Council refuses to give Gray $30 to attend chamber event Dispute about his expenses continues

$1,300 sought for phone, travel payment

March 05, 1996|By Dan Morse | Dan Morse,SUN STAFF

The Howard County Council has refused to give member C. Vernon Gray $30 in expenses to attend a scheduled Chamber of Commerce function -- and there appears to be no end in sight to the council's internal dispute over his expenses.

At a council meeting yesterday that Mr. Gray did not attend, Chairman Darrel Drown said he will send Mr. Gray another memo seeking repayment of $1,300 in cellular telephone and travel expenses that Mr. Drown says his colleague owes the county.

"We'll send an appropriate message," said Mr. Drown, a Republican from Ellicott City.

Mr. Gray, a Democrat from East Columbia, could not be reached for comment yesterday.

It was not the first meeting Mr. Gray has missed where council expenses were discussed. And council member Charles C. Feaga, a west county Republican, made note of that yesterday, indicating that Mr. Gray should not use his absence as an excuse for a disagreement with the council's policy on expenses.

"It's very easy to say, 'I wasn't there,' " Mr. Feaga said.

On Oct. 10, the council voted 4-0 to limit council expenses to $4,800 for 12 months. Mr. Gray did not attend that meeting.

Since then, the council has kept monthly totals of cellular telephone use and travel expenses, and the totals always have been calculated from the start of the fiscal year, July 1, 1995.

In February, Last month, Mr. Gray exceeded the $4,800 limit, reaching a $6,116 total. Mr. Drown then sent him a memo demanding that he repay the $1,316 to the county.

But Mr. Gray has said that the policy should not be retroactive and should have gone into effect the month it was passed.

By that accounting, Mr. Gray says, he has spent approximately $3,200 since October, leaving him with $1,600 to spend.

In the past, Mr. Gray has said the concern over his expenses is politically motivated and silly in light of the county's $329 million budget. He has challenged his Republican colleagues to scrutinize the rest of the entire county budget to the same degree.

Mr. Gray also has said that his relatively heavy use of the cellular telephone and travel expenses indicates that he is more active than his colleagues.

The latest clash stems from Mr. Gray's request for funds to attend the Howard County Chamber of Commerce awards night in April.

He sought the $30 to pay for registration on Feb. 13, said Council Administrator Chris Emery, who did not make the payment.

Mr. Feaga sought the same payment, which was granted, Mr. Emery said.

As of March 1, council members' expense totals from July 1 of last year were:

Mr. Gray: $6,116

Mary C. Lorsung: $2,432.

Dennis R. Schrader: $2,450.

Mr. Feaga: $1,814

Mr. Drown: $1,589.

Pub Date: 3/05/96

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