Wife to lose county job Bachman will bow to ethics ruling and fire his spouse

Married 47 years

Councilman hopes assistant can stay until after surgery

March 09, 1998|By Tanya Jones | Tanya Jones,SUN STAFF

County Councilman George F. Bachman has said he'll abide by a county ethics commission advisory opinion and fire his wife, who has served as his paid assistant for more than seven years.

But he said he hopes the commission will let Anna Bachman stay on until he has recovered from surgery, probably in time for the council's budget deliberations in May.

The Linthicum Democrat said his wife of 47 years likely will continue serving as his assistant through the end of his term in December, though without collecting the rest of her $50,589 annual salary.

"Yes, there is a conflict; I will admit that," Bachman said Friday. "But after 47 years, how can you fire your wife? That's going to be the hardest thing for me in my political life to do."

Anna Bachman did not return phone calls to her home and office Friday.

The commission issued the written opinion in February after Bachman requested that they review his employment of his wife amid controversy over spouses of county officials working for the county.

A measure passed by the council last month bans council members from hiring family members as their legislative assistants or as the council's auditor. But the ordinance would not have affected Mrs. Bachman's position because her husband will leave office before it takes effect.

Bachman said he wants to clear up the controversy and will abide by the opinion. He said the commission will rule today on whether Anna Bachman can stay on until he recovers from prostate surgery. The surgery is scheduled for March 18 and his doctor said Bachman would need at least four to six weeks to recover, Bachman said.

"This was a surprise that he asked for that ruling," said council Chairman Bert L. Rice. He said he hopes Bachman's service to his constituents doesn't falter after he loses his wife as a paid assistant.

Difficult to replace

The commission's opinion comes at a bad time, said Councilman James DeGrange of Glen Burnie. Both the anti-nepotism bill that DeGrange introduced and the one passed by the council were written to allow Anna Bachman to keep her position until the end of the councilman's term.

"How in the world is he going to find someone else [to serve as assistant] at this time?" DeGrange said. "If it was an issue, it should have been an issue seven years ago or at the beginning of his term."

With the county's conflict-of-interest law on the books since 1978, DeGrange said the county law office, and later the ethics commission, should have long ago pointed out the problem of officials hiring their spouses.

The issue came to light late last year after a highly publicized vote in which Bachman approved a 6.8 percent pay increase for his wife.

Hired after 1990 election

Bachman said he hired his wife after his 1990 election to avoid a difficult decision among three loyal campaign workers who wanted the job. In his first stint on the council from 1965 to 1981, she served as an unpaid assistant, Bachman said, taking phone calls from constituents complaining about unplowed streets or potholes.

Now, with a network of contacts in local, state and federal government, she spends much of her time working on social issues, such as straightening out problems when constituents apply for food stamps.

"If I had to run against her today, she would beat me hands-down," Bachman said.

Pub Date: 3/09/98

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