Howard Week

August 22, 2004

2 of 3 Circuit Court masters leaving in fall; replacements sought

Two of Howard County's three Circuit Court masters have given notice that they plan to retire or resign within two weeks of each other this fall, and court officials say they are scrambling to start what likely will be a weeks-long process to find replacements.

With the departures of Masters in Chancery Bernard A. Raum and Nancy L. Haslinger, who will leave Sept. 30 and Oct. 15 respectively, Howard County will lose the only two masters who hear a host of cases, ranging from juvenile crime to children in need of assistance to custody issues.

The county's third master, Elaine Patrick, hears only state-involved child support and paternity cases.

McCabe told he creates fear among social workers

State Secretary of Human Resources Christopher J. McCabe was accused last week of creating a climate of fear among social workers because of his abrupt firing of a Howard social services official in June shortly after she aired complaints to the local social services board.

County social services board member Gerald M. Richman told McCabe during a board meeting in Columbia late Monday that the firing of assistant county social services director Kathi Heslin -- just weeks after she told board members that staff shortages were creating serious problems and that state officials refused to fill vacant state jobs that Howard County would pay for -- could mean staff would no longer give the board unpleasant news.

"It has a very chilling effect on these people [state employees] who sit with us and report to us," Richman told McCabe.

McCabe refused to respond directly to Richman, but he said, "We don't want a chilling effect," he said. "We have no policy, written or unwritten, to stifle information."

Pumpkin coach returning to enchant Ellicott City

Cinderella's pumpkin coach, which carried children through the now-defunct Enchanted Forest theme park in Ellicott City for 20 years, will soon make a final journey to a new home at a Howard County farm.

The bright-orange fiberglass pumpkin on wheels deteriorated for nearly a decade after the storybook-themed park closed in 1994. But in May, it was refurbished by volunteers, auctioned for charity and trucked to the garage of its present owners in Middle River.

Now business partners Scott Shepherd and Elby Proffitt believe they have found a better home for the coach at Clark's Elioak Farm, which offers a petting farm, pumpkin patch, hayrides and other family activities along Route 108 in Ellicott City.

The parties are working out when and how to get the coach to the farm.

10% of funds allotted for camps to be spent

Maryland's fiscal dilemma over the past three years has been too few dollars and too many needy children, but Howard County's problem this summer has been the reverse.

County social services officials expect to spend only 10 percent of the $100,000 in combined state and county money they received for summer camp programs. Only 15 children participated.

"That seems to be really poor. You mean there was money available for summer camp that wasn't used? Oh, my God!" said Gerald M. Richman, a social services board member, when he learned of the unused funds at a board meeting last week.

Schools official Statham submits resignation

A top Howard County school administrator who drew the ire of parents and teachers in a grade-tampering controversy at Centennial High School and endured a hate-crime incident last month at her Ellicott City home has resigned for "personal and professional reasons."

Superintendent Sydney L. Cousin said that Kimberly A. Statham, the county's chief academic officer, handed him a resignation letter Wednesday. The letter said Statham was "leaving for both personal and professional reasons, and she didn't go into much more detail than that," Cousin said.

Statham's resignation will take effect Aug. 27, but Cousin said she will be retained in a consulting position.

Statham, 45, characterized her choice to resign as an inevitable move that had long been anticipated by many in the county. She and Cousin said she was not forced out.

But she also said she and her family felt "violated and uncomfortable" after someone used a chemical or weed killer to destroy grass in the shape of a cross on the front lawn of her Ellicott City home. Police taught her how to inspect her car for bombs, said Statham, who is African-American.

In May, the school board unanimously exonerated Statham in the alleged grade tampering.

A sophisticated sniffer seeks courthouse mold

With his handler leading the way, Barney, the mold-sniffing mutt, made his way through the damp confines of the Howard Circuit Court clerk's office yesterday and put his nose to the ground.

"He's alerting on everything," Marcelli said of the 2-year-old chocolate Labrador-German shepherd shorthaired mix. "This place is loaded with [mold]."

Marcelli and the dog were brought in by Clerk of the Circuit Court Margaret D. Rappaport to check the source of her workers' health complaints.

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