Moxley seeks to amend proposal

County Council could face deadline on confirmations

August 01, 2002|By Andrew A. Green | Andrew A. Green,SUN STAFF

A Baltimore County councilman said yesterday that he wants to attach a time limit to a proposal that would give the council confirmation power over county department heads.

Councilman Stephen G. Samuel Moxley, a Catonsville Democrat, said he would offer an amendment that would give the council 40 days to act on nominations by the county executive. If the council failed to approve or deny a nominee in that time, the nominee would be confirmed.

"The lack of leadership in a department could have a detrimental effect. Therefore, I think that the council should be required to act within an appropriate period," Moxley said.

Other Maryland counties where councils have confirmation powers employ similar time limits.

Meanwhile, the lobbying effort against the confirmation plan - which would require an amendment to the county charter - is growing in intensity.

James T. Smith, a Democrat running for county executive, voiced opposition to the plan last week, and several people he called to discuss the matter also have begun pressuring councilmen to vote against it.

Former County Executive Dennis F. Rasmussen testified against the proposal at the council's work session Tuesday, and his predecessor, Donald P. Hutchinson, wrote a letter to councilmen opposing it.

John A. Donaho, one of the charter's authors, wrote letters and made phone calls opposing the change, and Terry Young, the head of the Baltimore County Chamber of Commerce, wrote a letter opposing it.

All sounded similar themes, saying the measure could dilute accountability, politicize the appointment process and hinder the county's efforts to recruit the best managers.

Douglas B. Riley and Berchie L. Manley, Republican candidates for county executive and County Council, respectively, testified Tuesday in favor of the idea.

Councilmen said they see no reason why so many people are weighing in against what they consider to be a relatively minor issue.

In any case, the lobbying has been ineffective. The measure needs five votes to be placed on November's ballot, and it has that many votes now.

Councilman Joseph Bartenfelder, a Fullerton Democrat, said he thinks opponents are blowing the issue out of proportion. The council already approves nominations of fire and police chiefs, he said.

"The most important appointments in the county are now confirmed by the council, and there has been absolutely no problem at all, no delays ... or political posturing or anything else by the council," he said. "This is a big to-do over nothing."

In Montgomery County, department heads and high-ranking officials within the departments are confirmed by the council. Jerry Pasternak, special assistant to Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan, said the confirmation process - which includes public hearings - helps make residents feel involved in government.

Pasternak said Montgomery's government has not come to a grinding halt because of the confirmations, candidates have not declined to be considered, and as far as he can remember, the council has never rejected a nominee. "It's appropriate from our perspective that there be some opportunity for public input into a selection and that typically comes through public comment to council members. It's a more open process," he said.

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