Councilman proposes probation for McCarty

Rich also requests moratorium on loss of Columbia officers

March 21, 2000|By Erika Niedowski | Erika Niedowski,SUN STAFF

A Columbia Council member has backtracked on his support for demanding resignation letters from the six Columbia Association vice presidents, and is proposing that President Deborah O. McCarty be given 60 days to "prove to the community that she is the right person for the long haul."

Adam Rich of River Hill, who had voted to give McCarty authority to hire and fire CA's officers, proposed yesterday an "immediate moratorium" on removal of vice presidents.

"I have been struggling daily with our course of action over the last three weeks and have come to the conclusion that we erred in supporting and/or asking for the VP's resignations at this time," Rich wrote to fellow council members, who also serve as CA's board of directors.

Rich also proposed a two-month "probationary period" for McCarty and appointment of 10 residents to the council committee that will evaluate the president's performance next month.

McCarty has faced a storm of criticism in recent weeks over her leadership and commitment. She told the six CA vice presidents March 10 that they had less than 24 hours to submit resignation letters.

Shelby A. Tucker King, formerly general counsel and secretary, and Pam Mack, formerly vice president of community relations, have since left the company, though the circumstances surrounding their departures are unclear.

Kirk Halpin, the council representative from Kings Contrivance who has called for McCarty's resignation, said yesterday that a 60-day probation period isn't necessary.

"I would not want someone to run Columbia that only shows leadership, commitment and financial integrity when their job is on the line," he said.

Halpin joined Earl Jones, the Oakland Mills councilman who also has called for McCarty to step down, in requesting that Tucker King and Mack be reinstated.

"Why just put an immediate moratorium on letting additional vice presidents go? Why not hire back the vice presidents that are no longer with CA?" he said.

Pearl Atkinson-Stewart, the Owen Brown representative, also supported rehiring Tucker King and Mack, who she said had been "wrongfully dismissed."

Rich has acknowledged shortcomings with McCarty's leadership, but said some of her critics are on a "witch hunt." He said his proposals represent a "more reasonable attempt to solve the challenges that people are complaining about instead of just hanging the `witch.' "

The probationary period, he said, would allow McCarty time to demonstrate that she is -- or is not -- the city's best long-term leader.

"Draw me a picture of Nirvana," he said. "Prove to us -- the community -- that with the right deputies, unhandcuffed, that your vision and goals for Columbia are Nirvana."

Asked to comment on Rich's statement that the council had "erred" in supporting the resignation letters, council Chairman Joseph Merke said: "I'm not sure at the moment that I agree with that."

Merke said he would oppose adding residents to the Management Appraisal Committee because the council set goals for the president months ago.

"It would be very difficult for somebody to come into a system at this point with the emotions running as high as they are and be realistic," he said.

On the 60-day probation period, Merke said, "As far as I'm concerned, until the majority would vote for that, I believe that we gave our support to Debby and I believe that should be adhered to."

Tom Forno, the Harper's Choice council representative, declined to discuss the specifics of Rich's proposal but said it "deserves consideration."

"I believe that there are a lot of people in this community that are looking for a way out of this impasse that we've gotten ourselves into, and I certainly am one of them," he said.

Forno's opponent in the April 15 election, Lanny Morrison, called yesterday for McCarty to resign.

Council members Cecilia Januszkiewicz of Long Reach and Kenneth Puckett of Dorsey's Search did not return phone calls from The Sun yesterday. Jean S. Friedberg Jr. of Hickory Ridge declined to comment; Vince Marando of Wilde Lake was out of town.

McCarty has declined repeatedly to comment on personnel matters.

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