The politics of vendetta Carroll County: Political paybacks threaten credibility of planning, zoning bodies.

March 10, 1997

HAVE THE politics of revenge and retribution in Carroll County escalated to the level where responsible, objective decisions about planning and zoning are seriously imperiled?

That's a question citizens should be asking these days, and one that government officials should consider very carefully.

Outspoken political activism and lobbying by Carolyn Fairbank reportedly prompted two county commissioners to reject her appointment to the Board of Zoning Appeals and to appoint Hobart D. "Hoby" Wolf instead.

She claims it was a political payback, and is now involved with an ad hoc group formed to defeat Commissioners Richard T. Yates and Donald I. Dell in the 1998 election.

Joseph H. Mettle and Grant S. Dannelly, two "slow growth" members of the Planning and Zoning Commission and forceful advocates for Ms. Fairbank's appointment, have also joined the informal group.

Citizens have the clear right to political expression and political organization. Elected officials have the right to make political appointments, within the bounds of law. But each must expect to be held accountable, politically and otherwise, for their decisions and their actions. When personal political considerations outweigh public policy considerations, the general public interest is dangerously at risk.

We don't expect these appointed planning commission and zoning board members to have no political past, no political ties, no political opinions. That would be unreasonable.

But we do expect that they will not actively use their positions to promote their political campaigns, whether personal or agenda-based. Even the appearance of impropriety (as the recent Robert Lennon case illustrated) can cast doubt on the credibility of these zoning bodies.

We also expect elected officials to use more than political pique and cronyism in making appointments. There will always be criticism of nominees, but the justification for appointment by the commissioners should be much more than purely political.

Carroll County has serious growth and development concerns that demand objective, reasoned decisions. Let's dampen the political rhetoric, and focus on conscientious, consistent application of the law to these questions.

Pub Date: 3/10/97

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