Howard Week

November 11, 2001

Raises for executive, council in works; zoning changes OK'd

A spate of development-related bills spanning everything from building limits around crowded schools to zoning law changes to help farmers were approved by the Howard County Council on Monday night, while next door a commission decided the next county executive should earn a $125,000 starting salary.

The seven-member Compensation Review Commission also voted to use the Consumer Price Index to determine annual cost-of-living pay raises for the next executive and council. Council pay next term would start at $35,000, a $1,200 increase.

The County Council has final say on the recommendations, but it can only reduce, not increase them. A resolution detailing the changes likely will be introduced next month for a January vote.

The executive's pay raise would be a significant increase over the $98,500 County Executive James N. Robey will get, starting next month.

Perkins patient sues state over being restrained

A mentally disabled patient at Clifton T. Perkins Hospital Center in Jessup who was repeatedly placed in restraints - once for more than 300 hours straight - is suing state mental health officials and caregivers, alleging that they failed to treat the underlying causes of his brain disorder and instead resorted to illegally confining him for long periods of time.

Robert Brandt, 31, who has been at Perkins since he was accused of setting his roommate's bed on fire - while the roommate was in it - at Spring Grove Hospital in Catonsville seven years ago, names 41 defendants, including the state of Maryland, the hospital, staff members and current and former secretaries of the state Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, in his suit.

Brandt claims civil rights violations, cruel and unusual punishment, negligence, emotional distress and false imprisonment and asks for $20 million in damages, costs and attorneys' fees.

Sheriff to run again - this time as Democrat

Howard County Sheriff Charles M. Cave is planning to run for re-election next year as a Democrat - a change in party affiliation that has irked Republican leaders and resulted in their vow to defeat him.

The soft-spoken, first-term sheriff, who won election as a Republican in 1998, made the switch official in August and said he is planning to file his candidacy in the next several days.

While local Democrats welcomed the addition of an incumbent to next year's ticket for countywide races, Cave's actions left local Republicans feeling betrayed. Party officials talked publicly about the sheriff's decision during a meeting last week to discuss replacing Republican Sen. Martin G. Madden, who has said he will resign Jan. 7.

Parents prove to be biggest obstacle in redistricting

When 28 members of Howard County's school community convened in March to tackle the tangled mess of high school redistricting, there were whispers that there would be trouble. The whisperers have proved to be right.

In the beginning, squabbling within the Boundary Lines Advisory Committee caused trouble. Now, as the committee's work approaches its end, the trouble is coming from the very people the committee was meant to represent: Howard parents.

Some committee members have been threatened with the loss of friendships. One member who resigned from the panel is rumored to have stepped down because of pressure from parents at a school where he works. Others say they have been greeted after late-night meetings by bullying mobs of moms demanding that their children be left alone.

Many say they have been bombarded with angry letters, e-mail and phone calls at home in seemingly purposeful campaigns to disrupt family lives, harass and intimidate.

The committee as a whole, as well as at least one individual member, have been threatened with lawsuits. "It's a very sad commentary on the whole thing, the whole process," said Margaret Hunt, a committee member representing Oakland Mills High School.

Student interest in travel fellowships in question

Thanks to a $10,000 gift, three students at Howard Community College will have the chance to travel anywhere in the world for credit.

Before Sept. 11, school officials thought students would jump at the chance. Now, they're not so sure. "We'd like to think students will still want them, but ... " said Barbara Schulte, who donated the money to the college with her husband, Jim, to create the Schulte Travel Fellowship .

The Schultes say they want to continue funding the fellowships, but if there is no interest they will stop. "For obvious reasons, we're really hoping students will apply in droves," said Ardell Terry, the president's executive associate for the capital program, who was instrumental in organizing the program.

Grand jury clears officer as new protocol begins

Howard County Police Officer Timothy Wiley, who fatally shot a North Laurel man in September, committed no crime, a grand jury found Thursday as prosecutors implemented a new protocol for determining when an officer's use of deadly force is justified.

The procedure, which will send to the grand jury all cases in which the actions of an officer on duty cause death, places the decision-making in the hands of ordinary citizens instead of court officials who work closely with police on a day-to-day basis, officials said.

"It just seems like a cleaner way to do business," said Howard Police Chief Wayne Livesay.

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