Harford County voters could be asked to vote on a charter amendment this fall that would let the Director of Administration oversee county property acquisition and management instead of the director of procurement.

Director of Administration Billy Boniface and County Attorney Melissa Lambert told the County Council at a public hearing Tuesday the amendment was prompted by the current property manager, Erin Schafer, becoming chief of the Division of Facilities and Operations last year after the previous chief accepted a buyout.

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Schafer has been handling both property management and facilities and operations since then, Boniface explained, saying she has "done an outstanding job" as there is a lot of crossover between the two roles.

Lambert and County Treasurer Robert Sandlass clarified later that the proposed amendment would result in Schafer answering to one boss instead of two, the procurement director and administration director, as she is now technically required to do.

They said the charter change would not affect the procurement process, as property purchases and leases would still need to be approved by the county's Board of Estimates. Under the county charter, county-owned real property cannot be disposed of without prior approval from the County Council.

Boniface also told the council that everything Schafer does now is going through Procurement Director Karen Myers, and "that will continue. I always run everything by procurement."

Nevertheless, the proposed amendment would remove the following provision from the procurement director's responsibilities: "Providing for the purchase, sale or lease of real property by the County in accordance with and in the manner prescribed by the Council by law." No other change to the charter is proposed under the amendment.

Councilman Jim McMahan asked where the funding Schafer needs to run the operation is coming from, and Boniface replied the funding source would remain the same, from the Division of Facilities and Operations.

The charter has a very restricted rule that property acquisition and leasing has to be overseen by the procurement department, which is "not a true representation of how we efficiently run county government," Boniface said.

Councilman Chad Shrodes agreed, saying: "I guess it's not a lot different from what we do now."

Shrodes said Boniface's oversight of the process "is already happening, it just has to go through another step."

Bel Air resident John Mallamo was not convinced, however, saying it seems like the county changed the process internally and now wants to codify that.

"I didn't hear any benefit," he told the council. "I am thinking, why are we doing this?"

Mallamo asked the council to explain why the process needs to be changed after all this time; the procurement section was added to the charter in the mid-1970s.

He also said if the council votes on the bill for the charter amendment without asking for more details, it will lead to bad governance and bad operations.

In the council approves the amendment, a majority of the county's voters would have to approve it in the November general election.

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