Veteran Baltimore Councilwoman Vera P. Hall, who last month lost her bid for City Council president to Lawrence A. Bell III, is likely to become the mayor's council liaison, a long-rumored appointment that threatens to strain further the already tenuous relationship between the mayor and Mr. Bell.
Yesterday, Mrs. Hall said Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke offered her the job, and she said she's likely to accept. "I'm leaning toward it, but there are a lot of details that need to be worked out."
The job would return her to the council arena to push legislation for the Schmoke administration and may place her at odds with (( Mr. Bell who is trying to put his stamp on the legislative panel.
Mr. Bell reacted strongly yesterday, saying that the mayor's choice was a breach of a public pact between the two men to end years of bitter opposition. He said that sending a former opponent of his into a close working relationship with the council was not a genuine attempt to start afresh.
"This move runs contrary to what he had said," Mr. Bell said. "It looks as if conciliatory talk is just that -- talk. Actions speak louder than words."
Mr. Bell also will have to contend with the mayor's naming 4th District Councilwoman Sheila Dixon -- an ardent critic of Mr. Bell -- as the mayor's council floor leader. The mayor supports Mrs. Dixon in her bid for council vice president.
For weeks, Mr. Bell and Mr. Schmoke have been trying to establish voting blocs in the council while trying to avoid raising the ire of the other. Because at least seven new council members will join the 18-member legislative panel, neither man has a solid voting bloc to push through legislation. If Mrs. Hall accepts the appointment, she will then give the mayor a strong presence in the council.
News of Mrs. Hall's pending appointment drew criticism and praise from inside the council. Supporters of Mr. Bell said the mayor is trying to circle Mr. Bell with vociferous enemies, while Schmoke administration supporters say that Mrs. Hall is the logical choice.
"She has a background on how the council works legislatively and she is familiar with all the committees," Mrs. Dixon said. "I think people have an appreciation and respect for her in the council."
Mrs. Hall has represented the 5th District since 1987 and was a strong vice president and floor leader for the Schmoke administration in the past four years.
Mrs. Hall finished a close third in the four-person race in the Democratic primary for council president last month.
"This is a slap in the face by the mayor to Lawrence and a slap in the face to the city," said Councilman Martin O'Malley, a &L; constant critic of Mayor Schmoke. The mayor "wants to wallow in the failures of his past. The people have already decided who they wanted to govern the city."
Mrs. Hall would likely begin her tenure in December when a new council takes office after the November general election. The position was vacated in July by Peter N. Marudas, who was Mr. Schmoke's assistant for intergovernmental relations since 1987 and was liaison to state and federal governments.
Mrs. Hall will not be involved with state or federal politics. She declined to comment on further details of the appointment, such salary.