Ad seeks candidates for charter board Commissioner's move irks election backers

April 04, 1997|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

Appointments to a board charged with writing charter government for Carroll County could be decided by responses culled from a newspaper advertisement.

The ad has angered charter supporters, who last week submitted to the commissioners a list of 24 residents willing to serve on the board. If adopted, charter would change the county's government from three commissioners to a county executive and a council.

"They don't have to look through thousands of applications, when they surely could find people out of the 24 names submitted," said Sykesville Mayor Jonathan S. Herman. "This is another example of Carroll County leadership at its worst. It is why we need charter."

Commissioner Richard T. Yates drafted a questionnaire that ran in a local newspaper Saturday to seek prospective candidates for the charter-writing board and to gauge interest for charter among county residents. He also mailed copies to the candidates recommended by charter supporters.

"Let the people who want charter write it and get it on the ballot," said Lloyd Helt, former Sykesville mayor and an attorney. "The trouble is the commissioners have the power to undercut this effort any time they want."

Carroll County Citizens for Charter Government collected nearly 6,000 signatures calling for the appointment of a charter-writing board. The group delivered the signatures -- and the list of candidates -- to the commissioners March 26. The county Board of Elections is verifying the signatures.

"Legally, the commissioners can appoint whoever they want, but I never heard of such an advertisement," said Victor K. Tervala, a member of the Institute for Governmental Service, which has helped several Maryland counties write charters.

"They can construct the board any way they wish, but the voters can reconstruct," he added.

If voters are dissatisfied with the appointments, they have 60 days to gather 2,000 petitions that would require a special

election for a board.

Commissioner W. Benjamin Brown questioned the need for the advertisement, which asked for such things as present and previous addresses, Social Security number and political activities. Brown said where a person lived or lives and political activity have nothing to do with qualifications to serve on the all-volunteer panel.

Neither does a Social Security number, unless the commissioners want to do a credit check, said Michelle Ostrander, a Westminster attorney who is among the recommended candidates.

Dan Hughes, a volunteer with the charter group and another of the recommended candidates, asked why the application appeared only once and in one newspaper.

"If that is to be the policy, I would like to see these questionnaires every time the commissioners fill a zoning or planning vacancy," Hughes said.

Helt answered the questions, although he considered them an invasion of privacy. He added a few queries of his own.

"I wrote a charter for Sykesville, amended a charter for the Maryland Municipal League and have written about 50 for corporations I represent," said Helt. "But, no matter how qualified I am, I bet I won't be appointed. I am too much an advocate for charter."

The commissioners are leaning toward a nine-member panel, to which they would each appoint three. Candidates have until April 21 to apply.

Brown said he "intends to argue for those who want charter. They have earned the right to write it."

Commissioner Donald I. Dell promises to name charter opponents because "stacking the board without checks and balances is undemocratic," he said.

Supporters, whose names are on the list, see no benefit to appointing opponents.

"Why sabotage the process?" Hampstead Mayor Christopher M. Nevin asked. "Those opposed can vote against charter, when it goes to referendum."

Ostrander said, "If you want a unified, positive vision of government, you don't put people you know are opposed on the board. That is a recipe for an expensive disaster."

Although Yates plans to chose from some of the names on the list, he wants to hear from a cross-section of the county. "Why should their select group be the only ones considered?" he asked.

Said Brown: "My fellow commissioners don't want a charter government. A good charter is not something to be afraid of. Every town in the county has a charter. Let's wait and see and decide on the merits."

Pub Date: 4/04/97

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