Charter deadline proposal is halted Legislation gave candidates more time to register

March 08, 1998|By James M. Coram | James M. Coram,SUN STAFF

County Commissioners Donald I. Dell and Richard T. Yates refused Friday to sign a letter asking the county's Annapolis delegation for emergency legislation allowing candidates more time to file for public office if Carroll voters approve a charter government ballot initiative.

Dell had voted with Commissioner W. Benjamin Brown on Wednesday to ask county lawmakers to sponsor a bill giving county executive and county council hopefuls until Aug. 8 to file candidacies.

But Friday, Dell changed his mind. Yates, who was in Annapolis Wednesday testifying on county bills before the General Assembly while Dell and Brown were voting on the charter request, also refused to sign the request.

The emergency legislation was an attempt to resolve questions about whether the June 9 referendum is a special election. If it is, the county could set its own filing deadlines for candidates. If it isn't, candidates would have to honor the statewide deadline.

The proposed charter gives county executive and county council candidates until Aug. 8 to file. Without the bill, they would have to honor the July 6 deadline for all candidates in the November general election.

Dell said Friday that he changed his mind about requesting the emergency legislation after talking with Yates and learning that Yates "took issue" with the fact that Brown and Dell voted on the request when Yates was not present.

Further, Sen. Larry E. Haines, chairman of the Carroll legislative delegation, told Yates that he would want a public hearing on the bill before proposing it to the General Assembly, Dell said.

"This is probably more of an issue with the election board than it is with the County Commissioners," Dell said. "I don't feel we have the authority to draw the line" on filing deadlines.

Yates, who like Dell and Haines opposes a change to charter government, is displeased not only that the commissioners voted in his absence, but that charter proponents have forced a special election. Yates preferred that the charter referendum coincide with the November general election.

A later date would give people more time to study the issue and would bring more people to the polls, Yates said. "I asked my nominees [to a panel appointed to write the charter] to wait until fall," he said, "but one of my nominees changed his mind and one of Commissioner Dell's changed his mind. If they can't keep their word, they can't expect me to help them. I don't owe them fealty."

If voters approve, charter government would technically take effect July 9. However, the current county government would remain in place until new officials could be sworn in in early December.

'They rushed this through'

The charter-writing panel included two mayors, one of whom is an attorney, Yates said. "We asked them to please wait till the general election, but they rushed this through. If they can't write a charter and check out the parameters [for filing for office], that's their problem."

Brown said that "when public officials try to put a roadblock in the way, they can't build it high enough or thick enough that people can't see over it or through it to learn what's really intended.

"The issue is not whether we support charter," he said. "The issue is whether we support people's right to do what they have chosen and to have their choices implemented without interference."

Brown said he will urge the delegation to introduce the emergency bill.

But that appears unlikely. The deadline for introducing bills in Annapolis is tomorrow unless the House and Senate vote to change the rules -- something they likely would not do if the county delegation is divided.

Pub Date: 3/08/98

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