Chief of CA, staff meet

McCarty back in town to field questions and allay concerns

`I have a tough skin'

Workers fear for jobs, vice presidents who were asked to quit

March 16, 2000|By Erika Niedowski | Erika Niedowski,SUN STAFF

Hours after returning to town yesterday, Columbia Association President Deborah O. McCarty called a company-wide staff meeting to field questions and try to allay concerns stemming from her recent order that six vice presidents submit letters of resignation.

At 4 p.m. at Columbia Association headquarters, McCarty read from a prepared statement to a crowd of employees, saying she could not discuss personnel matters because of confidentiality.

But McCarty said the "chaos" in recent weeks -- including criticism of her leadership and questions about some of her business expenses and her commitment to the association -- has stemmed from the fact that the association is in a state of transition.

She said she knew she "could not accomplish the necessary changes and be popular at the same time."

"I have a tough skin, and I realize that my role is to absorb the political controversy for the Board of Directors and all of you," the statement said, referring to the elected Columbia Council. "And that's okay."

The meeting lasted about 45 minutes. Some employees expressed "fear" about their jobs and concern for the vice presidents for whom they work and like.

One employee said association staff has been left with a "serious morale problem."

Another asked: "Do you realize what we're going through?"

In the statement, McCarty sought to reassure employees about the security of their jobs. She said it is Columbia Association's president and vice presidents who serve "at the pleasure of the Board."

"The rest of you should not be concerned about the security of your jobs," she told them.

She also said that she is committed to Columbia and that she and her family have "immersed ourselves fully in the Columbia community."

McCarty, who is on an "intermittent" leave of absence under the Family and Medical Leave Act, returned to Columbia yesterday from Atlanta. A former Atlanta councilwoman and recreation and parks commissioner, she has said her son is undergoing medical treatments there.

In an interview yesterday before the staff meeting, McCarty declined to comment on the resignation letters. She said only, "There has been an enormous amount of incorrect information in the articles of Monday and Tuesday."

Asked to be specific, she said, "I do not comment on executive sessions of the board or personnel matters."

According to sources, the vice presidents who were asked to submit resignation letters 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; and Rafia Siddiqui, vice president for administrative services.

Tucker King no longer works for the Columbia Association, as of Monday, but it is unclear whether she resigned or was fired. McCarty declined to comment. Tucker King also declined to comment.

Lanny Morrison, a former Columbia Council chairman who is running for the Harper's Choice council seat, said yesterday that recent events have left him "shocked and saddened, not only for the people involved but for all of Columbia."

"I do not know what to make of this," he said. "I do know that it could not have occurred without the expressed approval of the CA board of directors, because the bylaws are very clear when it comes to officers -- that only the board of directors has authority over the officers."

Morrison has called a public meeting for 7: 30 tonight at Kahler Hall.

Joseph Merke, the Columbia Council chairman, said yesterday that he couldn't comment on the situation, calling it a "personnel matter."

After the meeting, Merke said he was unsure whether he would call a special council meeting. Council representative Earl Jones of Oakland Mills has asked that such a meeting take place immediately.

"As representatives to this community, we owe it to the community to talk and get out the information we can," said Pearl Atkinson-Stewart, the council representative from Owen Brown.

"I've had no communication" about the situation, she said.

"No one has talked to me," she added. "I don't know what's going on. I didn't know who turned in letters or signed letters or anything. No one has shared that with me."

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