Council member criticizes CA goals

Objectives for president set too low, Feldmark says

Board gave approval in 9-1 vote

October 02, 2002|By Laura Cadiz | Laura Cadiz,SUN STAFF

After the Columbia Association's board of directors swiftly approved a list of 2003 objectives for the association president without public debate, one Columbia Council member is saying the goals aren't challenging enough.

Councilman Joshua Feldmark of Wilde Lake said such low expectations are disrespectful to association President Maggie J. Brown, and that the board - which met as a committee in closed sessions to determine the objectives - should have publicly discussed the matter before voting on the objectives Thursday night.

"I just think that we threw Maggie a series of softballs, which she will undoubtedly hit out of the park," he said. "We could have thrown her some hardballs, and she would have hit those out of the park as well."

The board - which also acts as the council - approved the goals 9-1, with Feldmark opposing. Brown is assigned five weighted goals: financial (25 percent), strategic planning process (15 percent), community relations (20 percent), internal management (25 percent) and village relations (15 percent).

The details of the goals include: continuing Brown's series of public meetings, exploring adding Columbia's history to county schools curriculum, meeting the financial objectives approved by the board, analyzing survey results to establish benchmarks for association operations and continuing to work with the ad hoc committees formed from meetings between village associations and the CA staff.

Feldmark told the board that he estimated he could probably meet about 98 percent of the requirements, and it should not be that way because he is not qualified to head the association.

After the meeting, he said some of the category weights should have been shifted, such as bumping up internal management to 40 percent.

Feldmark also said some of the goals are not objective or measurable, as some instruct Brown to "analyze," "continue" or "explore" certain issues.

He said evaluating the president is an important responsibility, and that the group "missed an opportunity to do our job to the best of our ability."

However, Councilwoman Pearl Atkinson-Stewart of Owen Brown, who chairs the management appraisal committee that determined the goals, said Feldmark never told the committee any of his concerns, and that he missed one of the meetings.

The committee had met in four closed executive sessions to discuss the appropriate way to evaluate Brown. "[Feldmark] should have come forward if he had something to say," Atkinson-Stewart said. "It's just that he didn't get his way and he wouldn't accept it."

Feldmark said that because the committee met in closed sessions, he cannot publicly disclose what he - or other committee members - discussed. He said he missed one meeting because it was in the early morning while he was commuting to his job in Washington.

"I did have some suggestions, and some that I would have liked to present at [Thursday's] meeting," he said.

Councilwoman Barbara Russell of Oakland Mills said she did not agree with the weights assigned to the categories and said 20 percent for community relations is an overreaction to former President Deborah O. McCarty's questionable commitment to the community.

"I think the major responsibilities have to do with managing the organization and overseeing the financial stability of the organization," Russell said.

Russell said she voted to approve the goals because she knew they would pass and did not want her vote to be "misinterpreted, personalized in some way," declining to elaborate.

Feldmark was only able to air some of his concerns after the board voted on the issue with no discussion. Atkinson-Stewart immediately called for a vote on the item as soon as it was introduced, and Council Chairman Miles Coffman of Hickory Ridge said he did not see any members wanting to comment.

Atkinson-Stewart said voting at a public meeting was a formality because the panel - all 10 board members - approved the goals in closed sessions.

"We discussed it thoroughly for hours [in committee]," she said. "The discussion was already done. We did not set any of these things without the full vote of the board."

However, Feldmark said that in such instances, the board should publicly discuss and debate on the issues so residents can understand how the decisions were reached. "That was just horrendous that we would stifle debate like that," he said.

Russell said the board should always strive to do as much of its business in public as possible, especially when issues are discussed in committees without public attendance.

"We owe it to the community not just to communicate with ourselves but to communicate with the residents," she said. "I think people have a right to know what it is we're doing and why we're dong it."

But Coffman said he is unsure such discussion is appropriate when dealing with personnel matters. He said he has asked for a ruling from the board's parliamentarian on the session.

Coffman said he believes there should have been no public debate on the matter because it had already passed in closed session and that the board's only obligation to the public was to disclose the goals, which were attached to the meeting agenda.

"I don't think I would want [a goal-setting] discussion with my manager to be made public," he said. "I think by having closed sessions, there can be a more critical discussion."

Coffman said he did not necessarily have to allow Feldmark to comment after the board had voted. However, he said he was not sure if Feldmark's statements should have come before or after the vote.

"Debate was not stifled, Josh got to say what he had to say," Coffman said. "But I'm not sure the order was right. ... Did I screw up? I may have."

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