Lawyer calls 4 Columbia officials loyal employees

Association head asked vice presidents to resign

March 20, 2000|By Erika Niedowski | Erika Niedowski,SUN STAFF

A lawyer representing four of the six Columbia Association (CA) vice presidents who were ordered to submit letters of resignation said yesterday that they have been loyal employees whose professional competence was never questioned, even in job evaluations performed by President Deborah O. McCarty.

"All four vice presidents have demonstrated their loyalty and commitment to CA" for years, said Beverly J. White, an employment lawyer formerly with the Rouse Co. "Their loyalty has never been questioned, nor their competence."

White represents Maggie Brown, vice president for community services; Rob Goldman, vice president for sport and fitness; Rafia Siddiqui, vice president for administrative services; and Pam Mack, formerly vice president for community relations.

Mack was no longer employed by CA as of Friday. It was unclear whether she resigned or was fired.

McCarty, who succeeded Padraic M. Kennedy as CA's top official in August 1998, met with five of the association's six vice presidents March 10 and told them they had less than 24 hours to submit letters of resignation, according to sources familiar with the situation.

At the time, McCarty raised questions about the vice presidents' loyalty and said she did not expect to accept all the resignations. Shelby A. Tucker King, who served as CA's general counsel and secretary, was no longer with the association as of March 13. Chick Rhodehamel, vice president for open space management, has been named acting president. McCarty has taken a two-month leave of absence for personal reasons.

The Columbia Association's board of directors, the Columbia Council, released a statement taking responsibility for demanding the resignation letters. According to the statement, the board drafted the letter given to the vice presidents to sign.

But yesterday, council member Kirk Halpin of Kings Contrivance said that one board member drafted it.

"The form of the resignation letter was presented to the board several minutes before a regularly scheduled council meeting was to begin," he said. "The board was not provided with a copy of the form resignation letter in advance, nor was the board provided with a hard copy to review at the time of the meeting."

Instead, Halpin said, one board member, whom he declined to name, read the resignation letter aloud. Halpin and Earl Jones, the Oakland Mills council representative, have called for McCarty to step down.

McCarty told The Sun on Saturday that she has no plans to resign. She has said repeatedly that she will not comment on "personnel matters."

White said performance evaluations for her four clients, one of whom has worked for the Columbia Association for more than 20 years, had been positive. McCarty gave each of them a written evaluation last summer, White said, and "there were no concerns raised in those evaluations."

Mack, a former Columbia Council chairwoman, had been with the association for 13 years. Goldman has been with the association for 11 years; Brown, for 13 years; and Siddiqui, for 21 years. It is unclear whether the latter three have signed the resignation letters.

"They are, I would say, traumatized by this turn and course of events," White said. "It's been very painful to them. They have dedicated their lives for well over a decade to CA and the community. To have community conflict and confusion surrounding them is incredibly painful."

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