Appeals Board removal rules are weighed


The County Council agreed Monday night that there should be some way to remove members from the Board of Appeals, a seven-member group with a broad range of powers on land use disputes.

But they've yet to decide just how to do it.

The council heard testimony on a bill requested by the appeals board that would set a code of conduct and a process by which a member could be removed.

Council members decided to consider it over the next two weeks and discuss it again at their Aug. 17 session.

Appeals Board Chairwoman Barbara Hale said that the removal language was included in rule changes approved by her board last December. "We felt it was important to have a way to set up a standard," she said, and to hold Appeals Board members to it.

The code of conduct says members "may not neglect their duties, engage in misconduct, or attempt to perform their duties while impaired by alcohol or controlled dangerous substances," and it requires members to attend all hearings unless "there is good cause for their absence."

Anyone who believed a board member had violated the code could file an affidavit with the appeals board clerk.

The board would then conduct a confidential meeting to discuss the allegation and if four members agreed the complaint had merit, it would be referred to the council, which would hold a hearing. The appeals board member could be cleared or reprimanded, suspended or removed.

Four other board members spoke in favor of the bill Monday night, saying there has to be a way to remove members. Board members are paid $6,000 annually and $40 per meeting to rule on land use disputes between neighbors.

Not everyone agreed that the measure is a good idea.

William Edmonston, a board member, said that the legislation is too vague and means anyone on the seven-member board could be the victim of a witch hunt.

Mr. Edmonston said the law sets no firm standards, but would give any four board members broad discretion to ax a member by deciding what constitutes "misconduct," "neglect of duties" and what is "good cause" for missing a meeting.

Councilman Edward Middlebrooks also said he's concerned *T about the lack of specifics in the proposed code of conduct. "I just don't want to see anyone put through the wringer unfairly," he said.

At Monday's meeting, the council also:

* Approved an additional $67,000 for the Commission on Culture and the Arts, which gives financial assistance to the Annapolis Symphony, the Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts and the Chesapeake Youth Symphony.

* Placed a housekeeping measure on the fall ballot that would resolve conflicts between other charter amendments. If voters pass conflicting charter amendments, the one with the higher vote total would become law. The measure is necessary because the council has put an amendment on the ballot limiting its members to three terms, while another amendment would set a two-term limit.

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