Long Reach official is `embarrassed' at banning of Hlass

Taylor, board to confer about CA representative

Columbia

July 15, 2004|By Laura Cadiz | Laura Cadiz,SUN STAFF

The head of the Long Reach Village Board said he is "very dismayed and embarrassed" that the village's representative on the Columbia Council has been banned from the neighborhood shopping center after accusations of harassing and threatening employees of the company that manages the center.

Board Chairman William A. Taylor said he will be conferring with the board - which can enact the process to recall a council representative - about David Hlass being banning from the shopping and social hub for a year and will proceed from there.

"I don't know what's going to come out of it," said Taylor, adding that the group could meet within the next few weeks.

Hlass, who had been complaining about Perrine & Wheeler Real Estate Investments' management of Long Reach Village Center, was banned from the center June 7. Hlass is allowed to go to Stonehouse, the community building that is in the shopping center and owned by the Columbia Association.

The five-member village board has the authority to call for a special meeting in which voters could decide to recall a council representative - which has never been done. The village manager and 25 percent of the village's 5,700 households can also call a special meeting. A required quorum of 50 eligible voters would have to be present to validate any special meeting.

If voters recall the council member, the village board would appoint someone to take his place.

Rakes wants to talk

Howard County Councilman David A. Rakes, an east Columbia Democrat who says he wants to talk with Hlass and Perrine & Wheeler representatives and attempt to work out the problem, hopes a recall won't be instituted.

"I think come next election, if the people don't want him, they won't elect him," Rakes said. "I don't think he's done anything that would be cause for recall. That's drastic."

Jon S. Wheeler, Perrine & Wheeler's president and chief operating officer, said that while he is open to talking with Rakes, the ban will stay in place. Wheeler issued the ban after he said Hlass threatened and verbally accosted company employees while acting as an uninvited liaison between the company and tenants for what Wheeler characterized as nonexistent problems.

"We're not going to back off that," Wheeler said Tuesday of the ban, which was reported in The Sun on Sunday. "That is something that is going to stay in place to protect our facilities and investments and our office tenants and retailers."

Ban called `retaliation'

Hlass called the ban "retaliation" and disputed the claims of harassment and threats. He contended the center's management has not attended to heating, air conditioning and plumbing maintenance problems at some of the offices in the center.

A 50-year-old retired military officer and pilot, Hlass is in the middle of his two-year term on the 10-member council, which also acts as the board of directors for the Columbia Association. His term expires in April.

The Columbia Association board has the authority to remove a board member with a two-thirds vote. Board Chairman Joshua Feldmark has said the group feels the villages should take charge in recalling a council member and it will follow any decision that the village makes.

Concerns expressed

The association board has also had concerns with some of Hlass' actions, with the former board chairman expressing to Hlass in a June 2003 confidential memo that he overstepped his authority on a number of occasions and that he has no individual authority over the association's daily operations.

Among the concerns in the memo, then-board Chairman Miles Coffman noted an incident after the board voted to approve the grant of an easement in Oakland Mills, allowing Howard County to install a traffic signal. Coffman wrote that Hlass visited the work site, announced he was a Columbia Association board member and told the county workers to stop working, according to the memo.

Denial from Hlass

Hlass has denied he did anything inappropriate.

Ruth Cargo, chairwoman of Vote Smart, an issues-oriented group that backed Hlass' campaign, said the group has generally agreed with Hlass' votes and feels it is up to Long Reach residents whether he should continue to be on the council.

"We'll go along with whatever the voters decide," Cargo said. "We think they'll know best."

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