Ridgely resigns as town manager

2 run-ins with mayor prompted decision, councilwoman says

January 13, 1999|By John Murphy | John Murphy,SUN STAFF

Hampstead Town Council met in a closed session last night to accept the resignation of Town Manager Neil Ridgely, who asked to leave after recent disagreements with the mayor.

Neither Ridgely nor Mayor Christopher M. Nevin would discuss the circumstances of the resignation.

But according to Councilwoman Wendy I. Martin, Ridgely was prompted to resign after Nevin, whose automobile was recently struck by a Hampstead police car, asked Ridgely to call the town's insurance company -- Local Government Insurance Trust of Columbia -- and demand it accept one damage estimate instead of the two it requested.

If LGIT refused, Ridgely was requested to inform company officials that the town would take its insurance business elsewhere, she said.

Martin also said that Nevin removed Ridgely's check-signing authority for year-end bonuses to town employees.

Though he refused to discuss Ridge- ly's resignation, Nevin disputed Martin's account.

"It's not accurate," he said. "[The incidents] had nothing to do with the resignation."

Nevin said his car had been bumped by a town police car during a recent council meeting.

"I asked Neil to ask if one estimate was fine," Nevin said.

Nevin, however, denied asking Ridgely to tell LGIT the town would take its insurance business elsewhere if it refused to accept one estimate on the damage.

Nevin said the claim had been settled with one estimate.

Jon Burrell, executive director of LGIT, would not discuss the details of Nevin's insurance claim, but he said it is not unusual for his company to accept one estimate.

"Our claim examiners have a certain leeway on whether it should be one or two," he said.

Nevin added that Ridgely's check-signing authority -- a power granted him under the town's code -- had not been altered. Nevin said he also has the power to sign checks.

Ridgely, 49, who has served as Hampstead's manager since 1995, would not comment on his reasons for leaving.

"I became angry with the mayor over some specific items. He hit my hot button, and as people will do, I lost my temper and resigned," Ridgely said.

Ridgely said he expects to stay until the end of this month but could leave earlier.

Nevin said the council would begin a search for a new town manager. No interim manager would be appointed, he said.

"The various department heads will step up and assume the necessary duties on a temporary basis," Nevin said.

Before accepting Ridgely's resignation, Nevin said he conducted a phone poll of three of the five council members: Haven M. Shoemaker Jr., Stephen A. Holland and Larry H. Hentz.

All agreed to accept Ridgely's resignation, Nevin said.

Council members Martin and Wayne H. Thomas were not consulted, Nevin said.

Soon after asking to resign, Ridgely had doubts about his decision and asked Nevin and the council to reconsider.

"I thought about it and decided I have a lot more work to do," Ridgely said.

Nevin, however, said that Ridgely's resignation has been accepted. The Town Council only needed to discuss the details of his departure.

Since taking office in 1995, Ridgely has often spoken bluntly about issues facing the town of 4,200.

"I've given my opinion freely," he said.

Ridgely has been vocal about development issues and often clashed with developer Martin K. P. Hill, most recently over Hill's plans to build a 90-unit condominium project at Roberts Field. Ridgely said the project violated open space and density regulations.

He has pushed for the proposed Hampstead bypass, which would relieve congestion along Route 30 -- the town's main street -- from Reisterstown to Pennsylvania.

Serving as zoning administrator, he has been a stickler for regulations, enforcing sign laws in town.

Ridgely has been involved in local government for nearly a decade. He worked for Carroll County government for six years, serving as landscape and forest manager. The position often involved him in controversies. He decided which housing developments were subject to the county forest conservation ordinance, which most developers opposed.

In 1994, he was a Democratic candidate for county commissioner. He lost in the primary.

In January 1995, he quit his county post to manage a tree and shrub farm.

Six months later he was named Hampstead's town manager.

Nevin said his relationship with Ridgely had its "ups and downs."

"There are a large amount of decisions that are made. People working closely will disagree. That's only natural."

He praised Ridgely's performance during his years of service.

"Neil is dedicated and worked long hours to push some needed projects forward to better improve the town," Nevin said.

Pub Date: 1/13/99

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