Haste makes waste in Carroll Pay increase: Outgoing commissioners should resist urge to rush a resolution on compensation.

December 05, 1998

REGARDLESS OF what a staff analysis of their expense accounts shows, the outgoing commissioners in Carroll County should not attempt a last-minute change in their compensation formula. The three men should leave it to the new board that takes office Monday.

This matter of executive-legislative pay deserves deliberate consideration and public discussion -- not the government equivalent of battlefield surgery. There's no reason for a scramble to charge the $12 per diem the commissioners collect for each work day.

A hasty 11th-hour vote today would be the kind of lame-duck, underhanded action that landed the commissioners in trouble two weeks ago, when they unabashedly raised the per diem a whopping 650 percent. That would have put it at $90 a day, and made Carroll's next board of commissioners the highest paid in Maryland.

Public backlash and charges of illegality, led the commissioners Thursday to rescind the exceptional raise. But they vowed to consider further changes in their final days in office, ordering the analysis of expenses.

There remains the question of whether the commissioners' per diem, as established, is legal in the first place. The state constitution requires per diem allowances to be related to actual expenses; Carroll's three leaders, however, collect it without regard to expenses, which are reimbursed separately.

That's something for the new board, and possibly the state legislature, to look into. If the aim is to raise compensation for the part-time positions, it's too late for this panel to properly, ethically and legally achieve that end.

The silver lining in this cloud is that the issue of proper pay for managing Carroll County's daily affairs -- an issue that got buried in last spring's sniping over whether to adopt charter government -- is now in the open for public consideration. The incoming board should address it.

Pub Date: 12/05/98

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