A strife-filled meeting of the Crofton Civic Association left one member of the group's board of directors storming out of the room and others calling for his resignation.
Martin A. Szostek walked out of a special meeting of the association's board Sunday, after being called to task for writing a letter to the local newspaper asking Crofton residents to urge County Executive Robert R. Neall to veto the association's proposed budget for the coming year. He had signed the letter using his title of board secretary.
"I am allowed, as a citizen of this country, to do what I like with regard to asking people to write letters to elected officials," Mr. Szostek said.
The letter, which appeared Feb. 17 in the Crofton Town-Crier, did not sit well with his fellow board members. "I wish you'd resign, because I think you need to," board member Jim Collett called as Mr. Szostek left the room.
Board member Dennis Stackhouse said he was "shocked, embarrassed and angry" that a board officer would urge the veto of the Crofton budget. He then proposed that the board write to Mr. Neall and members of the County Council, reaffirming the board's support of its budget.
The board passed his motion on a 6-3 vote. Marcia Richard, Arlo Pedersen and Kathy Puhak voted against the move. Ed Ganning, Mary Feeley and Mr. Szostek were absent.
Mr. Szostek has opposed using money collected by Crofton's special tax district to pay for a Human Services Department. The Crofton Community Counselor Program, a service that offers free counseling to area residents, is part of that department. The community counselor position has come under fire repeatedly in recent years, but has thus far survived efforts to strike it from the budget.
Jon Grant, a member of the board, said Mr. Szostek had been
"grandstanding" on the issue. "It makes me nauseous," she said.
Board member Ken Folstein defended Mr. Szostek's right to an opinion, but said he should not have signed the letter using his title of board secretary.
But Ms. Puhak said "anyone who understands English" would realize that in his letter Mr. Szostek was not speaking for the board, but merely expressing a difference of opinion.
"I can sign it any way I want," Mr. Szostek said Monday. "It's my opinion, and that's the title I hold. I do not mean to infer that's the position of the board."
He said that if other board members felt his actions had been wrong, the matter should have been brought up in executive session as a personnel matter.
Association President Edwin Dosek said yesterday the motion passed by the board was not a personnel matter, but a business matter. He called the letter "reprehensible" and said Mr. Szostek had not been given the authority to speak as a board officer.
"Once the board decides an issue, it's always been the case that everyone supports the board decision," Mr. Dosek said.
Mr. Szostek disagreed. "I think it's good and healthy to have differences of opinion," he said.
He said he intends to remain on the board at least until his term expires May 31.