Commissioners in Carroll Co. briefly talk about raise

December 23, 1998|By Brenda J. Buote | Brenda J. Buote,SUN STAFF

During their first public meeting on one of the most controversial issues of the previous Board of Commissioners, Carroll's newly elected leaders shied away from public comment yesterday.

A discussion of the former board's Nov. 24 decision to increase the commissioners' daily allowance 650 percent from $12 a day to $90 a day took less than 30 seconds.

The issue was addressed during a routine meeting with County Attorney Laurell Taylor. She raised the topic after reviewing an opinion issued Friday by the state's attorney general, which stated that the increase "was probably unlawful."

Taylor said she received a copy of the opinion at the close of business Friday and forwarded it to the commissioners Monday.

"I believe the attorney general's opinion is self-explanatory, but if you'd like I'd be glad to review it with you," Taylor told the board yesterday.

None of the three commissioners responded to Taylor's offer, and the meeting was then closed to discuss pending litigation matters.

"I don't feel there was anything we needed to discuss," Commissioner Donald I. Dell said afterward. "We had determined what to do before the report came in," he added, referring to the former board's Dec. 3 decision to rescind the increase.

The opinion, requested by Carroll Republican Del. Joseph M. Getty after The Sun disclosed the Nov. 24 vote, was written by Robert N. McDonald, chief counsel for the state's attorney general's office, who chided the commissioners for raising their daily bonus without allowing for public comment.

McDonald also wrote that the raise constituted a salary because it is not tied to actual expenses -- mileage and meals are reimbursed separately. As a salary, the bonus could only be increased by the state legislature, the opinion said.

The commissioners are expected to be guided by the opinion as they review the daily bonus issue. The former board called for a study to determine what would be fair compensation.

It was not clear yesterday when that study would be released.

"With the holidays, I'm not sure what to tell you," Dell said.

Commissioner Robin Bartlett Frazier declined to comment on the issue. "I haven't had a chance to read the opinion," she said.

Board president Julia Walsh Gouge echoed Frazier's remarks. "I would prefer to comment after I've had a chance to read the opinion and discuss the issue with our budget people," she said.

In separate action yesterday, the board reviewed the county's comprehensive annual financial report for the fiscal year that ended June 30.

The report shows a surplus of $9.4 million, meaning the funds have not been allocated.

Pub Date: 12/23/98

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