Breach of trust in Carroll Secret pay raise: County commissioners' vote to double their pay was government at its worst.

December 02, 1998

I'VE HAD all kinds of experiences because I voted to raise taxes. I'm not about to dole it out." So said Carroll County's budget-pinching commissioner Donald I. Dell last month when he voted against covering a shortfall in a drainage project for the city of Westminster.

When it comes to spending on himself, however, he shows no such restraint. In a secret meeting last week, Mr. Dell approved a 650 percent increase in the commissioners' per diem allowance, which they receive simply for coming to work. This would be in addition to the $32,500 annual salary for the part-time office, as well as reimbursement for meals and mileage.

The sharp rise in per diem from $12 to $90 a day will take effect Monday, when the new board takes office. Mr. Dell will be part of that board as the only commissioner re-elected. Richard T. Yates, who voted with Mr. Dell, was defeated last month. His vote was, perhaps, a departing act of spite or a final rebuke for those who scoffed at his earlier lament that he was paid only 86 cents an hour. W. Benjamin Brown, who lost a bid to become a state delegate, was the lone commissioner to vote against the increase.

Although the per-diem change could roughly double commissioner compensation to $65,000 a year or more, it was enacted without a hearing and was not on the official agenda.

Mr. Dell and Mr. Yates vigorously opposed as too costly the idea of bringing home-rule charter government to Carroll, the only Baltimore metropolitan jurisdiction without it. Yet they just made the Carroll commissioners the highest paid in Maryland.

Incoming commissioners Julia Walsh Gouge and Robin Bartlett Frazier should ask the county attorney for advice on the legality of reversing the increase. The county's State House delegation should also investigate.

If taxpayers believe the job of commissioner now demands full-time pay, they deserve a say. The manner in which this change was made was bad government.

Pub Date: 12/02/98

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