Late legislative initiative to limit central committee's responsibilities

The Carroll County Board of Commissioners will be submitting a late addition to their legislative package to take away the power of the Carroll County Republican Central Committee to select the replacement of a county commissioner in the event of an opening.

This legislation is in part due to the controversial decision by the committee to only recommend former Commissioner Robin Bartlett Frazier to replace Sen. Joe Getty. The Republican Central Committee has since reversed course and recommended three names to Gov. Larry Hogan for the seat.

The commissioners voted 3-2 on Thursday to send this legislation to the Carroll County delegation. Commissioners Stephen Wantz, R-District 1, and Richard Rothschild R-District 4, were the opposing votes.

The legislation as the commissioners wrote it will require a special election to take place in the event of a vacant commissioner seat, and the election will be party specific. If, however, a vacancy becomes available within one year of the end of the term, the county commissioners would appoint someone to fill the spot. This would effectively eliminate the central committee's responsibility of appointing the replacement as outlined in the state's constitution.

"We are messing with the structure that has been used for decades by taking the power away from the Republican Central Committee due to one controversial decision," Rothschild said.

County Attorney Tim Burke said the county's representatives in the General Assembly would decide if this will apply to the state or just Carroll County. If Carroll's delegation decided to enter this as a bill, they may choose to reword the legislation, Burke said.

Wantz said if the county's delegation ultimately decided the language of the bill, he did not see a reason why the commissioners should bother including or even discussing any stipulations.

Commissioner Dennis Frazier, R-District 3, said there is precedence for having the government councils appoint a replacement. After he was elected to the board of commissioners, he resigned from his seat on the Westminster Common Council and the remaining council members chose a replacement after publicizing the vacancy, Frazier said.

Getty was named to Hogan's cabinet in December and Carroll's Republican Central Committee voted to recommend Robin Frazier to replace him in early January. The committee on Jan. 22 voted to amend its recommendation process and send three names instead of one to the Office of Appointments. Those three names, which the committee made public Thursday, are Robin Frazier, Del. Justin Ready and David Wallace, who was an unsuccessful candidate for the U.S. House against Chris Van Hollen and has run for other public offices in the past.

Reach staff writer Wiley Hayes at 410-857-3315 or wiley.hayes@carrollcountytimes.com.

Commissioner Rothschild counters supposed effort to get aide fired with legislation

Commissioner Richard Rothschild, R-District 4, submitted a piece of legislation to Del. Warren Miller, R-District 9A, that would allow the county commissioners to hire personal support staff to counter what he believed was an orchestrated effort by Commissioner Doug Howard, R-District 5, to fire his aide, Kathy Fuller.

Rothschild submitted this to Miller without the knowledge of the other commissioners. He did so, he said, because even before the new commissioners were elected there was an effort from them to get rid of his aide.

"For all of the animosity in Annapolis, you don't see conservatives in Annapolis trying to eliminate the aides of others," Rothschild said.

Commissioner Stephen Wantz, R-District 1, said this supposed orchestrated effort couldn't be further from the truth.

"Keep in mind, all of us thought we would be good stewards of tax dollars, so to insinuate there was one person trying to lead someone down this path is false," Wantz said.

Rothschild said the prior board was able to have intelligent and productive discussions on several controversial issues due in large part to the assistance of their support staff.

"Without staff, I don't know how we would have accomplished that," Rothschild said.

Howard said Miller submitted the bill to the appropriate committee, but failed to gain support from the delegation.

He also said when the prior board took office in 2010, they had agreed they would have no specific support staff and, instead, would pool staff resources to work for all of them. This decision was made because while the previous board members were campaigning, they were critical of the current board for employing "special assistants" at the expense of the taxpayer, Howard said.

Howard, Rothschild and Robin Frazier had personal aides at the beginning of last board's term. Fuller remained Rothschild's personal assistant while Howard's and Robin Frazier's aides were given roles in the commissioner office, essentially making them accessible by all commissioners.

Howard said he "struggled with the idea" of pooling their support staff rather than having personal aides, but the pooled resources worked well for the previous board. This new board will need to decide what will work best for them, he said.

"We need to look at [staffing] in terms of cost and what's effective, and take the personalities out of it," Howard said.

Commissioner Richard Weaver, R-District 2, said by eliminating personal aide positions the county commissioners are saving more than $100,000 in taxpayer money per year.

Personnel issues are an exception to open meeting law and therefore are normally dealt with in closed sessions, Howard said. The commissioners agreed to table the issue while they await legal advice on what can be discussed in open session and what should remain confidential.

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