McCarty move raises council ire

3 express outrage at president's call for CA resignations

Action called `devastating'

Jones seeks meeting to discuss issue before the public

March 15, 2000|By Erika Niedowski | Erika Niedowski,SUN STAFF

Three Columbia Council members expressed outrage yesterday over Columbia Association President Deborah O. McCarty's call for resignation letters from her six vice presidents, and one has requested a special council meeting to discuss the issue before the public.

"I'm appalled and outraged by the actions that have been taken," said Earl Jones, the council representative from Oakland Mills village. "I do not perceive this to be in the best interests of the community at all."

Said Pearl Atkinson-Stewart, the Owen Brown representative: "I just think it's devastating to the corporation."

McCarty, who replaced Padraic M. Kennedy as head of the Columbia Association 19 months ago, ordered all six vice presidents to submit letters of resignation by 5 p.m. last Friday, saying she had questions about their loyalty to her, sources familiar with the situation have said.

McCarty has not responded to repeated inquiries from The Sun since Friday.

It is unclear whether any of the vice presidents has submitted resignation letters, which were provided for each to sign, the sources said. One of them, Shelby A. Tucker King, the Columbia Association general counsel and secretary, no longer works for the association, as of Monday, said Pam Mack, a vice president for community relations. Mack provided no details.

Jones, who has called for an independent audit of some of McCarty's business expenses, requested yesterday that Council Chairman Joseph Merke call immediately for a "special meeting" of the council to discuss the matter. He asked that the meeting be open to the public and that the vice presidents be present.

Merke did not return calls for comment yesterday.

Lanny Morrison, a former Columbia Council chairman who has been critical of the current council, has called a meeting of the community's 10 villages for 7: 30 p.m. tomorrow at Kahler Hall. In a notice announcing the meeting, Morrison said its purpose would be to "curtail" the recent actions of the council and the association president.

In addition to Tucker King, those asked to submit resignation letters are Mack; Maggie Brown, vice president for community services; Rob Goldman, vice president for sport and fitness; Chick Rhodehamel, vice president for open space; and Rafia Siddiqui, vice president for administrative services.

Goldman, Mack, Rhodehamel and Siddiqui declined to comment yesterday.

The other vice presidents did not return phone calls.

McCarty, who is on a two-month leave for personal reasons, appointed Rhodehamel acting president in her absence, as of Monday.

Tucker King had been serving in that capacity.

The most recent development capped a month of rancor in Columbia, during which some of McCarty's business expenses were questioned and two council members were named in proposed censure motions.

Norma Rose, who chaired the Columbia Council in the last session, said she was "completely taken off guard" by McCarty's move but supports it.

"Debby has worked for a year and a half with a staff that is not of her choosing," said Rose, who was instrumental in negotiating McCarty's employment agreement. "It's my observation that some people are having difficulty making a change to a new administration. I think it's quite within the prerogative of a CEO to do this."

A candidate for the Columbia Council became the first to call publicly for McCarty to step down.

Barbara Russell, a senior County Council staffer who is challenging Jones in Oakland Mills, said she believes that McCarty should resign because she can no longer be an "effective leader."

"There comes a time when a person must decide between their personal priorities and their professional priorities, and I think it's time," she said, referring to McCarty.

Jones said he is getting "closer and closer" also to calling for McCarty's resignation.

Elections for the council and the village boards will be held April 15.

"I'm saddened by what's going on in Columbia," said Alex Hekimian, a former council representative. "There are village boards that are fighting with the council, there are certain council members that are fighting with the presidency of CA, there are certain council members that are fighting with other council members. It's embarrassing, really. This is really no way to run a city of 80,000 people."

Reached yesterday, Kirk Halpin, the Kings Contrivance representative, said: "A poor worker blames his or her tools."

Jean S. Friedberg Jr., the Hickory Ridge council representative, said he doesn't comment on "personnel issues."

The other council members did not return phone calls.

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