Board opposes censuring officials

Long Reach panel mulls ouster of council representative

March 09, 2000|By Erika Niedowski | Erika Niedowski,SUN STAFF

In a symbolic gesture, the Long Reach Village Board is opposing the censure of two Columbia Council members critical of the Columbia Association president, stirring up a feud with its own council representative.

John Snyder, the board vice chairman, introduced a motion Tuesday night against the censure of Pearl Atkinson-Stewart and Kirk Halpin, who have been accused of leaking "confidential" information concerning some of President Deborah O. McCarty's expenses.

The board also discussed amending village bylaws to provide for the removal of the Long Reach council representative, Cecilia Januszkiewicz, as a nonvoting member of the village board for not attending its meetings. The Columbia Council, made up of one elected representative from each of the 10 villages, serves as the association's governing body; the elected village boards are independent bodies.

Januszkiewicz, an outspoken supporter of McCarty, refused to comment on whether she supports the censure motions, which are on the council's agenda tonight.

"I am moving forward," she said. "I am tired of being trapped in reruns by people who simply won't let go of their issues. If I let other people set the music for my dance, I'd never get where I want to go. The issues about the president, in my view, have been resolved and we're moving forward and that's closed book."

Januszkiewicz, who attended the Tuesday meeting, said she did not attend village board meetings between October and the end of February because the chairman and vice chairman "clearly indicated to me that neither my viewpoint nor my presence were required."

"The bottom line was that they didn't want me to talk," she said. "I should only speak when spoken to. I guess that's my role as a woman."

Janusz- kiewicz said no village official contacted her about her absence or any council matter during that period, and that she provided written reports.

The relationship between Januszkiewicz and village officials has been strained since a controversy last year concerning the voting requirements for tenants.

Some of McCarty's expenses, as well as her leadership and commitment to Columbia and her $130,000-a-year job, have been questioned in recent weeks. Atkinson-Stewart and Halpin, who sit on a committee that is to review the president's performance next month, have called for an independent audit.

The proposed censure motions, sponsored by council member Kenneth Puckett of Dorsey's Search, "condemn" Atkinson-Stewart and Halpin for allegedly disclosing confidential information from a closed-door session Feb. 16 at which some of McCarty's expenses were reviewed. The two council members were quoted in The Sun after that meeting as supporting an outside audit.

Shelby A. Tucker King, the Columbia Association's general counsel, said yesterday that the association's bylaws and charter do not include a provision for a censure motion. She said her advice was not sought before the motions were added to the agenda by the council chairman, Joseph Merke.

A separate motion, also sponsored by Puckett, would restructure the four-member Management Appraisal Committee, which Atkinson-Stewart chairs and on which Halpin sits, to include all 10 members of the council. Puckett has declined to comment.

At the Long Reach meeting, the village board passed Snyder's motion 2-1, with one village board member absent and another position vacant.

"The censure doesn't appear to have any legal substance to it," said Henry Dagenais, the village board chairman. "It appears to be a move to embarrass those council members that were attempting to get to the bottom of this problem with the finances."

"It is not about Debby McCarty," Snyder said. "It is not about picking on a poor woman at a difficult emotional time. It is about finding out what is going on at the head of the table. What kind of deal was struck? Because there's a smokescreen that just leaves a lot of questions unanswered. There are 90,000 people who have invested 50 million dollars, and that's all very important to consider."

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