Lawyer fired after exchange Insubordination by Lahey alleged

October 31, 1997|By James M. Coram | James M. Coram,SUN STAFF

County Attorney George A. Lahey was fired shortly after noon yesterday for alleged insubordination during a heated exchange with Commissioner Donald I. Dell.

Senior assistant Laurell Taylor was appointed acting county attorney to replace Lahey, who was unavailable for comment yesterday. Taylor sat with the commissioners last night to provide legal advice at a public hearing that Lahey had been scheduled to attend.

Commissioner Richard T. Yates joined Dell in writing a letter asking for Lahey's resignation. Commissioner W. Benjamin Brown would not sign the document.

"Was Mr. Lahey insubordinate? Yes. Was he provoked? Yes," Brown said last night.

When Lahey refused to resign, the two commissioners fired him, said Yates, president of the three-member board.

The commissioners were asking Lahey for legal advice in a closed session yesterday when the subject turned to the county's failed case against former planning commission member Robert H. Lennon, Yates said.

Brown and Yates fired the Westminster attorney from the planning commission in July 1996 after the county ethics commission accused Lennon of violating the county ethics law.

Lennon, who said he did not violate the law, sued. He was exonerated and and restored to the planning commission by a Circuit Court judge. He has resigned from the planning panel.

Dell, who appointed Lennon to the panel, had said Lennon's removal by Brown and Yates was the culmination of a "witch hunt."

Yesterday, Dell and Lahey were having an angry exchange about the case when Lahey made a disparaging remark about Lennon, Yates said.

"He [Lahey] seemed to have lost his temper and became very heated with Commissioner Dell," Yates said. "I asked him if he had a personal gripe with Mr. Lennon because, if so, he could no longer help the citizens of Carroll County. When he wouldn't deny it for me, I felt George had outlived his usefulness as county attorney.

"I don't think anybody should use the government to punish anyone else. I offered him the right to resign," Yates said. "He said, 'You'll have to fire me.' That's why it went the way that it did."

Brown blamed the firing on Dell and accused Dell of having baited Lahey repeatedly for more than a year.

Dell "provoked [Lahey] frequently and routinely since the day the ethics commission reported its conclusions," Brown said. "Today, I think it caught up with him."

Lahey, a veteran of the Vietnam War who wears a military-style crew cut, had a reputation in county government for a sometimes-gruff manner.

"Every fault George Lahey had as a man or as a lawyer was there when we hired him," Brown said.

Lahey had been deputy attorney in the previous administration and was promoted to county attorney by the incumbents shortly after the 1994 election.

"If Dell had treated [Lahey] with respect, George would not have reacted inexcusably," said Brown. "But you don't act with insubordination to your boss and get away with it. Donald, in many ways, is getting the reaction he wanted. He made it known he was going to get rid of George Lahey and now he's done it."

Dell, reached at home last night, would not talk about the firing.

"My only comment is no comment," he said. "This was a steamy thing and I want to get as far a distance from it as I can."

Pub Date: 10/31/97

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