Council elects GOP chairman Rice, who replaces Evans, received Democratic support

December 02, 1997|By Tom Pelton | Tom Pelton,SUN STAFF

An article in the Dec. 2 Anne Arundel edition of The Sun reporting the votes for chairman and vice chairman of the County Council incorrectly described Councilman George F. Bachman's reason for voting for John J. Klocko III for vice chairman. Bachman, a Democrat, said he supported Klocko, a Republican, as a public display of cooperation between the members of the council.

The Sun regrets the error.

The Anne Arundel County Council elected as its new chairman last night a 60-year-old retired Army colonel who won the Silver Star as a helicopter pilot in the Vietnam War.

Odenton Republican Bert Rice replaces Diane Evans of Arnold, who had been chairman for three years and is considering a challenge to County Executive John G. Gary in next year's GOP primary.


The change in leadership is likely to improve the communication between the council and executive, who has refused to meet with Evans since a dispute over a county audit in February. Evans did not seek to keep the chairmanship this year.

Rice, a moderate conservative, was supported by some Democrats because he was seen as more independent-minded than William Mulford, a strong Gary ally who had expressed interest in the job.

"Bert is a freethinker," said Councilman George Bachman, a Democrat from Linthicum. "He doesn't seem to have any strong ties to any faction or anything like that. I think he will keep the council independent."

Although negotiations had been going on for more than a week, the vote to elect Rice was unanimous. The council elected Councilman John Klocko, a Republican from Crofton, as vice chairman.

The horse-trading leading up to Klocko's election was intense, according to political insiders.

Although Rice had initially considered Bachman as a potential vice chairman, Republican Party officials lobbied behind the scenes against the Democrat -- seeing Klocko as more loyal to the Gary camp than Bachman, who had voted for Evans as

chairman for several years.

As part of the negotiations, Republicans on the council offered a deal to Bachman: Support the Rice-Klocko ticket, and the GOP would delay a proposed bill deemed potentially embarrassing to Bachman, according to council members.

Mulford had introduced a bill last month that would bar council members from hiring relatives as legislative assistants. This was in response to a public outcry over Bachman having raised the pay of his wife and legislative assistant, Anna Bachman, by 62 percent since 1990.

To reward Bachman for his cooperation, Mulford agreed to delay and possibly broaden his legislation so that it wouldn't seem targeted just at Bachman, but rather at the entire legislative branch of government, including the auditor's office, according to council members.

In a variation on this idea, Councilman James "Ed" DeGrange, a Democrat from Glen Burnie, introduced a bill last night that would bar not only council members but the county executive from hiring or supervising family members.

That change was aimed at Gary's wife, Ruthanne, who has been working in the executive branch as the county's community services director since 1991 -- three years before her husband took office.

Under provisions of DeGrange's bill, if Gary is re-elected in November 1998, his wife would lose her job.

"Because this issue has been raised, I think we need the law to affect everybody -- not just the legislative branch but the executive branch as well," DeGrange said.

After his election, Rice thanked Evans for her three years as chairman and handed her a bouquet of roses.

Rice, a native of Montana, was elected to the council in 1994. He served 30 years with the Army before he retired in 1989. He served two tours in Vietnam as a helicopter pilot.

Rice said he thinks his years of training soldiers will help him lead an orderly County Council.

Pub Date: 12/02/97

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