Village board returns Halpin to council seat

Patchan dissents in 2-1 vote, preferring an election in April

October 18, 2001|By Laura Vozzella | Laura Vozzella,SUN STAFF

Kirk Halpin reclaimed the Columbia Council seat he lost in April's elections as the Kings Contrivance Village Board appointed him last night to the post, which had become vacant with Councilman Steven Pine's surprise resignation a week earlier.

The village board voted 2-1 to appoint Halpin to serve the remainder of Pine's two-year term, which expires in April 2003. Board member Robert Patchan cast the dissenting vote and Rachel Ticar was absent. Patchan wanted Halpin to be appointed only until April next year, when a new election could be held.

"I'm happy to help out," said Halpin, 31, a corporate and real estate lawyer who had served one two-year term on the council before Pine beat him 263-121 in April's upset. The appointment took effect immediately.

Pine resigned Oct. 10, six months into his two-year term, saying he was frustrated by infighting on the council and by his inability to get financial information from Columbia Association officials. He attended last night's village board meeting and told members that he had enjoyed working with them.

"You guys have been great," said Pine, 48, a database administrator with the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory.

Board Chairwoman Barbara Seely thanked Pine for his service, but she said she did not understand what prompted his resignation. Seely said she had talked with several council members who said relations among members have been improving. Columbia Association officials also told Seely they had not ignored Pine's request for financial information.

After Pine resigned, Seely contacted Halpin and asked if he would consider filling the post. No other resident came forward to seek it.

Patchan expressed concern that residents had not been given much time - a week - to hear about the vacancy and consider serving. Yet he also agreed with the rest of the board that it was important to fill the seat quickly because important budget and governance issues are coming before the council.

Patchan said a "reasonable compromise" would be to appoint Halpin until April. That would give the village experienced representation on the council in the short term, but also give the voters, who ousted Halpin by a considerable margin, a say in the long term, he said.

Patchan also noted that Halpin intends to run for Howard County Council as a Republican in District 3 in November next year. Halpin said he would resign the Columbia Council post if he wins.

Board member Vic Baffa said he was torn but leaned toward the longer term because Halpin was well qualified and he assumed, given the difficulty of finding candidates for board seats, that no one more qualified would appear to run against Halpin in April.

"People sometimes get elected that are not qualified," Baffa said. "We know we have someone who's qualified here."

Patchan replied: "It would be nice for the people to decide that. I guess I'd like to believe that our opinions are important, but not that we know better."

Seely said that in other vacancies, appointments had been for the remainder of the term.

"I think we have set a precedent in doing that," she said.

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