Vote means Gouge must stay home 1 commissioner makes N.Y. trip


Commissioner Julia W. Gouge is not on a train to New York City this morning.

Her fellow commissioners voted that she should stay home and save the county some money.

"My best bet is to stay home and try to keep peace," Mrs. Gouge said late yesterday.

One day last month, when Mrs. Gouge said she was on vacation, commissioners Donald I. Dell and Elmer C. Lippy voted in a closed executive session that only Mr. Dell should attend meetings with two bond rating houses today and tomorrow.

County officials travel each year to New York to meet with the bond houses, which evaluate the county's fiscal soundness and credit worthiness, and assign ratings to the bonds that the county sells.

Maintaining strong ratings from Moody's and Standard & Poor's means lower interest rates for the county. The county's current ratings are Aa from Moody's and AA- from S&P;, which means Carroll's bonds are high quality.

Mr. Lippy said it would cost at least $500 per commissioner for the two-day trip, and the cost has bothered him because all three commissioners made the trip last year.

"I can make a statement that should be made by staying home," he said. "We're examining every avenue to save money. We should make a statement in these really hard economic times."

In addition to Mr. Dell, three county staffers are on the train this morning -- Budget Director Steven D. Powell, Comptroller Eugene C. Curfman and Executive Assistant Robert A. "Max" Bair.

A financial adviser from Alex. Brown & Sons Inc. and a bond counsel from Piper & Marbury also will attend the meetings on the county's behalf.

Mrs. Gouge said all three commissioners should attend the meetings "to show a united front" and assure the bond houses that Carroll is working to keep a balanced budget.

She has attended the meetings several years in a row and said her presence would have been helpful.

"It's a plus to have some continuity there," Mrs. Gouge said. "I can't think of a better use for several hundred dollars to be spent than to save millions."

Her intention was to help the county, not attend the theater or opera, she said, contending that the trip is "a very important part" of doing county business.

Mr. Lippy said it's necessary for only one commissioner to attend the meetings. He said he was sorry that Mrs. Gouge found out about the vote only about a week ago.

"We did apologize about that. A vote did occur, and we didn't tell her about it," Mr. Lippy said, adding that he and Mr. Dell "forgot" to tell her.

Mrs. Gouge decided late yesterday -- after Mr. Lippy had discussed the vote with a reporter -- not to make the trip to New York.

Mrs. Gouge said the three commissioners should have discussed the issue together.

The cost of a round-trip train ticket is $162, and one night for a room at corporate rates at the Hotel Intercontinental is $185, Mr. Curfman said. Meal costs are unknown.

The county proposed to sell $14.8 million in bonds for general government, education, recreation and parks, solid waste and public works projects.

Carroll has $78 million in bonds already issued.

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