Board backs Columbia president

Council says it voted to require resignation letters from officials

March 18, 2000|By Erika Niedowski | Erika Niedowski,SUN STAFF

The Columbia Association board of directors took responsibility yesterday for demanding resignation letters from six association vice presidents and reaffirmed its support for President Deborah O. McCarty, even as one board member called on the embattled leader to step down.

The board of directors -- also known as the Columbia Council -- issued a statement saying it voted last week to "require" that the vice presidents submit resignation letters and to give McCarty the power to accept or reject those letters.

In its statement, the board said it "believes that in order to hold the President fully accountable for operations, she must be fully empowered. We expect that the President will take whatever action she deems in the best interest of the [Columbia] Association to form the best team she can obtain."

For confidentiality, McCarty refused yesterdayto say whether she had asked the board to request the resignation letters.

She refused to say whether she supported the board's decision to do so.

She also refused to release a copy of the motion on which the board voted, saying the board would provide it.

Council member Adam Rich of River Hill said at a public forum Thursday that McCarty had wanted the authority to hire and fire Columbia Association officers, which include the vice presidents.

"She believed that at least one vice president was not the proper person for the job," he said.

Another board member, Kirk Halpin of Kings Contrivance village, said yesterday: "I do not believe that the board demanded letters of resignation from each of the vice presidents. Instead, I believe that the board authorized Deborah McCarty to ask for letters of resignation from her vice presidents."

Earl Jones of Oakland Mills became the first Columbia Council member yesterday to call for McCarty to resign.

He said he has cautioned McCarty -- who succeeded Padraic M. Kennedy in August 1998 -- and fellow council members that their recent actions have been "detrimental to the well-being of our community."

Jones said he requested that McCarty and the council "desist in following a strategy that is causing immense pain and anguish in our community -- to no avail."

"In view thereof, without personal malice toward anyone, I hereby call publicly for the resignation of the current president of CA," the statement said, "and request the board of directors to take all necessary actions to fully reinstate all CA vice presidents to their prior positions without the threat of termination unless their performance subsequently so justifies."

Asked for a response, McCarty said: "That's unfortunate."

McCarty, who is on an "intermittent" leave of absence for personal reasons, met last week with five of the six CA vice presidents and told them they had less than 24 hours to submit letters of resignation. A letter was provided for them to sign. She said she did not expect to accept all the letters.

According to yesterday's statement by the board of directors, the resignation letter was drafted by the board. A separate letter delivered to the vice presidents explaining the call for the resignation letters was signed by the board chairman, Joseph Merke, the statement said.

Merke told The Sun last week after the resignation letters were provided to the vice presidents that he did not know about them.

The board's statement also said that any vice president who failed to submit a resignation letter would be "immediately and automatically removed."

As of Monday, one vice president, Shelby A. Tucker King, who served as CA's general counsel and secretary, no longer worked for the association. It was unclear yesterday whether the five remaining vice presidents were still employed by CA.

The dispute has been brewing in Columbia for more than a month. It began when some council members questioned the propriety of some of McCarty's business expenses and her commitment to the community.

In its statement, the board said it "deeply regrets the personal, inappropriate nature of the attacks recently made on the President. "We heard the concerns about commitment and we heard her responses in executive session, and we concluded that she is deeply committed to our community, and to having CA reach its full potential."

Pub Date: 3/18/00

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