Panel urged not to fire CA president

Kennedy-McCarty shift caused `trauma,' consultant says

`It is painful'

McCarty back to work full-time after a 2-month leave

March 31, 2000|By Erika Niedowski | Erika Niedowski,SUN STAFF

A week after being hired to mediate the community controversy centered on Columbia Association President Deborah O. McCarty, a consultant advised the elected council last night not to fire the embattled leader.

"I don't see a scenario that includes the departure of your president in the interest of the corporation," said Steve Beall of Columbia-based Beall Consultations.

What Beall termed his "preliminary report" came during a three-hour meeting attended by eight Columbia Council members and McCarty that seemed part therapy, part lecture and part pep talk.

In largely clinical terms, Beall painted a picture of an organization suffering from "trauma" because of the change of leadership two years ago from former association President Padraic M. Kennedy to McCarty. He compared the situation to undergoing a heart transplant.

"This is going to be traumatic no matter who you bring on," Beall said. "That is a fact of life. The new person is an invading body."

McCarty returned to work full-time Wednesday after a two-month leave of absence.

Last week, she authorized spending up to $25,000 for "transition, facilitation and public relations consulting." The requisition for Beall's services was made -- and approved -- under "emergency procurement procedures."

Joseph Merke, the council chairman, said this week that Beall was referred to him by a "very, very close friend."

Beall met this week with nine of the council's 10 members for individual one- to two-hour sessions, asking them questions ranging from why they ran for the council to what role they thought the president should play.

Beall said he will deliver a formal report on his findings within 10 days.

He stressed that his client is not McCarty, but the Columbia Association as an organization.

Beall urged the council to take action quickly to smooth the recent controversy, but did not outline what that action might be.

He told the board not to feel a "sense of failure where there is none."

"The fact of the matter is, Columbia is doing pretty well," he said. "You're leading it. It's not perfect, but you're leading it."

Tom Forno, the council representative from Harper's Choice, suggested that the council might have "fumbled the ball" this year when it directed McCarty to take a back seat in setting the agenda.

"Maybe we then kind of handed the ball back to her, and then realized she did not have what she needed to carry the ball," he said.

Jean S. Friedberg Jr., the Hickory Ridge representative, tried to explain the difficulties of reaching consensus on a board with 10 members.

"We don't have a language to sit down and discuss the issues with," he said.

Beall explained that the association is at the "brink of development. It's going into its adolescence and it is painful."

"The question is: Can the whole of Columbia develop while the council structure remains the same?" he said.

Before last night's meeting, a candidate for the council seat in Oakland Mills, Barbara Russell, called spending funds on Beall's services a "needless and ridiculous expenditure of money."

"There is no way you can justify this on the emergency procedures," she said.

In the first three quarters of the current fiscal year, all "emergency purchases," which can be made without soliciting the normally required three bids, have been generally related to emergency facility or equipment repairs.

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