell because Mr. Dell would have opposed it.

Apparently, Mr. Brown doesn't believe in public debate. Not only did he ignore his colleague's views, he neglected to have a public meeting to discuss the merits of his own amendment.

This furtive transacting of the public's business violates the basic tenets of democratic government -- and Maryland's open meeting law. Important policy decisions benefit from open, vigorous discussion. Even if Mr. Dell had not been able to prevail with his position, he may have raised points that the other commissioners failed to consider. While the commissioners may want to keep their nasty fights under wraps, the public has a right to witness them. Mr. Brown needs to be reminded that the process of democracy is as important as its end results.

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