The Columbia Council will not decide whether to continue or call off its search for a new Columbia Association president until Feb. 8 - a week before applications for the post are due.
The council postponed last night making any changes to its plan to hire someone to oversee the homeowners association before April elections, when seven of the 10 council seats are up for grabs. The council intends to take up the matter at a meeting Thursday.
Last month, the council voted to start its search from scratch after the second of three finalists withdrew, complaining about rancorous council politics and alleged racism.
The council advertised the post again, with a Feb. 15 application deadline.
In recent weeks, some residents and village boards have urged the council to delay action until after elections, saying the current council is too fiercely divided to choose the town's top administrator. In interviews this week, five council members said they were open to postponing the search.
Last night, the council gathered for a budget work session that listed the presidential search on its agenda. But members decided to postpone discussing the item until next week's regularly scheduled council meeting.
The council voted 6-1 against designating the session a special council meeting, a move required to make official any action they might have taken. Council members in the majority said they want to give the public more notice.
Councilman Kirk J. Halpin of Kings Contrivance, who wants to delay the search, cast the lone vote in favor of holding the special meeting. Councilwoman Pearl Atkinson-Stewart of Owen Brown, who also favors a delay, abstained. Councilwoman Donna Rice of Town Center and Councilman Adam Rich of River Hill were absent.
Councilman Robert Conors of Dorsey's Search noted that only four of Columbia's 10 village boards have sent letters asking the council to delay the search.
In addition to Halpin and Stewart, council members who say they would consider postponing the search are Rice, Rich and Vincent L. Marando of Wilde Lake.
Miles Coffman of Hickory Ridge and Barbara Russell of Oakland Mills want to proceed with the process. Conors and Chairman Lanny Morrison of Harper's Choice have said they are undecided.
Councilwoman Cecilia Januszkiewicz of Long Reach wants the council to stop the search and hire Maggie J. Brown, formerly the association's vice president for community services and named interim president by the council Jan. 11.
Brown replaced Charles Rhodehamel, who had been acting president since Deborah O. McCarty resigned the $130,000-a- year post under pressure in May.
The council voted unanimously last week to award Rhodehamel a $35,000 bonus for serving as acting president while continuing to oversee the association's division of open space management.