Formal opinion asked on Columbia Council

Request to attorney general deals with legality of eliminating the panel



Del. Elizabeth Bobo is requesting a formal opinion from the Maryland attorney general's office on the legality and effects of eliminating the Columbia Council.

At the request of the council, Bobo sent a letter yesterday to the attorney general asking how the 10-member group acting only as the Columbia Association board would affect board members' ability to communicate with and represent the town's residents.

The council voted in July to disband - and the 10-member group would act only as the board of directors for the Columbia Association - with the decision being contingent on the board approving changes to the Columbia Association charter.

But council member Barbara Russell, who represents Oakland Mills, repeatedly has expressed concerns that eliminating the council will seriously limit the members' ability to adequately represent their constituents.

After hearing such concerns, Bobo, a Howard County Democrat, sent Assistant Attorney General Robert A. Zarnoch articles from The Sun reporting the matter and asked for Zarnoch's thoughts - not a formal opinion.

In the Aug. 18 letter, Zarnoch wrote that in his view the elimination of the council "would not prevent the free exchange of views between CA directors and Village residents. Nor would it alter the directors' existing duty of loyalty to CA, their trustee responsibility with respect to CA members or their obligation with respect to the nondisclosure of confidential information."

However, Russell wanted a formal opinion from the attorney general's office, and she asked that the council have a state elected official request one.

Bobo said that while she was satisfied with Zarnoch's response, a formal opinion from the attorney general "carries more weight."

"If the council feels strongly enough about this that they took a vote, I'll do it for them," she said.

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