Review of charter draft calls for transition election plan

January 29, 1998|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

After reviewing the newly drafted Carroll County charter, the Institute for Governmental Service has commended its writers for a document that "stands up well."

Although it could have taken up to 18 months to write a charter, the nine-member Carroll County Charter Board finished a draft in six months and forwarded it to the institute for review last month.

Director Barbara S. Hawk wrote in a letter Jan. 23 to the charter board that most of the institute's comments dealt with legal and policy issues.

"Our biggest concern with the charter as it now reads is with the transition section," she wrote.

The institute recommended that the board review its comments with the county attorney and the county budget office.

New Windsor Mayor Jack A. Gullo Jr., who wrote the draft with Hampstead Mayor Christopher M. Nevin, said the board should have no problem incorporating the recommendations into the document.

"Nearly all the comments were editorial and won't require debate," Gullo said.

The board expects to do final editing and tackle the transition questions at its meeting tonight. If members reach an agreement, they could hand the draft to the County Commissioners as early as Monday.

But, they probably will schedule one more meeting next week to sign the revised document, Gullo and Nevin have said.

Once the County Commissioners have the document in hand, the clock starts ticking on a special election. Officials will have a month from receipt of the charter to publish it in local newspapers. Then, they have 90 more days to schedule a special election, predicted to cost about $106,000, unless a general election occurs within the time frame.

If accepted by voters, the charter would change local government from three commissioners to an executive and county council.

"There was nothing that would be a deterrent," Jeanne Bilanin, project administrator for the institute, said of the review. "But the transition must provide for an election. They need to spell that out."

The institute, based at the University of Maryland, College Park, provided the review at no cost. Its staff has worked with several other Maryland counties considering charter initiatives.

Among its other recommendations are a clear definition of the five geographic districts from which council members would be elected and less specific language on salaries -- "establishing a salary floor or ceiling" instead of a number. The institute staff also asked the board to bear in mind that "charter cannot legislate but only establish the components of government and its policies and procedures."

The charter board meets at 7: 30 p.m. today at Carroll Community College, Washington Road, Westminster.

Pub Date: 1/29/98

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