Strange happenings in Towson


Strange things have been happening inside the Baltimore County Economic Development Commission since Kenneth C. (Let's Do Lunch) Nohe was named director last November.

In January, Mr. Nohe and County Executive Roger B. Hayden traveled to Wales to establish a "sister county" relationship there, even while Mr. Nohe sought to open a Welsh dinner theater similar to the one he owns in White Marsh.

In early March, he fired three commission staffers, including its deputy director and a 14-year veteran. Mr. Nohe delivered those curt dismissals with a police bodyguard at his side.

At the end of March, it was learned that the director had recently spent more than $2,000 in county money on a series of official meetings at a ritzy restaurant. Though legal, Mr. Nohe's smorgasbords seemed tacky at a time of furloughs for county workers and belt-tightening by citizens.

Then, late last week, came the resignation of highly regarded A. Samuel Cook after 13 months as commission chairman. A product of the Gilman-Princeton pipeline and currently a senior partner at the law firm of Venable, Baetjer & Howard, Mr. Cook apparently was excluded by Mr. Nohe from the commission's policy-making process. The director is, in fact, said to be making most commission decisions without consulting the members, who are mandated by county law to set the organization's policies.

When the three staffers were fired two months ago, Mr. Cook almost resigned. But Mr. Hayden talked him into staying. The county executive, who appointed Mr. Nohe, still must have realized the importance of having Mr. Cook's name attached to the commission.

But after the firings, Mr. Cook reportedly kept his distance from the commission. The final straw seems to have been a meeting last week between Mr. Nohe and other commission members. Somehow, Mr. Nohe forgot to invite the chairman.

Mr. Cook said he resigned so he could concentrate on his law practice. Others, for the record, will most likely attribute the chairman's departure to the usual, unspecified "philosophical differences." It might be closer to the mark to say Mr. Nohe simply wants to accumulate power.

County government and business leaders took no small comfort from Sam Cook's presence at the head of the Economic Development Commission. Those leaders probably aren't feeling too comfortable now. And if Ken Nohe continues to raise eyebrows in Towson, how long will it be before Roger Hayden starts sharing that discomfort?

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