Extended term requested for top aide

Baltimore County executive not ready for permanent appointment

April 24, 2003|By Andrew A. Green | Andrew A. Green,SUN STAFF

More than a month after his top pick for Baltimore County's No. 2 post bowed out, County Executive James T. Smith Jr. is not ready to name a permanent appointee and will ask for an extension of the acting administrative officer's term.

County Council members said they have not had detailed discussions with the executive about the post but will. Nearly six months into his term, they said, Smith needs to have an appointee for the job charged with the day-to-day running of the county government.

"We should have somebody in there permanently by now," said Councilman Kenneth N. Oliver, a Randallstown Democrat.

Smith spokesman Damian O'Doherty said the executive will discuss the post with council members when he returns from vacation next week.

"Just because we completed the budget process here, I think this is going to be a top-tier issue for us," O'Doherty said. "He's going to really begin work on this."

Technically, Smith's request for an extension for the acting administrative officer is late and will leave the post vacant for a few days.

County budget chief Fred Homan automatically became acting administrative officer when John Wasilisin left last month to take a job with Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.'s administration. The county charter says acting officers may serve 60 days unless the council approves an extension.

The 60 days will expire May 1, four days before the next council meeting.

O'Doherty called the timing an oversight and said the executive sent a letter to the council yesterday requesting an extension.

Council Chairman Kevin Kamenetz, a Pikesville-Ruxton Democrat, said he is worried that Smith has not told the council that he has anyone in mind for the job.

"The question for the council will be, is the operation of the county government being hamstrung by the lack of a permanent administrative officer?" Kamenetz said.

Smith's first choice for the job was former state Department of Transportation official Beverly Swaim-Staley. Smith did not talk to council members about her or the $140,000 salary he promised her.

Council members objected to her lack of experience in Baltimore County and to the idea of paying her $25,000 more than her predecessor. Some council members also expressed concerns that she might micromanage the county.

Merreen E. Kelly, administrative officer under Roger B. Hayden and for part of C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger's two terms, said the post is essential to the everyday operation of the government.

Councilman Stephen G. Samuel Moxley, a Catonsville Democrat, said it's important that the executive talk with the council before releasing the name of his nominee.

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