Disturbed by the disputes embroiling David Hlass, the Long Reach village Columbia Council representative, a former village board chairman has decided to run for the seat in next month's election.
Henry F. "Hank" Dagenais, 73, who headed the village board for nearly five years ending in 2001, said he will file for the seat in hopes of restoring the community's working relationship with the group, which serves as the Columbia Council and the Columbia Association board of directors.
If Hlass runs for re-election, the battle could be the liveliest race this year in the typically low-turnout, uncontested village elections scheduled for April 30. Yesterday, no one had filed for seats in most of the seven villages holding council elections.
"People are less likely to want to vote if there's no question who is going to win," said board Chairman Joshua Feldmark, who represents Wilde Lake.
Dagenais, a retired U.S. Army colonel who has had a home in Columbia for 25 years, said a "small group of people" had come to him urging him to run.
"The main thing is to have a good, amicable working relationship between the village and the council," he said, "The village deserves a better shake."
He was referring to two unusual episodes involving Hlass, 50, who two years ago beat Linda Odums on a 411-240 vote in the only contested election that year.
The first imbroglio involved Hlass being banned June 7 from the community's village center by Perrine and Wheeler Real Estate Investments, which manages the center. Hlass was complaining about the firm's management, and the company accused him of harassing and threatening its employees.
Hlass was accused of verbally accosting company workers about problems the firm insisted never existed. Hlass strongly denied the charges and called the ban "retaliation" for trying to get the firm to correct problems.
Last month, Hlass was reprimanded by the Columbia Association board for releasing confidential information on staff salaries to his own village board members.
The board also put Hlass on probation and threatened to remove him from the nonpaid office if he released confidential information again. He branded the charges "ridiculous" and a "witch hunt" at the time. Hlass was not available for comment.
John Snyder, a Long Reach resident who served on the Long Reach board with Dagenais, said Dagenais would be an excellent board member.
"Hank is my kind of leader for the council. Level-headed, civil-minded, a great sense of humor, patient, but not a sufferer of fools," said Snyder, who once wrote a weekly community column about Long Reach for The Sun.