Howard County Council members are taking pains to be polite to each other in their first week in office, but a couple of their partisan philosophical differences are clear enough already.
At the council's first substantive meeting yesterday morning, Democratic Council Chairman C. Vernon Gray and Republican member Allan H. Kittleman hinted they're heading for a squabble over individual council members' expense accounts, and the council held its first party-line vote.
The council opened yesterday's meeting with a private session to interview Sheila M. Tolliver, the only candidate to succeed former council administrator Christopher Emery, a Republican who resigned the day after Democrats took back control of the council in the November election.
Tolliver, a Democratic alderman in Annapolis, was Emery's predecessor as council administrator, a job she lost four years ago when the Republicans won control of the council. The 52-year-old former college administrator said she was asked in yesterday's interview if she thought the job would be challenging enough this time around.
Her answer: "I think it will be, but I hope it won't be."
Council members wouldn't discuss what happened after Tolliver's interview, but the session lasted 40 minutes, longer than expected, indicating the Democratic majority may have differed with Republicans over what salary to offer. Emery was being paid about $68,000 a year, but a source who declined to be identified indicated yesterday that Tolliver would be offered a significantly higher salary, perhaps close to $90,000 a year.
If Tolliver takes the job, she'll have to navigate partisan waters, working for a council that's split 3-2.
Yesterday's meeting offered the first public suggestion of partisan discord when Gray indicated he thought council members' individual expense accounts were inadequate.
Council members are allowed $4,800 annually for such expenses as transportation, meals, lodging and seminars and $1,200 annually for official out-of-state travel -- but at times Gray has found it difficult to keep within those limits.
"It has not worked for me, because I go to national meetings, I go to [Maryland Association of Counties] meetings," he said yesterday. Gray, president-elect of the National Association of Counties, attends that lobbying group's conferences as well.
Kittleman suggested expense accounts should shrink.
"I think that what they've had in the past is more than enough," he said after the meeting.
Kittleman and fellow Republican Christopher J. Merdon showed their limited-government beliefs in voting against endorsing a local bill being considered by the Howard delegation to the General Assembly.
The bill, which would bar Howard's gas stations from receiving liquor licenses, got the council's endorsement by a party-line 3-2 vote. No gas stations in Howard have liquor licenses. Kittleman and Merdon said they felt it was unnecessary to take away the local government's power to issue the licenses to such businesses.
"I have a problem putting another law on the books," Kittleman said. "I don't know if the government needs to control so much."
Pub Date: 12/10/98