A move by Mayor Alfred A. Hopkins to change the Annapolis public information officer's job from an appointed to a merit position has some city council members accusing the lame-duck mayor of granting political favors.
A heated debate is expected at tonight's council meeting over the controversial resolution, which would boost the salary of the city spokesman, Tom Roskelly, from $50,019 to $55,148 a year NTC and create a job description spelling out his duties. The change would also give Roskelly job security when Hopkins completes his final term after next year's election.
"They're always accusing me of something," said Hopkins, a Democrat, referring to critics of his resolution to reclassify the position. "I don't do political favors. I've been asked by members of the council to do political favors, but I've never done it.
"This very council has voted to make other positions merit, and they weren't initiated by me so I'm not sure what the problem is," Hopkins said. "I'm not doing anything political to help myself out later because after this, I'm not running for office anymore."
The civil service board has recommended reclassifying the position from an appointive position to merit, Hopkins said.
The position of director of public information and tourism, created by former Mayor Dennis M. Callahan in 1986, has always been controversial.
"I saw a need to create the position because we needed to coordinate events in the city better," Callahan said.
"But from the moment I introduced the idea, it was controversial," Callahan said. "It led to a six-month battle and won approval by a 5-to-4 vote, Democrats vs. Republican."
The job's responsibilities include maintaining contact with the media, preparing press releases, coordinating the city's Internet web site, planning city-sponsored events and creating the city's annual report.
Two years ago, the city council demoted Roskelly from his position as director of public information and tourism after the city's finance committee recommended the position be cut from the budget. Roskelly agreed to take his current position, a job with similar duties but at a pay rate 30 percent lower. Hopkins says the City Code requires the city to provide a new job description for the position, which was not done at the time of the change.
Alderman Carl O. Snowden, who is expected to run for mayor next year, says Hopkins is trying to hand out a political favor.
"It's not going to happen," said Snowden, a Ward 5 Democrat. "Regardless of who becomes mayor, we would want the right to appoint our own person to that position. If this resolution is approved, it would make it very difficult to terminate that person for the new mayor."
Callahan said the position should remain an appointed one because "if you're mayor, you want your spokesperson to reflect the current outlook of the administration. You want everyone singing from the same page." Callahan, a Democrat, is considering running for mayor.
Alderman M. Theresa DeGraff, a Republican who plans to run for mayor, said she would not support the resolution "even though I think Tom has done a great job. I think the position should be an appointed one."
Roskelly, who is in the middle of the controversy, said he would not fight this battle in the media.
"I would certainly hope the aldermen will vote their conscience," said Roskelly, who has worked for the city for 12 years. "But at some point, I hope competence rather than political connections will be more important to the citizens of Annapolis."
Pub Date: 12/09/96