Delegate wants state to rule on county commissioners' pay

Compensation increases rescinded after outcry

April 25, 1999|By Brenda J. Buote | Brenda J. Buote,SUN STAFF

The senior member of Carroll's legislative delegation has asked the state attorney general to issue a second opinion on the county commissioners' compensation, revisiting a controversy many considered settled.

Republican Del. Donald B. Elliott requested an advisory opinion about a week ago, shortly after the commissioners proposed replacing their $12 per diem -- a bonus they receive each day they show up to work or appear at an official function -- with a monthly allowance.

The $675 allowance would have covered car and home office expenses, and would have been in addition to each commissioner's $32,500 part-time salary. The proposal, which would have cost taxpayers $24,300 a year, was made at a budget hearing April 1, but was quickly quashed in the face of public criticism.

For many, that decision signaled the end of the controversy. But in Elliott's mind, the board's action raised further questions.

"I've asked Attorney General [J. Joseph Curran Jr.] to look into the current $12 per diem they're getting," said Elliott. "I'd like him to define what they can and cannot do."

Elliott said he was not sure whether the commissioners were entitled to receive both the per diem and reimbursement for other expenses. The commissioners are also compensated for meals and mileage.

Elliott said he hopes to hear from the attorney general's office before the three-member board of commissioners adopts the county budget for fiscal year 2000, which begins July 1.

A public hearing on the board's proposed budget is scheduled for May 6. The document must be adopted by May 26.

The issue of compensation has been a topic of debate since November, when the former board increased its daily allowance from $12 to $90. The extra $78 per day would have made the Carroll commissioners the highest-paid part-time elected officials in Maryland.

The commissioners rescinded the increase less than two weeks later under pressure from the public and state legislators.

In an opinion by the state attorney general's office released late last year, chief counsel Robert N. McDonald said the vote "was probably unlawful and the commissioners did the right thing when they rescinded the increase."

Pub Date: 4/25/99

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