Preservation panel declines to vote on ouster of top director

Baltimore's Commission for Historical and Architectural Preservation decided not to vote on the ouster of the commission's executive director Monday.

During a closed-door meeting, the commission opted not to take a vote on the removal of Kathleen Kotarba because "no action was requested of us," said a member of the commission who declined to be named because personnel discussions are confidential.

Public notice of the meeting was made less than a week ago. It is not clear who in Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake's administration initiated the meeting to discuss Kotarba's job performance. Kotarba has served as CHAP's head for decades.

Thomas Stosur, the city planning director, declined to comment on the outcome of the meeting because of the confidential nature of the discussions. CHAP is part of the Department of Planning, but the executive director "serves at the pleasure of the Commission," he said in a statement.

Last week, Johns Hopkins, director of Baltimore Heritage, said in an email to preservationists that he believed the move to fire Kotarba "involves recent controversial historic preservation issues."

During the past few months, Kotarba's staff has advocated for the preservation of Read's Drugstore, where a historic civil rights protest took place, and the Morris A. Mechanic Theatre. Both are on sites that are undergoing redevelopment.

"The decision today is a vote of confidence in Ms. Kotarba's leadership of Baltimore's preservation Commission," Hopkins said in a statement Monday.

"Nearly 50 years ago, the Commission for Historical and Architectural Preservation was set up to be a strong voice for historic preservation in Baltimore and today's decision reinforces that," he said.

City Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke, who attended portions of the meeting that were open to the public, said she was pleased with the meeting's outcome.

"There's enough to do without changing things," she said.

Kotarba did not respond to messages Monday.

Baltimore Sun reporter Julie Scharper contributed to this article.