Lobbyist says zoning official used slurs Property rights group head calls for Dannelly to be fired from post

A 'black eye' for county

Planner says he won't 'dignify charges' with a response

October 22, 1997|By James M. Coram | James M. Coram,SUN STAFF

The president of the Carroll County Landowners Association yesterday urged County Commissioners to fire Grant S. Dannelly from the Planning and Zoning Commission for allegedly slurring Asians and those suffering from Alzheimer's disease during a planning conference Saturday.

Dannelly insulted "the entire Asian community by complaining that the 'Orientals' -- his word -- were taking our water from the [public] spring on Henryton Road and he now has to wait in line," said Edward Primoff, president of the property rights lobby.

Primoff was referring to a natural spring that has been used by community residents for years.

In a prepared statement presented to the planning commission at its meeting yesterday, Primoff alleged that Dannelly also made "shocking, insensitive statements and jokes about the people afflicted with Alzheimer's disease." Primoff, who said his mother is an Alzheimer's patient, did not specify what comments or jokes Dannelly allegedly made.

"County Commissioners need to demonstrate to the citizens of Carroll County that such conduct by an appointed official will not be tolerated," Primoff said.

"The only effective way to do so is for the County Commissioners to compel Mr. Dannelly's resignation from the planning commission," he said. "Failure to do so will send the message that they condone his remarks and share his views."

Primoff asked Dannelly to respond to his allegations, but Laurell Taylor, assistant county attorney, objected.

"As your attorney, I recommend this be stopped here," she told the planning commission.

It was.

Afterward, Dannelly said he would "not dignify [Primoff's] charges" by commenting on them.

County Commissioner Richard T. Yates, the commissioners' liaison to the planning panel, earlier asked Dannelly about his comments.

"Grant, I'm elderly and I appointed you. Did you say that?" the 72-year-old Yates asked.

Before Dannelly could answer, planning commission Chairman Thomas G. Hiltz of Woodbine intervened.

"This is not an inquisition of Mr. Dannelly," Hiltz said.

But Yates asked Primoff for a copy of his allegations so that he could share them with County Commissioners W. Benjamin Brown and Donald I. Dell.

Primoff, who accused the Marriottsville resident of attacking him verbally at the conference in South Carroll, persisted.

"It is appropriate for you as a body to censure Mr. Dannelly," Primoff told the planning commission. "The issues are far more important than an attack on me personally. If Mr. Dannelly doesn't like me, fine. If Mr. Dannelly wants to attack me, fine. But this goes far beyond that.

"Debate is always healthy, even when our views may be 180 degrees apart. But when one resorts to bigotry and bias toward groups of people, including the elderly, disabled and minorities, that goes far beyond legitimate debate and is not acceptable," Primoff said.

The comments are a "black eye," not only for Carroll but for the whole state, he said.

Primoff said he had received an electronic message from someone in Pennsylvania earlier in the day "alluding to this unfortunate incident."

"I can't imagine anyone not being concerned," he said.

Hiltz said state law does not authorize the planning panel to censure one of its members.

"Any concern needs to be properly reviewed" by an appropriate county body receiving testimony from both sides, he said. "This board has no authority to censure individuals."

Yates, however, said he felt the planning commission "should resolve something here rather than go outside this body."

Hiltz refused, saying it would not be appropriate. But he invited members of the planning panel to express their feelings about the matter.

Member Maurice E. Wheatley of Eldersburg, who has had family members stricken with Alzheimer's disease, said he found it "very hard to believe" Dannelly said what Primoff alleged.

"But if he did, it's not my opinion. I would resent it," he said, his voice choked with emotion.

Although Yates appointed Dannelly to the planning panel -- first as an alternate, later as a member -- the pair became estranged politically after Dannelly attended a dinner aimed at "yanking" Yates and "dumping" Dell in the 1998 election.

The "Dump Dell-Yank Yates" movement began in early March after Yates appointed longtime friend Hobart D. "Hoby" Wolf Jr. to the Board of Zoning Appeals instead of slow-growth activist Carolyn Fairbank, chairwoman of the Freedom Area Community Planning Council.

Fairbank and Dannelly are allies in the slow-growth movement. Primoff and Wolf are two of their leading opponents.

Pub Date: 10/22/97

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