Extension for candidates' deadlines sought Document suggests Aug. 8 filing date

March 04, 1998|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

If Carroll County voters approve a charter on June 9, prospective candidates for the five-member county council and executive will have less than a month to file for the September primary.

The state-mandated filing deadline for all primary candidates is July 6. To allow more time to Carroll candidates seeking office under the charter, the proposed document extends the filing deadline to Aug. 8.

Victor Tervala, an attorney with the Institute for Governmental Service, a consultant group which advised the charter writers, said he does not anticipate a problem. He cited a 1949 case when Montgomery County changed to a charter, a case which has been repeatedly upheld, he said.

"The highest court in Maryland has ruled that to make a new charter operational, the election procedure can be changed," Tervala said.

However, Del. Joseph M. Getty, a Manchester Republican, said the county has no authority to extend a state-imposed deadline, even a county that has home rule.

Getty said he recognizes the need for an extension, particularly if the charter election is close and the local election board needs more time to certify the ballots.

But the delegate wants assurances that the extension is legal. Getty has offered two possible solutions and has asked the state attorney general for advice.

The first option would have the County Commissioners reconvening the charter board to revise the transition language. The charter panel disbanded after delivering the document to the commissioners Feb. 13. Once officials had the charter in hand, they had 120 days to advertise the document and schedule an election. The charter proposal will run in The Sun for Carroll County on March 15.

Getty said a more practical option would be for the commissioners to ask the legislative delegation to file a one-time waiver and extend the deadline to Aug. 8.

Patricia Matsko, election board director, said the timing would be tight but it would be possible to prepare the ballots.

"Our printer tells us this can be done," Matsko said. "But we are waiting to hear from the attorney general on this issue."

New Windsor Mayor Jack A. Gullo Jr., who helped write the 41-page charter, said there is precedent for waiving the state deadline.

"In a first-time election, the established election laws do not apply," said Gullo, an attorney in private practice.

Since the charter would not take effect for 30 days from June 9, Gullo asked how candidates could file for offices that do not yet exist.

"Charter would not become law until July 9 at the earliest," Gullo said. "There would literally be no office to file for until then."

If the charter proposal fails, voters would elect three commissioners in November. Four commissioner candidates have filed so far. Several others have said they are waiting for the results of the charter election before they decide.

In a letter dated Monday, Getty asked Maryland Attorney General J. Joseph Curran Jr. for a prompt response, while the legislature is in session.

"As you can well determine, time is of the essence in resolving these problems that derive from the flawed charter document," Getty wrote.

A spokesman for Curran's office acknowledged receipt of Getty's query yesterday but was unable to say when a legal opinion would be made available.

Pub Date: 3/04/98

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