Columbia leader orders letters of resignation

Association chief tellsstaff that she has questions over loyalty

March 14, 2000|By Erika Niedowski | Erika Niedowski,SUN STAFF

Facing a barrage of criticism over her leadership and commitment, Columbia Association President Deborah O. McCarty has ordered all of her vice presidents to submit letters of resignation, saying she has questions over their loyalty to her.

Sources familiar with the situation said McCarty met with five of the six vice presidents after a contentious meeting of the Columbia Council on Thursday night and said each of them had until 5 p.m. the next day to submit a letter of resignation.

McCarty, who replaced Padraic M. Kennedy as head of the association in August 1998, told the vice presidents that she had reason to question the loyalty of one or more of them. She said she did not expect to accept all of the resignation letters.

A resignation letter was provided to the vice presidents for them to sign, sources said. The letter, which is addressed to McCarty and dated March 10, states that the person submitting it is not entitled to compensation other than accrued salary, leave and benefits.

"I agree that I am not entitled to prior notice that the resignation has been accepted," it also states.

It concludes: "This letter of resignation is irrevocable by me."

The letter was to be returned in a sealed envelope to McCarty's secretary.

McCarty has not responded to repeated inquiries from The Sun since Friday. Hours after she asked for the resignation letters, she returned to Atlanta, where she is spending much of a two-month leave of absence.

The Columbia Association, which is governed by the elected Columbia Council, is a homeowners group that runs facilities and provides services for its 87,000 residents. McCarty is often likened to a city mayor; the vice presidents function much as her "Cabinet." All of the vice presidents have been with the association longer than McCarty, some for more than 20 years.

They are Shelby A. Tucker King, the association's general counsel and secretary; Maggie Brown, vice president for community services; Rob Goldman, vice president for sport and fitness; Pam Mack, vice president for community relations; Chick Rhodehamel, vice president for open space management; and Rafia Siddiqui, vice president for administrative services.

Mack and Siddiqui declined to comment yesterday. Goldman referred questions to McCarty. Brown, Rhodehamel and Tucker King did not return phone calls.

McCarty is on a paid leave of absence under the Family and Medical Leave Act. She spends much of her time in Atlanta, where she was a City Council member and recreation and parks commissioner, and where her son is undergoing medical treatments.

It is unclear whether any members of McCarty's staff have submitted letters of resignation.

The most recent development involving the Columbia Association vice presidents capped a month of unprecedented rancor in the planned community during which:

Three members of the Columbia Council called for an outside review of some of McCarty's travel and training expenses.

Two of those council members became the target of proposed censure motions for allegedly disclosing "confidential" information about the expenses.

McCarty lashed out at her critics in a three-page letter to the community, calling herself the victim of an "unfounded character assault."

The Columbia Council -- made up of one elected representative from each of the community's 10 villages -- met behind closed doors before its public session Thursday night to authorize McCarty to take actions against the vice presidents, said sources familiar with the meeting.

McCarty was given that authority by a 7-3 vote, the sources said.

Asked whether he supported her decision to ask for resignation letters, Chairman Joseph Merke said yesterday, "I don't know that that's true."

Cecilia Januszkiewicz, Long Reach village's council representative and a vocal defender of McCarty, declined to comment on whether she supported McCarty's move and whether such letters have been submitted.

Tucker King has been with the Columbia Association for about three years; Brown, for seven years; Goldman, for 11 years; Mack, for 13; Rhodehamel, for 20; and Siddiqui, for 21.

The salaries for their positions ranged from $67,600 to $106,700 in 1997, the most recent year for which information was available.

Before joining the association, Mack was chairwoman of the Columbia Council.

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